The Executioner executes

12.06.06 - By Mike Casile: Bernard Hopkins entered the ring Saturday night in Atlantic City unmasked, unfazed, and left it 36 minutes later virtually unmarked, carrying with him the defeat of the best light heavy weight fighter in the world, a belt, and most importantly, history. Less than 65 miles away from that brilliant moment in history, Bernard Hopkins began his adult life in prison..

In the winter of 1982, while in the 11th grade, he was convicted of “strong arm robbery”. This meant he would beat people to take their money. He was later convicted and sentenced to 18 years in the state penitentiary. Being form the same area of Philadelphia, and seeing the walls of greaterford Prison daily, I can tell you that would be the end of a life for most men. But not Bernard Hopkins.

He decided in prison that he was not going to be another number on a uniform. He was not going to end up like so many before him. He was paroled in 1988, and went pro that very same year. Irony is a funny thing. On October 11th 1988, fate would bring him to Atlantic City, for his very first professional fight as a light heavy weight. He lost a decision to Clinton Mitchell. For most men, this would have been it, but not this man, because he was a champion before he ever wore a belt. He realized he life was not a calm lake, but a turbulent ocean, with a shark right on his tail. He would not give up. He had come too far, endured more as a child than most human beings would have to endure their whole life. He showed enough in his first fight to attract Philadelphia boxing legend Bouie Fisher, and after a 16 month layoff, he went down to middleweight, and defeated Greg Paige on February 22, 1990.

From that point on, Hopkins solidified himself as the greatest middleweight in Philadelphia history, and arguably boxing history. He had 20 successful title defenses, fought the biggest, baddest, meanest, fastest, fighters in the world, and 18 years after losing to Mitchell as a light heavyweight, destiny brings him to the same town, same weight, and the same goal, but with the different ending. Hopkins uncerimonily dismantled any defense Tarver tried to put up. He walked through Tarver, most of the fight. He looked ten years younger, and twice as fast. It was as if he was divinely directed and like an orchestra maestro, hammering away the perfect song. He fought as near to a perfect fight than I have ever seen him do.

Where I was sitting awed silence filled the room, and there were even some eyes beginning to fill for the man who made history. Bernard Hopkins began his young adult years robbing people and beating them until they gave their valuables. I don’t think he really wanted to hurt people, I think he just wanted respect. He was telling them, I am a man, I am here, and I mean something. Well, maybe the 17 year old kid who sent him to prison 18 years ago, finally got his respect, as a man.

Article posted on 12.06.2006

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