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Last Updated: Sunday, 20 February, 2005, 06:48 GMT
Profile: Bernard Hopkins
By Alex Trickett

HOPKINS FACT FILE
Bernard Hopkins
Born: 15/01/1965
Turned pro: 11/10/1988
Division: Middleweight
Record: 46(32)-2-1
Alias: The Executioner
Height: 6ft 1in
Reach: 75in
Trainer: Bouie Fischer
Manager: Himself
You can pay no greater tribute to Bernard Hopkins than to call him a worthy successor and equal to undisputed middleweight champions Carlos Monzon and Marvin Hagler.

Hopkins, like those two boxing legends, is a natural at his weight, combining agility with bone-crushing power.

Now turned 40, the American looked more like a 20-year-old when outpointing plucky Briton Howard Eastman for his 20th successful defence.

That victory patiently crafted against the top-ranked challenger in front of a star-studded Los Angeles crowd, showed again Hopkins' willingness to take the hardest fights on offer.

In 2004, he brushed aside another of his era's greats, Oscar de la Hoya in the most lucrative in non-heavyweight history.

But life was not always so profitable for the champion.

He was jailed for armed robbery as a 17-year-old, and while serving four years, turned to boxing and won his first middleweight title - the US penitentiary championship.

MOST TITLE DEFENCES
25 Joe Louis (heavy)
23 Dariusz Michalczewski (light heavy)
21 Sven Ottke (super middle)
Ricardo Lopez (light fly)
20 Larry Holmes (heavy)
Bernard Hopkins (middle)

Hopkins' professional debut in 1988 did not go well - he lost a four-round decision against Clinton Mitchell.

But he slimmed down and won his next 22 fights to set him up for his first tilt at a world title on 22 May,1993.

There was no disgrace in losing on points to the hugely-talented Roy Jones Jr, but the defeat set back Hopkins' drive for international recognition.

His next chance came a year later against IBF champion Segundo Mercado, who forced Hopkins to show the depth of his desire and courage.

If you put a dog in a basement with no light and feed him through a hole in the door, that dog will be vicious
Bernard Hopkins

Knocked down twice by the local favourite in Ecuador, Hopkins rallied to earn a draw and a rematch, which he won by seventh-round technical knockout.

A dozen defences followed before the IBF holder was able to add the WBC belt to his wardrobe and then came one of the defining fights of Hopkins' career.

Felix Trinidad, who had leapt on to the middleweight scene by taking William Joppy's WBA title, challenged Hopkins for all three belts at Madison Square Garden.

KEY CONTESTS
22/5/1993: Gets his first world title shot, but is outpointed by Roy Jones Jr
29/4/1995: Wins the IBF title from Segundo Mercado, after the pair's prior drawn contest
14/4/2001: Adds the WBC belt by beating Keith Holmes
29/9/2001: Takes on and stops WBA holder Felix Trinidad to become undisputed champ

An underdog for the first time in many years, Hopkins floored Trinidad in the 12th round to deal him his only loss.

Having also beaten respected pros like Joppy and Glencoffe Johnson, "The Executioner" did not need De la Hoya or Eastman to cement his legend.

And he does not need to make a rematch with Jones either, which remains a major ambition.

But Hopkins is driven to fight on by his warrior-like spirit.

Now that he has reached 20 defences, count on one or maybe two more explosive (and lucrative) match-ups, before this true boxing great hangs up his gloves for good.



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