Bernard Hopkins Jr “The Executioner”: A Biography! 

Bernard Hopkins
Date of Birth:January 15, 1965
Place of Birth:Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States
Gym(s): State Correctional Institution, Graterford, Pennsylvania
Location: Graterford, Pennsylvania
Manager & Trainer(s)English ‘Bouie’ Fisher  & Naazim Richardson
Boxing Career: Amateur, Professional
Nicknames: The Executioner, The Alien, B-Hop
Height: 6 Ft 1 inches. 185cm
Reach: 71 inches. 180cm
Stance: Orthodox
Weight Class:Middleweight, Light Heavyweight
Professional Record:Total Fights: 67, Wins: 55, Wins by KO: 32, Losses: 8, Draws 2
No contests 2
Notable Fights:Bernard Hopkins vs Roy Jones Junior I II, Bernard Hopkins vs Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins vs Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard Hopkins vs Jermain Taylor, Bernard Hopkins vs Antonio Tarver

Bernard Hopkins Jr: Overview 

Bernard Hopkins Jr is an America professional boxer who competed from 1988 to 2016. During this time ‘The Executioner’ was one of the most successful fighters of the last 3 decades having held multiple championships in two weight classes and fighting just about the best in the business whilst doings so. 

Amongst other achievements as we shall see, Bernard Hopkins held the undisputed middleweight title from 2001 to 2005 and the lineal light heavyweight title from 2011 to 2012.

Early Life and Amateur Career 

Born into a Raymond Rosen housing project in Philadelphia, the son of Bernard Hopkins Sr. and his wife Shirley Hopkins, Bernard Hopkins Jr. took one of the most interesting routes to his ‘legendary status’ in boxing. Mainly as at times because it appeared Hopkins was heading further and faster towards infamy than he was immortality. Long term incarceration in a penitentiary not generally considered the recommended route to ruling the world!

Tough fighting city that Philadelphia was, Bernard Hopkins Jr. found himself turning to crime early in life. By the age of thirteen he was mugging people and had been stabbed three times; by the age of seventeen things had not gotten better but actually worse and he was sentenced to 18 years in jail for nine felonies (including armed robbery) in a place known at the time as Graterford Prison.

It was in this prison that Bernard Hopkins would discover his passion for boxing and complete an amateur career that comprised a record of 95 wins and 4 losses.* Later, also attributing his renowned personal discipline to his time and experiences spent therein. 

*Note, with all these fights taking place inside prison during a rehabilitation program they are not officially counted as amateur bouts. Bernard Hopkins only officially has a professional record.

The Professional

In 1988 after serving 56 months of his custodial sentence Bernard Hopkins was released on parole. He maintained a clean record and immediately turned professional. His first bout on the 11th of October 1988, in Atlantic City  however ended in a loss to Clinton Mitchell by majority decision. It was a result that led to a further 16 month hiatus before the boxing career of Bernard Hopkins actually began. Hopkins initially unable to earn a living as a professional boxer and actually first forced to supplement his income by washing pots and pans in the kitchen of a Philadelphia Hotel before later working as an auto transmission at a repair shop owned by his own trainer –‘Bouie Fisher’- in order to do so. 

Bernard Hopkins was nothing if not resilient though and after resuming his career as a middleweight with a unanimous decision over Greg Paige at the Blue Horizon on the 22nd February 1990 – between then and December 1992, Hopkins scored 21 wins without loss, winning 16 of those fights by KO, 12 of the KO’s coming in the first round. 

When his run finally did come to an end on the 22nd of May, 1993 in a bout for the vacant IBF Middleweight title – losing to the phenomenon that was Roy Jones Jr. 116-112 on all judges scorecards was obviously no disgrace. 

First Professional Title

What however was concerning for Bernard Hopkins was that whilst he would finally win the IBF World Middleweight title by 7th round TKO (after a rematch with Segundo Mercado due to their first fight ending in a split decision draw) on the 29th of April, 1995, Bernard Hopkins would still struggle to find meaningful fights as a champion.

Indeed, though Hopkins was highly respected for his formidable skills and undisputed dedication he continued to toil in relative anonymity until over ten years past his professional debut and six years on from becoming a champion. 2001 would be the year that this would change for Bernard Hopkins when he entered into a tournament organised by the infamous promoter Don King to unify the Middleweight title of the World.

Bernard Hopkins: Unified Middleweight Champion

The Middleweight World Championship Series was a boxing round-robin tournament staged by ‘Don King Productions’ which was designed to produce a unified Middleweight boxing champion. The victor would take ownership of the WBC, WBA, IBF and vacant Ring Magazine 160-pound belts. The arrival of Felix Trinidad into the division was the catalyst for the tournament which also saw WBC champion Keith Holmes, WBA champion William Joppy and IBF champion Bernard Hopkins square off in a series of fights to unify the title. It was here that Bernard Hopkins excelled himself and ironically quite literally ‘came of age’.

In his first bout of the series on the 14th of April, 2001 at Madison Square Garden ‘the home of boxing’, Bernard Hopkins retained the IBF title and won the WBC version via a commanding 12-round decision over Keith Holmes (118-109) (117-110) (119-108).

Bernard Hopkins vs Felix Trinidad

It was Bernard Hopkins second fight at Madison Square Garden on the 29th of September 2001 though which was quite literally the showstopper and what placed Bernard Hopkins firmly on the boxing map. Hopkins producing a major upset by stopping the previously undefeated Felix Trinidad in the 12th round to retain the IBF and WBC belts whilst also winning the WBA title. This achievement would also see Bernard Hopkins become the first unified middleweight champion since Marvin Hagler as well as earn both the ‘Fighter of the Year’ honours for 2001 from the Boxing Writers Association of America and The Ring magazine.

The following video brilliantly highlights and illustrates all you need to know about the hype going into the fight and what occurred during it. 

But just to add a bit of further context to the result, it should be noted: Felix Trinidad had impressively knocked William Joppy out on route to this decider inside of five rounds; was a heavy favourite with a huge KO record; and was also enraged and outraged that Hopkins had thrown the Puerto Rican Flag onto the floor during not one, but two press conferences! in the lead up to the fight – one of which in Puerto Rico! 

Bernard Hopkins in typical Hopkins fashion used all this to his advantage: He revelled in antagonising the situation, even despite having to run from the riot he had caused in Puerto Rico! Moreover, on seeing he was a large underdog he placed a US100,000$ bet on himself and then with the tension ramped up to its maximum did what Bernard Hopkins does best, put on a clinical display of speed and power which saw him successfully defend his IBF title for the 14th time and ensure he was now the man to beat and one that couldn’t be ignored.

Bernard Hopkins vs Oscar De La Hoya

Four further comfortable defences of the unified title followed (including a victory in which Hopkins beat William Joppy by over 10 points on each judges scorecard) before Bernard Hopkins would attain the quality of fight he craved and the recognition he deserved. In perhaps his finest ever performance facing ‘Oscar De La Hoya’ on the 18th of September, 2004 in Las Vegas, Bernard Hopkins’ knocked out ‘the Golden Boy’ in the 9th round. Thus completing a remarkable journey from his origins as a penitentiary pugilist to that of a professional at the peak of his powers and boxing professionalism. 

In defeating De La Hoya Bernard Hopkins claimed the WBO title which cemented Hopkins status as undisputed middleweight champion and also made him the first male boxer to simultaneously hold world titles governed by all four major boxing sanctioning bodies.

Furthermore in addition to being the 19th successful defence of his middleweight title, the fight added gravitas to the folklore that was now Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins illustrating he was not just a magical ring technician content to take out opposition fighters over 12 rounds with power and precision. He had genuine knock out power and could and had used it against two of the best in the world when he needed to. Credit for this is largely attributed to Hopkins career long commitment to constantly be in peak physical condition at all times, as well as total mastery of all aspects of his craft. Like a fine wine it seemed Bernard Hopkins got better and more powerful with age allowing him to compete at the highest level, long after many of his contemporaries had retired.

Ascension in weight and New Horizons.

Given Bernard Hopkins was now 40 years of age, a pair of narrow losses to Jermain Taylor in 2005 was no real great surprise or cause for concern particularly as Hopkins was not outclassed. Bernard Hopkins even responded by moving up in weight to the notoriously tricky and ‘name’ congested light heavyweight division where at the age of 41 he defeated two notable fighters in Antonio Tarver (from whom he took the Light heavyweight IBO and The Ring Titles) and also Ronald “Winky” Wright against whom he defended them.

Other notable fights.

Despite ascending with ease and grace, on the 19th April, 2008 Bernard Hopkins would lose a close split decision (114-113) (111-116) (112-115) to  undefeated and now fellow ring legend, Welshman, Joe Calzaghe at the Thomas and Mack Centre, Las Vegas. Yet Bernard Hopkins would still show the majority of his skillset had not diminished or deteriorated with age. Hopkins reinforcing this on the 10th October, 2008 when he once again upset the odds by defeating the previously undefeated Kelly Pavlik, by unanimous decision: Mr Pavlik a gentlemen some 17 years Bernard Hopkins junior and until then seemingly destined for greater things.

Bernard Hopkins’ Nemesis: Roy Jones Junior (II)

As time grew by, though loath to admit it, Bernard Hopkins would be forced to recognise a lot of his scintillating career achievements seemed to have come to be unfairly overshadowed by one indelible blemish; an early but comprehensive loss to Roy Jones Junior. 

Hopkins had throughout his career burned with a desire to put that unfairness right and had called Jones out (to no avail) on many occasions in an effort to do so. The two would not meet in their prime but Bernard would be afforded the chance to put that ‘bug-bear’ to bed when on the 3rd of April, 2010 he defeated his old foe and perennial thorn in his side by unanimous decision and comprehensive scores of (118-109) (117-110) (117-110) at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino Las Vegas.

Highlights of two great champions in a fight which was widely regarded as ‘dirty’, complete with low blows and even a skirmish at the end of the 6th round involving entourages and the security guards can be viewed here, 

Continues on and up and up! 

The one irritation from his career settled to his satisfaction many people thought Bernard Hopkins particularly at his age (46) would retire. Bernard Hopkins however had other ideas and was far from done:

  • In May 2011 Bernard Hopkins defeated Jean Pascal to win the WBC and lineal light heavyweight titles as well as regain The Ring title. In doing so Hopkins broke George Foreman’s record to become the oldest world champion in boxing history. After the bout, ESPN columnist Dan Rafael summed up the state of Hopkins career when he mused: “Bernard Hopkins already had lived several boxing lifetimes, but he was born yet again in Saturday’s decision over Jean Pascal, becoming the oldest champion in history.”
  • 22 months later Hopkins bested his own record with a unanimous decision over Travis Cloud to become the IBF light heavyweight champion at the age of 48.
  • But Bernard Hopkins was still not done, later in 2014 Hopkins won the WBA light heavyweight title from Beibit Shumenov by split decision to become the oldest boxer to unify the major titles at the remarkable age of 49.

Time however catches up with even Bernard Hopkins. (But not without a fight!)

Few fighters to this date have gone on as long and at such a high level as Bernard Hopkins. Pushing 50 Hopkins would lose both belts later that year to Segey Kovalev by unanimous decision. A wait until 2016 would ensue (perhaps to try and ensure a title at that age) but in what was described as Bernard Hopkins last fight, he would fight and lose to Joe Smith Jr when he was ‘hit’ out of the ring by a series of punches in the eighth round which saw him unable to continue.

Ever confident he was indeed infallible Bernard Hopkins naturally saw it differently! stating:

He shoved me out of the ring. My ankle got twist when I fell out of the ring. I couldn’t stand on my feet. If I wouldn’t have been pushed out of the ring, I believe he was starting to fade… I can’t believe they gave him a TKO. They can call it a no contest but not a loss. The momentum from his body pushed me. I went out like a soldier. I’m not in a denial.

Hopkins’ 28 year career however ended thereafter with a record of 56 wins (32 by knockout), 8 losses, and 2 draws. A simply phenomenal record all factors considered. Particularly the longevity over which he did it and the calibre of opponent that he faced. Bernard Hopkins simply did not ‘duck’ anyone though a few ‘ducked’ him during his prime and even after!

Outside of the ring and retirement.

Bernard Hopkins by dint of an infamous early start to his career and indeed an insular and guarded approach to his own fighting preparations was considered somewhat of an idiosyncratic character within in the boxing industry. An iconoclastic figure, Bernard Hopkins feuded with promoters through much of his fighting career: Principally he tried to stand up for fighters rights and was an outspoken advocate of reforming a system that allowed promoters and sanctioning bodies (through such things as ‘purse bids’) to engage in unethical and illegal practices. Bernard Hopkins actually testifying in 1999 before The National Association of Attorneys General Boxing Task Force over corruption and various other problems within the sport.

Aside from that, in the last years of his active career, Bernard Hopkins also became a minority partner with Golden Boy Promotions, with which he still remains as of writing.

Bernard Hopkins: Style.

Bernard Hopkins is widely considered one of the most complete boxers of the modern era. Highly strategic, Hopkins was a ring craftsman, who combined precision with power. A fact which led to his most noteworthy nickname ‘The Executioner’. A counterpunching specialist Bernard Hopkins was primarily a patient defensive fighter. Yet Hopkins knew exactly when and where to turn up the heat, when and where to hit his opponent and where and when to retreat. 

A seasoned fighter, Bernard Hopkins simply “knew his way around a fight” – knowing when he needed to get rough or even dirty and knowing when he had to fight on the inside or even clinch. His approach to fights was brutally and brilliantly pragmatic and depended on who he was fighting and how the fight was going. Though he may have appeared to some to be a bit one dimensional he frequently subtly changed his fighting style over the course of matches as well as his career to confuse opponents, win fights he was not expected to and ultimately last at the apex of the sport far longer than ever thought possible by anyone and well beyond that of his peers.

Bernard Hopkins himself credits his success here pursuant to mastering all of boxing’s fundamentals. Not surprisingly he also credits his tough route to the top for instilling the dedication and discipline that made it almost second nature.


As can be seen in this short biography Bernard Hopkins achieved almost too many notable successes to mention – well certainly in list order. Thereby his major achievements have previously been highlighted in bold whilst some of his greatest and most enduring achievements are listed below.

  • Bernard Hopkins is ranked by ‘The Ring’ as third on their list of “The 10 Best Middleweight title holders of the last 50 years”.
  • As of April 2021 Bernard Hopkins is ranked by BoxRec as the seventh greatest boxer of all time, pound for pound.
  • The International Boxing Hall of Fame inaugurated Bernard Hopkins into their ranks in 2020.

The official detailed record of Bernard Hopkins career is advised by BoxRec and viewable here.