AVILA: Where Does Bernard Hopkins Rate With Yesteryear Champs?

BY David A. Avila ON December 25, 2010
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Forget about the draw. The big question regarding Bernard Hopkins is where does he rate among the all time greats of professional boxing?

Because of his technical and deliberate style Hopkins has both amazed some and disturbed other fans of professional boxing throughout his lengthy career. You either admire or abhor the Philadelphia prizefighter who’s embarking on seldom traveled territory.

Still, one and all must realize just how difficult it is to remain among the top prizefighters in the world at age 45. Hopkins has endured punches from 1988 until the present and still rates among the very best boxers pound for pound.

In boxing’s history few have been able to compete at the elite level once age 40 arrives. The list is very small. Many fighters fought past 40 but few were able to beat contenders or world champions.

Champs of Yesteryear

Sugar Ray Robinson as great as he was did not fight at Hopkins level. He was 44 when he retired and last beat a contender when he beat Ralph Dupas in 1963. At the time Robinson was 41.

The great Sam Langford began as a lightweight and was so feared he eventually fought at heavyweight and retired at age 43. Though only five-feet, six-inches in height, Langford beat numerous heavyweights including Fireman Jim Flynn. He fought former heavyweight champion Jack Johnson and lost by decision after 15 rounds. But even Langford after 256 pro fights was not beating world champions at Hopkins’ age.

Speaking of Jack Johnson the great heavyweight champion fought until he was 50 years old though few realize that fact. Through his 40s he did not lose a fight until he was 48 years old. He was 19-2-1 during his 40s then inactive at age 49. After birthday number 50 Johnson returned to the ring and was knocked out twice.

And speaking of 50-year-old prizefighters Archie “The Old Mongoose” Moore won the light heavyweight world championship and never was beaten in that weight class while holding the title. From 1953 when he beat Joey Maxim for the belt until he finally retired in 1965, no light heavyweight defeated Moore for his title. He was 47 when he beat Giulio Rinaldi in Madison Square Garden for the light heavyweight title. That is the record for oldest champion in pro boxing. However, there are discrepancies. Ring Magazine says Moore was born in 1913, while Boxrec.com say it was 1916. Moore never really substantiated which birth date was correct.

Of course we also know about George Foreman actually winning a world title at 45. That’s an incredible feat. Foreman’s knockout win of Michael Moorer to win the title was nearly broken by Hopkins last Saturday. Though the judges took that away from him history will record Hopkins performance as one of the truly marvelous moments in boxing along with Moore, Langford and Johnson.

Robert “Manos de Piedra” Duran fought deep into his 40s and managed to hold his own against younger competition that included Vinnie Pazienza, Hector Camacho and Jorge Castro. The Panamanian great was 50 the last time he stepped in the ring and lost a 12-round decision to Camacho in 2001 for the NBA vacant supper middleweight title. After that fight he was severely injured in a car accident and retired. By the way, Camacho is still fighting too. He’s 48.

Hopkins is treading on seldom traveled territory. Only a scant few have ever been able to fight champions and contenders and maintain a high level of proficiency. It’s truly remarkable and we should enjoy each time he enters the prize ring. We’re watching an amazing fighter whose success may not be repeated in a long time.

The Philadelphia boxer may be fighting in his last year. Let’s see what he can do at age 46?

Comment on this article

Radam G says:

First, my deepest condolences to the family and love ones of "Bad" Benny B. B-Hop is another 40-something year-old fighting SUPERGREAT. And we've known his true age from the JUMP. The greatest 40-something-year-old boxer ever is indeed the, late great "Archie "The ole Mongoose" Moore. The greatest 50-something-year-old boxer ever is first African-American world heavyweight champ is Jack Johnson. Old John Johnson -- JJ's legal name -- fought in sanctioned bouts up until he was 54 years old. Matter of fact, he was banned from professional sanctioning bouts at that age for allegedly making "Voodoo signs" over a falling contender that he put da whup-arse on. From that point on, to enjoy the type of living that he was accustomed to, according to various proof and eye-witnesses' testimony, he had to fight in unsanctioned, illegal bouts in the underworld of boxing. He did this up to 68-years old on the very day that he perished in a carwreck. To this day, Johnson is still the oldest ex-champ to win a bout -- legal at a recorded 54 years old and and illegal at 68 years old, according to eye-witnesses. B-Hop is still fresh, and I wouldn't be surprised to see him find out about what I had posted about JJ's record and try to break it when he's 55 years old. At 60-something years old ex-lightwelterweight champ Saoul Mamby gave it a try a couple of years ago. Holla!

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