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Jim Amato - 1/26/2006

Bernard Hopkins is the best middleweight of his era. It would be senseless to argue that point. He will more then likely be a first ballot Hall Of Famer when that time comes. He dominated the division for years. Even with his long reign and his signature win over Felix Trinidad I always felt he was a bit over rated. In fact I was more impressed with Bernard's win over Antonio Tarver then in any middleweight bout he ever had. It told me that Bernard should have moved up to light heavyweight long ago. He looked strong and carried the weight well. I think he may have hurt himself career wise staying at middleweight and fighting inferior opponents.

Bernard lost his first pro fight which was at light heavyweight. He then began to work his way down to middleweight. On the way up he defeated some decent fighters like Percy Harris, Cleveland's Ralph Moncrief and Dennis Milton. Bernard challenged Roy Jones Jr. in 1993 for the vacant middleweight title and lost a decision to at the time, a superior middleweight.

In 1994 he drew with Segundo Mercado in a bout for the title Jones vacated. In a rematch Hopkins stopped Mercado to win the title he would hold for years. During those years though, who did he really beat ?

In his fourth defense he beat a pretty good boxer in John David Jackson. In his next bout he stopped tough Glencoffe Johnson, a future lightheavyweight champion.. He also stopped former title holder Simon Brown. Leading up to the Tito Trinidad bout Hopkins would post defenses against Robert Allen ( twice ), Antwon Nichols ( twice ), Syd Vanderpool and Keith Holmes.

Hopkins exposed Trinidad as later Winky Wright would. Nevertheless Hopkins after toiling for years had finally gained super star status. Still he really did not cash in on it right away. Four defenses followed against lesser then stellar foes that led to a big fight against the smaller Oscar De La Hoya. As gifted as Oscar is, he started his career at 130 pounds. The bigger man beat the smaller man. A good win on paper for Bernard though.

One more defense in 2005 led to his back to back losses to Jermain Taylor. Each decision was extremely close. Then he moved up and surprised Antonio Tarver.

A while ago I was asked to rate the top 20 middleweights of all time for an International Boxing Research Organization poll. I did not have Bernard on that list and that was before the losses to Taylor. Why ???

Well Bernard may have been a victim of his time. If you look at his defenses you have Steve Frank, Joe Lipsey, Bo James, Andrew Council, Robert Allen on three occasions, Echols twice, Syd Vanderpool and Carl Daniels. Yes he defeated Keith Holmes and William Joppy who both had at one time had held a piece of the title. Still neither one will be remembered as a great champion. Then there was his defense against Morrade Hakker.

Segundo Mercado, Simon Brown, John David Jackson and Glen Johnson were all decent boxers but Brown was in the twilight of his career. What I'm trying to say here is that Bernard reigned over a very weak division. In his two key defenses he beat an over rated Trinidad and a smaller De La Hoya.

Bernard was a sound technical fighter but he was not a big hitter although Joe Lipsey may argue that point. Hopkins was crafty, durable and most cases utterly boring. Even both of his setbacks to Taylor were snoozers.

I think Bernard could have held his own against just about any middleweight in history but I believe there are several, more then twenty that could have beat him.

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