On the day that a potential Fight of the Year fell out because of a back injury to Orlando Salido, it was announced that the legendary Bernard Hopkins will make his final appearance in the ring.
The former middleweight and light heavyweight champion will face Joe Smith Jr. on Dec. 17 at The Great Western Forum in Inglewood, Calif., in a bout to be televised on HBO.
It was supposed to be a doubleheader with a sizzling bout between Salido and Takashi Miura in the other half. But Salido injured his back and needs at least a month of rest, according to Golden Boy Promotions president Eric Gomez.
He said he’ll try to find an acceptable replacement for Salido, but more likely will scrap the fight altogether and add another bout to the card.
But the big news is that Hopkins will end his legendary career a month before his 52nd birthday with a fight that figures to be a challenge.
Smith, 27, is 22-1 with 18 knockouts and is coming off an impressive first-round knockout of Andrzej Fonfara.
The story, though, will be Hopkins, who already had a professional bout under his belt before Smith was born.
“He’s been on the fence whether to call it quits or fight one more time,” Gomez said. “He’s decided he wants to fight once more before he retires. He talked with [Golden Boy CEO] Oscar [De La Hoya] and I, and we agreed that he looks good with guys who attack and come forward and are aggressive. Smith has the right style. He’s coming off an impressive win over Fonfara and we all agreed he’s the right guy for Bernard.”
In honor of his last bout – though with Hopkins, you can never say never – here is one man’s opinion of his five greatest moments in the ring:
5. Knocked out Oscar De La Hoya on Sept. 18, 2004: This was the win that really put Hopkins over the top in terms of his profile. De La Hoya was boxing’s glamor boy at the time and Hopkins, despite a lengthy list of great accomplishments, was more well-known as the guy who bucked the system.
Against De La Hoya, he drew an enormous crowd in a bout for the undisputed title, and he performed brilliantly. He was the physically bigger man, but he executed his plan to perfection and put De La Hoya out with one of the most memorable hooks to the liver in recent history.
4. Defeated Antonio Tarver in move up to light heavyweight on June 10, 2006: Hopkins had once promised his mother than he wouldn’t fight past his 40th birthday. But after controversial back-to-back losses to Jermain Taylor in 2005 in middleweight title bouts, Hopkins had to fight once more.
So he vowed that his bout with Tarver would be the end, even though he was 41 when it was held.
He was magnificent, easily out-boxing Tarver and winning 10 of the 12 rounds according to all three judges.
He was so good, in fact, that he just couldn’t quit.
3. Defeated Jean Pascal on Oct. 15, 2011, to become oldest world champion in history: Hopkins surpassed George Foreman to become the oldest man ever to hold a major world title when he won a unanimous decision over Pascal to win the WBC light heavyweight belt.
Hopkins was in such good shape at 46 years, nine months, that he did pushups in his corner after the ninth round.
Hopkins was a wizard, frustrating Pascal and landing a hard right hand that Pascal didn’t see coming.
2. Hopkins stopped Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, to win his first world title: Four months earlier, Hopkins went to Mercado’s home country of Ecuador to fight for the title, but got only a draw.
The rematch was in Landover, Md., and Hopkins was on top of his game. He stopped Mercado in the seventh after dominating the first sixth rounds, making him a world champion for the first time. He kept the belt for more than a decade.
It didn’t get a lot of attention at the time, but this was the win that sent Hopkins to greatness.
1. Hopkins knocked out Felix Trinidad on Sept. 29, 2001, to win Don King’s middleweight tournament: Emotions were high on this night, as it was the first boxing match held in New York after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001. Trinidad was a heavy favorite and had come in on a roll.
In his five fights prior to facing Hopkins, Trinidad had met opponents who had a combined record of 130-2-1. He defeated De La Hoya, Mamdou Thiam, Fernando Vargas and William Joppy, and was expected to do the same to Hopkins.
At the time, Hopkins was viewed to be aging and on the downside of his career. But he proved that false.
He was the matador to Trinidad’s bull and completely befuddled the great Puerto Rican before stopping him in the final round.
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