Bernard Hopkins first Hall of Fame induction begins where everything started

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The circle is perfect, as all loops are, free of jagged edges and ridges here and there, unlike the man’s resume itself. On Sunday, the amazing career of Bernard Hopkins will be celebrated by being inducted into the first of what will be many hall of fames, when “B-Hop” tops the list of the third annual Atlantic City Boxing Hall of Fame 2019 class.

The class, which will be inducted at 4 p.m. Sunday, June 23, at the Claridge Hotel, includes Hopkins, Roberto Duran Sr., Tim Witherspoon, Sr., Kevin Watts, Virgil Hill, Iran Barkley, John Brown, Micky Ward, Ace Marotta, English “Bouie” Fisher, Butch Lewis, Bobby Goodman, Stan Hoffman, Nigel Collins, Henry Hascup, Jimmy Binns Sr., Tom Kaczmarek, Tony Orlando Jr. and Rhonda Utley-Herring.

Hopkins went 16-3 over his 19 fights in Atlantic City. What makes this so special is the legendary Philadelphia fighter began his career in Atlantic City, losing to Clinton Mitchell in his pro debut, a four-rounder in Oct. 1988, and lost his last fight in A.C., losing to Sergey Kovalev, in Nov. 2014.

It’s everything in the middle that makes him legendary.

“I really don’t like hearing ‘legendary,’ and ‘all-time great’ stuff, because I think your work speaks for itself,” Hopkins said. “What better commercial can you have than what the fans say and what history says you did. This Hall of Fame is special for me, because this is where my career started.

“I’ve had a lot of ups and downs. I’ve a whole career where people definitely questioned me. But look how it all turned out. I like to talk a lot, and that’s true. I won’t deny that. But I think I was good for the sport, because I can talk about the sport and help grow the sport for the generations to come.

“All of this connects me to where I started and where I ended. I used the most of my ability. I think I was good for boxing. What makes a good candidate for boxing is someone who is willing to push the envelope as much as they can push it. I did that. Someone who is a good ambassador for boxing, they have to do be able to do everything, and that means more than winning and losing, and how much money and belts they have. It means connecting to the fans and the young people coming up in the sport right now.”

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Hopkins said the most memorable victory in Atlantic City was his domination over Kelly Pavlik in Oct. 2008, at a catchweight of 170. Not many thought Hopkins could beat Pavlik, considering Hopkins was coming off a split-decision loss to Joe Calzaghe in April 2008.

“I know what people thought,” Hopkins said. “I always felt I had to prove something. That was my whole career. No one thought I could beat him. My career was made up of fights like that.”

Sunday’s induction will be full circle for Hopkins. He went running on the boardwalk on a rainy Wednesday morning—a run he’s made hundreds of times.

This time, he fell and badly scraped his knee. He laughed.

“Do you how many times I ran up and down that boardwalk in my long, long career?” asked Hopkins, who posted a 55-8-2 record, with 32 knockouts, during his career. “Here I am running on the boardwalk, reflecting on the times I was boxing early in my career. I slipped on a rock, and saw myself on my ass. I didn’t bother reading the signs that everything gets slippery when it rains. If anyone was looking out their window and saw this old idiot on his ass, because he didn’t read the damned signs, they were laughing. Now, just image if I came into the Hall of Fame induction ceremony with a cane and neck brace, because I fell on my ass?

“I was on all fours, after I fell on my back. I didn’t want the pods to fall out of my ears. I was crawling on the rocks, this 54-year-old man, thinking about saving my $200 pods or saving my life. I grabbed my pods and put them in my pocket. Then crawled on all fours back to the beach. I was thinking about the $200 pods in my pocket. The $200 or drowning? I would have taken the chance on the pods. I was going to save the pods before I saved my life.”

Blood was pouring down his leg.

Hopkins fell and got back up. It’s been a microcosm of his whole life. He was considered too old and he still won. He wasn’t supposed to beat Antwun Echols, Robert Allen, Glen Johnson, Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik. He beat them all.

B-Hop never paid attention to the signs that said he couldn’t.

It’s the perfect epitaph: It’s why he’s a Hall of Famer.

 

 

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