A former Philadelphia street thug, Bernard Hopkins already had survived two stabbings by the age of 17, when he was jailed for five years in Pennsylvania’s Graterford Prison.
“My brother got shot in , the same year when I got my time. Died. He would have been 47 now,” Hopkins, who was released in 1988 at the age of 22, said during the Showtime-produced profile “I Am a Fighter,” which is currently running on the network. “I’ve been stabbed two times in the street and could have died. Why was I spared, and my brother behind me wasn’t, and he was doing the same damn thing. I realize that I was here for a reason.”
On Oct. 11, 1988, in Atlantic City, N.J., Hopkins began a seemingly inauspicious professional boxing career with a loss to Clinton Mitchell.
“I got into boxing from my uncle, so we had a history in the family,” said Hopkins. “Boxing was a safe haven and a way out, mentally, spiritually and physically, whether it was on the street, which is the wrong way, or whether it was in a boxing gym. I gained a lot of experience early on in my life.”
Since falling to Mitchell, Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 knockouts) has gone on to become an undisputed middleweight champion with a division record 20 defenses. He later earned the RING light heavyweight championship.
In his last fight in March, Hopkins dethroned previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud by unanimous decision to extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown. Hopkins, now 48, first set the record at the age of 46 by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s title.
Hopkins will return to Atlantic City on Saturday night, where he will make the first defense of his title against Germany’s Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs), a 30-year-old who was just over a month past his fifth birthday when Hopkin’s career began.
“When I came home from the penitentiary, my whole perspective was, ‘I want to walk off the nine years and not go back to prison. That was my whole dream,” said Hopkins.
“I do the opposite of what is expected of me. It shocks a whole lot of people in the industry that I’ve been a part of for 28 years. I’ve shown for 20-plus years with a legacy that will be talked about way after I’m gone, that I am different.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org