Bernard Hopkins: An American Muslim Boxing Success Story

box_g_hopkins2_580 Like a real life Rocky Balboa, Bernard Hopkins was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and overcame a rough childhood to eventually find Islam and thus find his place in boxing and in this world. He started his professional boxing career in 1988, and his career continues to this day, with him most recently defeating Roy Jones Jr. in a unanimous decision on April 3rd of this year. He had a ten year reign as middleweight champion of the world in which he successfully defended his title a record 20 times. He is the first fighter to retain all 4 major boxing governing body belts in the same fight.  Out of 58 total fights thus far in his career he has won 58, with 32 knockouts, 5 losses, and 1 draw.

But all of this in-the-ring success came after years of darkness for Hopkins. He grew up in the projects of Philadelphia with his family, and turned to a life of crime very early. By the age of thirteen he was a common street thug, mugging people and even getting stabbed multiple times himself. Finally, at the age of seventeen Hopkins was sentenced to eighteen years in Graterford Prison for a total of nine felonies. But it was the harshness of prison life that led him to seek better pastures for himself. And upon release from prison in 1988 he converted to Islam.

Ironically his first big fight was against the very same Roy Jones, Jr. in 1993. Although Hopkins lost that fight by a unanimous decision, he would go on to take the USBA middleweight title and defend it several times. He would also ultimately acquire the IBF world middleweight title in 2001 by handing Felix Trinidad his first ever defeat. Hopkins was named Fighter of the Year in 2001 by The Ring magazine and the World Boxing Hall of Fame. In 2004 came Hopkins’ biggest payday, when he knocked out “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya, thus unifying the middleweight belts and becoming the first boxer ever to unify the titles of all four major sanctioning bodies. De La Hoya was so impressed that he actually invited Hopkins to join his boxing promotional firm, Golden Boy Promotions, as president of its new East Coast chapter. Hopkins remains a minority partner with Golden Boy Promotions to this day.

Bernard Hopkins can look back at his career with pride. His nickname may be The Executioner, but he remains humbled by his duties as a devout Muslim. And at age 45, he is still going strong. So there is no telling how far he can go.


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