Daily News boxing writer Bernard Fernandez counts down what he considers to be the top five performances by 46-year-old Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins, who bids to become the oldest fighter to win a widely recognized world championship when he challenges WBC light-heavyweight titlist Jean Pascal Saturday night in Montreal.
Here is his account of No. 2, Hopkins' unanimous decision over IBO light-heavyweight titlist Antonio Tarver on June 10, 2006, in Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.
Hopkins is very adept at getting an opponent off-balance through the use of feints, which help set up his punches. He also demonstrated that he is very good at using the feint under different circumstances in what was supposed to be his farewell to boxing.
Even before the opening bell, with a pro-Hopkins crowd of 11,200 on hand, it seemed that the North Philadelphia native's pledge that the bout with Tarver would be his last was legitimate and heartfelt. His wife, three sisters and nearly every important person from his past entered the ring to share an emotional "This is Your Life" moment with Hopkins.
Soaking up all that love from family, friends and fans, B-Hop, who so often had shown he can feed off negative energy, was in top form throughout in taking a ridiculously easy points nod over Tarver, who had gone off as a 3-1 favorite. He scored a second-round knockdown and had Tarver in trouble in the eighth round, perhaps missing out on a knockout by cautiously declining to press his advantage. All three judges had him winning by a 118-109 margin.
"I'm done," Hopkins announced at the postfight news conference. "There's nothing else to do. I don't need to risk anything else.
"I'm humbled, but I'm proud that I got a chance to go out on top. How many fighters go out on top?"
Was Hopkins, then 41, sincere about retirement when he spoke those words? Who knows? Thirteen months later, he launched a comeback that is still in progress by taking on Winky Wright. *