PHILADELPHIA, PA—Not that he isn’t grateful, Bernard Hopkins would like you to know, it’s just not that big of a deal to him, or so it seems.
Last Wednesday, it was made official that “B-Hop” would be entering the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The middleweight legend actually welcomed the call a few days earlier than the announcement, informing him that he’ll be a 2020 IBHOF inductee with a distinguished class in the modern category that also includes Juan Manuel Marquez (56-7-1, 40 KOs) and Shane Mosley (49-10-1, 41 KOs). Of the forty-one fighters that were on the 2020 modern ballot, only those three made it and all are first-ballot Hall of Famers—as they should be.
Also part of that class are Barbara Buttrick in the women’s Trailblazer category and “The Coal Miner’s Daughter” Christy Martin and “The Dutch Destroyer” Lucia Rijker in the women’s Modern category. Non-participants and observers to be inducted include promoters Lou DiBella, Kathy Duva, and Dan Goossen and journalists Bernard Fernandez and Thomas Hauser. Lightweight champion Frank Erne in the Old Timer category and Paddy Ryan in the Pioneer category will also be honored. Inductees were voted in by members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and a panel of international boxing historians.
The enshrinement ceremonies will take place on June 11‒14, in Canastota, New York.
Hopkins will be there.
But he’ll also always be “Y4145,” his prison number, and nothing will change that.
He refuses to let go of his past.
“I can’t,” admitted Hopkins, defiant even in one of his most glorious post-career moments. “Everyone knows my story. I know it is a book. I know it is a movie. They’re currently working on a documentary about my life. Don’t get me wrong; being in the Hall of Fame is a great honor. But if I didn’t overcome what I overcame, there’s no way I would be here, let alone be alive. This is something that I owe to my past.
“When you’re in prison, you have two choices: Keep on going in that direction and stay in prison—or die—or change. I changed. Boxing changed me. But I know some people, and I include fans, and people in the industry, the media, managers, TV people, they won’t come right out and say it, but they’re not too happy with someone ‘like me’ being inducted in the Hall of Fame.
“I really had my doubts I would be inducted. I’m serious, because there were a lot of bridges that I burned, and I know there are people that I pissed off. Do you think that they’ll be happy to see Bernard Hopkins up there, and talking the way I talk, and the way I look. I don’t look like Iran Barkley. I don’t speak like Meldrick Taylor. I wish no harm on those guys. I respect what they did. But I came out of this with my brains and good looks.
“When you’re in prison, you sometimes suffer from the prison of your mind. Part of my life will never change, because I’ll always be Y4145 from J Block.”
Then Hopkins went on to say that his own personal hall of fame came when he walked out of Graterford Prison with nothing but a cardboard box in his hands filled with his draws, socks, and little else, with nine years of probation to walk off. He grows irritated when media and fans try to separate who he is from who he once was.
Because the IBHOF recently reduced the waiting period for eligibility from five years to three, Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 knockouts) didn’t have to wait until 2022 for induction—which was a foregone conclusion.
“That’s good, because I’ll still be on this side of the dirt,” Hopkins said, laughing. “I really had some doubts about getting in (to the Hall of Fame). This is a little surreal. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work and commitment. I believed in myself when the world didn’t believe in me. I’m a little surprised by this. I’m a little subdued by it. In life, as I get older, I’m learning to have a lot of gratitude for all of the things that I’ve gotten in my life—and boxing is the reason why.”
And Hopkins then put out a playful warning: “They better make me last, because I’m going to talk all day and all night. I know (IBHOF executive director) Ed Brophy is going to tell me to keep it to five minutes. Are you kidding me? He’ll be joking, right? I’m going to tell half the people there how much I hate them (he laughs). Everyone better bring their pillows, because they can take a nap and I’ll still be talking.
“I’m always going to be the guy who never got a break. I know I got more than a few breaks, but that’s just the way I think. Nothing will change that.
“My hall of fame came in life. I’ll always be Y4145 from J Block.”