Being a championship fighter requires an inordinate amount of discipline from an individual. It goes beyond the courage and bravery of entering a ring with another individual, hell-bent on harming you in front of all your friends and family. Some times the biggest obstacles a fighter has to overcome to become champion happens outside the ring. The preparation, training, and ability to take care of your body for the task you will put it through once you enter the ring takes a discipline that separates undercard fighters from main eventers on a nightly basis. For Kelly Pavlik, a beautifully violent fighter in the ring, the battle outside the ring is one that he could never win.
Alcohol addiction hit the man known as "The Ghost" harder than any opponent ever could. He was on top of the world when he defeated Jermain Taylor twice for the middleweight titles, but his inability separate himself from his crowd of friends in Youngstown, Ohio, would lead him down a dark path that would end his career before it ever blossomed.
The Bernard Hopkins story is one that is eerily similar, but instead, starts at the worst part and flourishes by the end. Hopkins grew up in a rough neighborhood and turned to a life of crime at an early age. When he was 17 years old, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison on nine different felonies. He would serve five years of that prison sentence and be released in 1988. It was while he was incarcerated however that he discovered his love for boxing and studied its nuances religiously. Once he was released from prison, he immediately turned professional and lost his debut fight. He would win a bout against Greg Paige before moving up to middleweight and winning his next 21 fights in a row before taking a bout with Hall of Famer Roy Jones Jr at the beginning of Jones's prime.
He would lose a unanimous decision to Jones, but opened up many boxing observer's eyes as to what the young fighter from Philadelphia was capable of. Hopkins would become a boxing household name when he became the first undisputed middleweight champion of the world since Marvin Hagler when he beat down Felix Trinidad, handing the Puerto Rican his first loss with a 12 round stoppage. Hopkins would solidify his Hall of Fame career with victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Winky Wright, Antonio Tarver, and his rematch with Roy Jones Jr. He would also become the oldest fighter to win a world title in 2011 (age 46) when he defeated Jean Pascal; supplanting the great George Foreman (age 45) who had claimed the honor when he knocked out Michael Moore in 1994.