Bernard Hopkins, right, punished Antonio Tarver for 12 rounds to win what Hopkins said was the last fight of his career. ((Al Bello/Getty Images))

If he holds true to his retirement plans, Bernard Hopkins is going out on top.

Hopkins, 41, crafted a masterful performance Saturday night in Atlantic City, N.J., with a convincing unanimous decision over light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver.

All three judges scored the bout 118-109 in favour of Hopkins, who improved his career record to 48-4-1 with 32 knockouts.

Hopkins turned back the clock and looked like the man who reigned over the middleweight division for more than a decade. He kept Tarver (24-4) at bay with effective aggression, quality combinations and timely clinches.

Hopkins was credited with the only knockdown of the fight when Tarver's glove touched the canvas in the fifth round.

He continued to rack up the points in the middle roundsbut was unable to put Tarver away in the late stages of the 12-round tilt.

"It wasn't my night," said Tarver. "You have days like this. No excuses. I give all praises to Bernard Hopkins."

Tarver was never able to get things going and appeared to struggle with the weight he'd recently packed on and then shed for a movie role.

The 37-year-old Tampa native had bulked up to portray Sylvester Stallone's main foil in the upcoming Rocky film.

The crowd of 10,200 at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall was heavily pro-Hopkins, often breaking into chants of "B-Hop! B-Hop! B-Hop!"

Hopkins announced his retirement from the boxing prior to the fight, insisting he'd leave the sport regardless of Saturday's outcome. He leaves boxing with an impressive list of victories to his credit, including wins over Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, and now Tarver.

With files from Associated Press