Still Fighting at 48, Bernard Hopkins Refuses to Go Gently into That Good Night

22 Feb

Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavweight Title

By Chris Murray

Bernard Hopkins (left) gets his hand taped by his trainer Nazim Richardson during a workout session at Joe Hand's Gym in North Philadelphia. Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavyweight crown on March 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y.  Photo by Chris Murray.

Bernard Hopkins (left) gets his hand taped by his trainer Nazim Richardson during a workout session at Joe Hand’s Gym in North Philadelphia. Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavyweight crown on March 9 in Brooklyn, N.Y. Photo by Chris Murray.

For the Chris Murray Report and the Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—If 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 knockouts) were to actually retire today, he would do so with a long list of accomplishments as a boxer and a promoter.

Without question, Hopkins is a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Unlike most boxers who blow their millions on foolish things, Hopkins is a very frugal man who is set for life financially and not wanting for money like some of his younger colleagues in the boxing world.

Knowing all of this, we always have to ask the question why. Of course, Hopkins will definitely tell you why in his own enigmatic way. It’s his goal to break his own record of being the oldest man to win a world championship in boxing.

“My legacy is on the line and my record is on the line,” Hopkins told reporters during a training session at Joe Hand’s Gym in North Philadelphia. “This falls into the category of can Bernard Hopkins out do himself and break his own record?”

With Father Time seemingly stalking him on a constant basis, Hopkins will be back in the ring on March 9 against a younger, unbeaten International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KO’s) at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn. The fight will be televised live on HBO.

In his last fight against Chad Dawson in April 2012, Hopkins was a step behind the younger fighter and wound up losing a majority decision. The late Emmanuel Steward said at the time that Hopkins couldn’t put his punches together and was off-balance when he did throw his punches.

“(Hopkins) gets one shot and his balance is gone,” said Steward, who passed away on Oct. 25, 2012. “I can’t see him beating all of those guys out there. It’s amazing he’s never been cut up, never been beaten up. It’s amazing what he’s accomplished, but he should quit.”

But Hopkins doesn’t quite know the meaning of the word quit. On one level, Hopkins does not have the body of somebody in their late 40s. The man has a training regimen that would make Spartans blush.  Hopkins is still arguably one of the best defensive fighters in the game.

Hopkins trainer, Nazim Richardson said he knows when guys don’t have it anymore both in and out of the ring.  He said he’s going to prepare Hopkins for this fight by sparring him against younger, faster fighters to get a good gauge of how much his fighter has left in the tank.

“Every fighter has a certain number of fights in him, none of us know the number. None of us can predict the number,” said Richardson. “I put them young boys on (Hopkins). I tell them young boys, he’s a legend, you can’t be a legend. He’s a champion, you can’t be a champion right now. “But I tell them you’re 23, (Hopkins) can’t be 23.  Be 23 on his ass, every minute of every round and (Hopkins) answers the call.”

Richardson said he advised Hopkins to retire after he defeated Antonio Tarver in 2006 only because he beat everybody he could beat to that point. But it’s Hopkins discipline during training that gives his camp the confidence that he can do well in the ring.

“That focus of his is ridiculous, it’s at another level, it’s exceptional,” Richardson. “That’s the reason why he’s here, he’s the exception. We’ve got out of trying to dictate when the end is, we’re trying to be the best we can be while we’re still here.”

Hopkins said the 31-year-old Cloud is tailor-made for him because he’s young, aggressive and likes to come forward like Kelly Pavlik, whom he beat  for the light heavyweight crown back in 2008.

“I believe that his aggressiveness will make it a great fight and will make it an action-packed fight,” Hopkins said.

“I think that when you have a guy that will approach me with no respect for what will happen because he’s thinking of himself first.  There’s nothing wrong with that until you run into a guy like Bernard Hopkins where your biggest strength come March 9 will work against you.”

Throughout his career, Hopkins has thrived on proving the experts and his naysayers wrong. If there’s no actual motivation for him to fight, he will invent one.

“Because I know there are certain things in life that I’m not going to be able to do, but I’m not going to submit to that until I try it,” Hopkins said.

“That’s because I’m not going to let reasons for not doing something stop me from opening that door because when I open that door that’s where the money’s at. But if I didn’t open it, I would never realize what was there.”

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