By Marc Livitz: Bernard Hopkins has been one of the most recognizable faces in boxing for the greater portion of the last two decades. His numerous championships, accolades and astounding ability to remain highly competitive while just south of the age of fifty are but a scant few examples of the legacy etched by the Philadelphia fighter. There was a time not so long ago when “The Executioner” Hopkins held every major middleweight title and rattled off an astonishing ten year, twenty defense run of his crowns. After he found himself on the questionable losing end of two straight bouts to Jermain Taylor in 2005, Hopkins made the jump upwards into the light heavyweight division.
Since doing so in the summer of 2006, Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KO’s, 2 NC’s) has grabbed seven victories (over such names as Antonio Tarver, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Kelly Pavlik), suffered two losses (Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson) and one draw (Jean Pascal). In May 2011, the prizefighter from Philly became the oldest man to win a world championship when he defeated Pascal in a rematch. He went on to top his own record last spring with a shutout win over Tavoris Cloud for the IBF light heavyweight title in Brooklyn, New York.
A week from Saturday, “The Executioner” will find himself in a ring just a few hours south of Brooklyn when he meets challenger Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KO’s) at the famous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A seven year professional of Armenian descent, Murat now calls Germany home and will certainly be looking for the upset against the legendary Hopkins. The scheduled 12 round contest for the IBF light heavyweight title will be televised in the United States on the Showtime network (Saturday, October 26, 9PM ET/PT). The two gentlemen took part in an international conference call with the media this afternoon. Selected highlights below.
Kalle Sauerland, Sauerland Promtions: “Karo Murat is not well known yet, but he’s been around since 2006. He comes from a very tough background. He’s earned his chance and has long waited for this moment. For him, there’s not a lot to lose, but the world to gain. We have respect for Bernard Hopkins, but Karo has promised me the respect will go out the window when the opening bell rings. He’s the underdog, but of course, every dog has his day.”
Karo Murat Opening Statements: “I want to derail Hopkins from his world title. I’m happy to finally have a crack at a world title after such a long time and this will be a great and intense fight.”
Murat on Bernard Hopkins: “I have followed his career since I was about twelve years old. I appreciate his contributions to the sport. He was a middleweight champion and of course now, he’s the light heavyweight champion. He’s had some tremendous fights. I respect him for winning the world title at the age of 48. I have to say though, that I have seen the mileage on him and he looks like a 48 year old. He’s used his experience to get past other fighters, but I’ll try to get past him.”
Karo on his U.S. debut: “I’m in great shape and I’m happy for this chance. I’m 30 years old and I’m physically and mentally on top of my game. The time is now for me to beat Hopkins. When he fought (Tavoris) Cloud, there were a lot of people who had picked him to lose, but he showed the world that he’s still ready. I’m going to surprise a lot of people and as I see it, he had his first pro fight in 1988. He has to see that his time has come. We’ll be in Atlantic City and this will be a great place for him to close his career.”
Murat on the age and fighting style of Hopkins: “You can see that he’s getting old because of his gray hair and gray beard. You could see in his fight with Cloud that he was just looking to get in one punch and then clinch. When he was the middleweight champion, he didn’t fight that way. He may say that he still has the edge in conditioning, but I am in great shape, too. I know how to break his habits.”
Karo on 16 Months of Inactivity: “There was no problem at all. I have the mental edge and nothing could break me from my world. I relaxed a bit just as if I had a fight. I started over again without any problems. I can say, though that it could have made me crazy to have to wait that long for a championship fight.”
Murat on finding boxing: “I started at the age of 13. To be honest, I went to school but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. One day. Some friends took me with them to the gym. I started winning and eventually began a professional boxing career. The hard work has paid off because I never thought I’d face a legend like Bernard Hopkins. “
Bernard Hopkins Opening Statements: “I’m here and I’m ready to go. It’s good to be back in Atlantic City. That’s where my first fight took place. It’s pretty exciting and it never gets old for me. You can’t do this all your life, but it doesn’t get old. I’m looking forward to next Saturday and to continue to add pages to my book.”
Hopkins on Mandatory Challengers: “I know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, there is a super fight at the end of the tunnel. I know that you have to do a lot of licking before you get to the center of the tootsie roll. You have to get through these things whether you like it or not. I know that I have to be on my “A” game at his stage in my career, especially when you fight someone who is not well known in the states. I’m now in the second era of my career, while many are still in their first.
I’ll always be ready and I would never go into the ring without being prepared. This may not be a super fight in boxing, but it’s a super fight to me. This may be an obstacle and they may be nagging, but I had twenty title defenses as a middleweight. There were obstacles there in the form of mandatory challengers.”
Bernard on Age Differences: “His information is just that. It’s not totally correct. Let him think whatever he wants. I think I’m already up four rounds on him. He thinks “grey” means old. I have fought guys that are younger than him. You try to find excuses when you’re young why a 40 year old guy shouldn’t beat you. The surprise and the unknown is what can catch them off guard. When you get into that ring and you realize that you’re not faster than me or a better fighter than me, then you’ll start admiring my work.
He’ll (Murat) be able to tell more stories, just like when he said that he was five years old when I started to fight. I have gray hair. So what. Gray is wisdom and he’s looking at the outside. They don’t see the man from the inside. A lot of my younger opponents did that. They get the illusion that I’m old like perhaps their parents. They discover how hard it is to hit me. There are only two fighters like that. One is me and the only other one is Floyd Mayweather. Unless I completely suffer from a blackout of knowledge, I’ll be there. Murat hasn’t been in the ring with anyone close to the skill level and attributes of a Bernard Hopkins.”
On Lessons Learned: “Never take anyone for lightly or for granted. Look at them as your enemy and as someone who is trying to take what you have. This is the art of war for me. Never underestimate your opponent. They will try to beat you and they think they can. You have to change their mind. You can prepare for the better known fighters a lot easier than the ones who are unknown. ”
I had twenty mandatory defenses as a middleweight. This is happening again to me. This is like a dangling carrot. The title is the bait for more fish. After next Saturday, many will call me a bully. I’m not treating it that way. I’m no fool. If he beats me, then that is definitely a story. If I win, then it’s just business as usual. I have been doing this my whole career. I handle difficult situation that would break the average man. “
Hopkins on a Possible Floyd Mayweather Bout: “I’ve had no conversations over that. I know he’ll be fighting in May of next year. The way I live and treat my body, then I could make 160 pounds easily. No one else is going to beat Floyd Mayweather. That’s the only reason why I threw my hat into this. This has happened in history before. I’m not going to chase anyone. The fun part would be getting down to 160. I’ll get (training coach) Mackie Shilstone to help me once again. He helped me get up two weight classes to 175 and only one person had done that and that was the late, great Sugar Ray Robinson. Some say a bout with Floyd would be a boring chess match, but I say no to that. Why? Because it means that someone would have to get out of character to push the action. Our society now likes knockouts and not skills. Fine. I’ll see if my skills can stand up against the “Rock ‘Em, Sock ‘Em” robots. I lived in a different era. “
On Murat: “I know as much as you do. I know what I see in front of me. I respect that he’s done what it takes to get to a world title shot. I understand what I see. I’m an old fox. F-O-X. You can’t overlook anyone unless you’re just out of touch with reality. I know how he is feeling and what he is thinking. He’s motivated and energized. You can’t look at what he did last week, two weeks ago, a year ago or whatever and think that this will be easy. In spite of what is going to happen to him, he’s going to be a game guy. I’m telling you that he’ll bring his “A” game and he didn’t pass the test when tried once before against (Nathan) Cleverly. I understand his mentality. I have been there.”
On Staying Motivated: “I’m encouraged when people say that I shouldn’t be doing this anymore. I’m proud of my legacy. I would never pimp or exploit just because of my legacy or my name. I’m going to do it until I realize that I don’t have to do it anymore. I plan to leave when there will be no regrets. I don’t want to be like Marvin Hagler, who is still talking about his fight with Ray Leonard. You can have your world of big houses and cars. I don’t need that. Enjoy this while you’re here. No matter what the sport is, there are legacies that you’d like to pass on to generations who aren’t even here yet.”
“The sweet science has changed. It’s already barbaric, but when you take away the skill and say that a boxer’s slick mentality is not entertaining, then it’s almost as if they are trying to erase our culture. The young guys need to understand that it’s “hit and not get hit”. I’ve been ridiculed as boring and so on, but that’s why I’m still here at the age of 48. I have two things to do: to hit you and not let you hit me. There are still multiple ways to be the guy who you set out to be.”
October 17, 2013