Hopkins on the attack against Pascal (Tom Casino)
By Clive Bernath: For a man that had minimal amateur experience, lost his first professional fight and spent nearly five years in prison at age 17 Bernard Hopkins has done very well for himself-very well indeed. The self styled ‘Executioner’ ,as he is known, was born into a life of crime and poverty in Philadelphia on January 15, 1965. By the age of 13 he had graduated to mugging and had been stabbed three times. Four years later the young street hood was convicted of nine felonies and sentenced to 18 years in Graterford prison, of which he served nearly five.
Any normal young man growing up in and around the mean streets of Philadelphia in the 1980’s that had experienced the early life Hopkins had, would surely have either returned to prison very quickly or ended up in the local graveyard. Not Bernard Humphrey Hopkins Jr. He elected to turn his back on the mean streets by dedicating himself to boxing and in doing so changed his life forever by engineering one of the most successful careers in the history of the sport.
During a 23 year career Hopkins defended his world middleweight title a record 22 times. On May 21 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada, Hopkins can make history once more when he rematches bitter rival Jean Pascal for the WBC light-heavyweight crown at the age of 46. Hopkins and Pascal fought a controversial majority draw over 12 rounds back in December. Most ringside observers believed Hopkins did enough to claim the title against his younger rival, prompting WBC president Jose Suliaman to order an immediate rematch.
After such a difficult start in life Hopkins has undoubtedly turned his life around and amassed a multi million pound fortune into the bargain. So what inspires him to continue fighting at the age of 46 and also becoming the oldest world champion in history?
“This [surpassing of George Foreman’s record] is a hell of a milestone,” said Hopkins at a recent media day. “This is something that not any old fighter gets to do, or most athletes from any sport for that matter. I am glad to be able to represent that at this stage of my career.
“I have been able to reach this milestone because of things I have overcome [in my life] and I am motivated by the legacy I will leave.
Many boxers have continued to fight on past the age of 45 but at a much lower level. Hopkins, however, has always treated his body with respect in terms of diet/nutrition and never cuts corners when it comes to preparing for a fight, which is why he is still able to mix it up with world class boxers half his age.
“Fifty percent of me is always going to be 100 percent [of someone else] in today’s world of athletics,” insisted Hopkins. “When people look at me, they should think ‘He is not the norm.’
“I don’t know how accidents happen, most accidents aren’t good. This one [my longevity] is a good accident.
“The only way you can get experience is from the clock. Time works with some people and against some people. Fortunately, the clock has worked in my favour.
“The difference between me in my 20’s and me in my 40’s is that I have learned not to waste a lot of energy. When you are young, you are filled with raw emotions and you want to prove that you are the new young lion in the jungle. Pascal is a new lion, but I am the old lion.
“We have a lot of healthy things now that we didn’t have years ago. I get my food at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods. Joe Louis didn’t have Trader Joe’s. Ali didn’t have Whole Foods. Society is paying attention to what is healthy as compared to what we had years ago and I am taking advantage of that.
“For me, this fight is more about the history than redemption.
“I am the professor and Pascal is the student. Sometimes the student thinks he knows more than the professor. Every now and then, you have to show them that because you know a little doesn’t mean you know as much as the teacher. I think he respects what I have done. He would be a fool not to.
“Fans can expect drama this time around. I am going to throw a lot of punches. I am going to be out of character in the way I fight this fight. It won’t be the Bernard Hopkins people have seen the last couple of years.
“I am going in there with one objective…to win by any legal boxing means necessary and then get out of there with the record broken and the titles won.
“I have been training in downtown Philadelphia to remind myself that I still have to fight like a hungry man that wants something. I had to go back to where I started.
“Right now, I am the Philly franchise. The Flyers are out. The Sixers are out. The Phillies are playing, but it is early in the season. I am the franchise right now and I have delivered more than I have failed. I am going to bring the championship home.
“When I can no longer perform physically and mentally, then I will know I am ready to leave the sport. It is the same thing that happens at any job. You know when it is time to leave. I have too much pride as a man and too much pride for Philly to embarrass myself by staying in boxing too long.”
Bernard Hopkins is living proof that when intelligence, wisdom and life experience is executed in a positive way pretty much any dream can be achieved. Regardless of whether or not Hopkins succeeds to become the oldest world champion in history- he is still a perfect example of inspiration to us all.
May 11, 2011