Bernard Hopkins: My Exclusive One-on-One Interview with Boxing History
Before you begin reading the second paragraph along with my interview, try to take in the following facts and feel the colossal accomplishments this person has achieved in his still ongoing career.
His record stands tall at (51-5-1) with 32 wins by way of knockout. His resume consists of solid world class competition such as Glen Johnson, Robert Allen, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., Kelly Pavlik, and many more. He was the very first person to retain all four major belts including the RingMagazine belt in the same fight.
He had the honor of being Ring Magazine fighter of the year in 2001, was responsible for the Ring Magazine upset of the year in 2008, was dubbed along side the best fighters in the last 80 years of boxing in 2002, was the No. 2 All-Time Title reign by The Ring magazine, called the No. 7 All-Time Middleweight by BoxingScene, had the most title defenses at World Middleweight in boxing history, and was the oldest fighter in boxing to hold the World Middleweight title. There are more things to say, but I think that by this time most, if not all of you, know exactly who we are talking about.
I have interviewed a lot of big names in boxing in the past few years, and I always feel a little bit anxious when calling them or talking to them face-to-face. Being yourself is rarely an option when this time comes, and this altered self-persona is not comfortable to sustain for a long time. It takes real effort to keep our boxing legends on the phone for just a few more minutes.
This time, when making the call to Philadelphia, for some reason unknown to me, I did not experience any anxiety at all. I felt calm and relaxed as if I was calling a friend. For this very reason. our conversation was fun and informative, lasting my current highest of 80 minutes!
Of course, there is absolutely no need for a formal introduction, so I think we can get to our conversation. Please enjoy, I do this for you!
Taken on 11/18/2010.
VS: Bernard, how the hell are you?
BH: Hey man. I’m good thanks. Very glad to be back in form and in the spotlight. I am glad to have the opportunity to still be around. I am excited, energized, and ready to go. Thirty days from today, we go. I’m ready to go to cooooold Canada.
VS: Yea, I remember you saying that you are retiring some time back. Of course I did not believe you for a second.
BH: You never retire from boxing. No matter the physical part, fighters will always be fighters. Look at Joe Frazier: he can’t box in the ring anymore, but every time I see him, he is talking boxing or working with kids in the gym. So we never leave boxing. I get a lot of support from him. Many old timers told me to hold up the fort. For right now, as far as old school boxing goes, I am the glue that holds the history together.
You know people are always watching the number. They always ask: “how long can he keep going?” And that turns into a good thing as long as you are winning. As long as you are winning and dominating guys in their 20s, even the hardest critic would have to say, “Wait a minute, this is something special here.” I don’t want to call myself special; I let people label me whatever they think it should be, whether they are right or wrong. At my age, most people in most sports are no longer competitive. Many say that Bernard Hopkins can beat anybody at 175lbs who gets inside the ring with him. I think that most people and most of my hardest critics understand that.
Look at Chad Dawson: good guy, good person, good talent, got a lot of respect for him, know him personally, but I can’t get in there with Chad Dawson. I see what they are trying to promote; it’s different. I see that what HBO is trying to promote is different. There are a couple of people with HBO that need to consider retiring. The ball has been dropped on some major fights. Look at the Super Six from Showtime; now that is a great idea. Six fighters on a lockdown battling for the win. With things like this, boxing is going up and not down.
Bernard Hopkins was started on Showtime. I was born there. Honestly, looking at this and last year, they have been kicking everyone’s ass when it comes to quality fights. I take my hat off to them, because to me, competition is healthy and they provide that. Pascal to me is competition. I am not underestimating this guy. He is younger, he called me out and he didn’t have to; he irritated a lot of people by sticking to his guns and demanding to fight me. You got to give it to him. He is brave just for bringing my name up.
I am no easy guy to fight. I take my hat off to him for being gutsy, but that will be his demise. I just wanted to get that off my chest. His drive makes him very dangerous and determined, but also gullible. And that’s what it’s all about—champions versus the wana-be great fighters. The impressive thing is that HE did what HE wanted to do, and not what the PROMOTERS wanted him to do. He got so many calls telling him to not take this fight, that I am old, and that if he gets beaten by an old man his career is over.
VS: Do you yourself care much about the promotion or are you all about the fight? If someone called you out, and said hey I challenge you to a straight boxing match, without any TV and promotion, would you do it?
BH: I would be there in a minute. I give two shits about the promotion. I give two shits about the hype. If you said “Bernard I will meet you in a dark alley, let’s fight,” I would be there waiting for them.
VS: Who would you compare Pascal to amongst your previous opponents?
VS: Tell us a little bit about your sparring partners helping you in preparing for Pascal…
BH: No names but good guys. A lot of younger guys who have energy and imitate a fast paced fight. Sort of like the old Roy Jones. I am sparring with a lot of energy. This fight is based on energy, and who can do the most damage. And that’s where my sparring partners fit in. I am very pleased with them.
VS: What do you know about Pascal?
BH: I can tell you that I know him more from the Dawson fight. Nazeem Richardson, the godfather of boxing, a dictionary when it comes to the fighters, he knows Pascal. Nazeem told me about him. I haven’t heard anything about him before that, because he never fought any big name, except Chad Dawson. That doesn’t mean that he can’t fight. It doesn’t mean he didn’t deserve to win the title. I don’t know anyone on his resume who is as good of competition as this fresh 45-year-old.
VS: Well, you had the chance to fight Dawson and you decided against it. Are there any threats that you think Dawson posses that Pascal doesn’t?
BH: Chad Dawson doesn’t let the other guy dictate the face. He can become too aggressive thinking that he trapped someone. But boxing is all about the science. I will not have a problem with a guy like that. Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello: there is a huge style difference. That’s exactly like Dawson vs. Pascal. Dawson was all over the place, getting sloppy as the fight went on.
You cannot fool the public. You can have the delay of the outcome, but there comes the time where you get exposed. Pascal did my dirty work! Yea ill repeat that again, Pascal did my dirty work. I didn’t see any benefit of beating Chad Dawson, and he did. Some people were saying that I don’t want to fight because he is bigger etc; it has nothing to do with it. They didn’t even want to pay me any money for him. They were also bewildered about the Kelly Pavlik fight, because they noticed that I ruin careers. Jermain Taylor, Pavlik and others.
So when you have that reputation, you are considered dangerous. It’s like knowing there is a dangerous man living on a street. Will you go down that street or go around? I am that man. The promise of retirement to my mother was more of an emotional thing, and I was happy with everything that I have done in the sport. After that I went on and fought some great fights. It’s still debatable who won in my fight with Calzaghe. Kelly Pavlik win was named the upset of the century. Everything I have done as far as training is paying off. This is called investment. What you put in, is what you get later. I am an investor in the bank called life.
VS: What advice would you give to the up-and-coming boxers?
BH: First of all, any habit that you have, get rid of it. Second, learn the business of boxing before you learn boxing. That relates to anything but especially boxing.
VS: After you retire, whenever that may be, would you consider becoming a boxing coach?
BH: No. I don’t have the patience. I would ruin the fighter. We’re not working with the same athletes we used to some time ago. When I was coming up, it was different; nowadays it’s all about the instant gratification. Nobody wants to work hard anymore but want the life and the glitter. Basically, we are living in the microwave society and I don’t have the patience for that.
VS: How does it feel to be an all-time great middleweight?
BH: I think I have made it clear in the recent past, that I am also one of the greats in the light heavyweight division. But the middleweight is fine, I can handle that question. It’s very simple. I think I will be defined in history, as the guy who didn’t have to jump weight all the time to prove how great or good he was. I think that’s very important. I don’t think height makes you better, and I don’t think weight makes you better. I think talent will beat any giant. Talent gets you through over substance. That is my philosophy.
I look at history and the heavyweight when they were 180lbs, even 175lbs, and they were fighting much heavier guys. I will do everything to make sure, that when hall of fame and all-time greats are discussed, that it’s not a matter of whether I am in, but whether I am in the first, second, third or fourth place.
VS: Which victory was more satisfying to you, Trinidad or Pavlik?
VS: What do you think about people comparing MMA vs. Boxing, and the athleticism both require?
BH: I don’t think you can even put a title on the athleticism in these two. You are dealing with two different things. If you take a boxer and throw him into an MMA fight, he wouldn’t look like the better athlete because he is out of his way. If you take an MMA fighter and put them in a boxing ring, they will have the same problem. I think the fair question is can you put the two sports together? No. you can’t. People try, and I don’t know why. Boxing has its tradition, an old one. UFC is a baby compared to boxing. They are not at all the same.
VS: You felt like you beat both, Taylor and Calzaghe. Which one of the two gave you more trouble?
BH: Taylor. Because of the style and what he knew and looked out for. With Joe it was more of his punch output. One was throwing and missing and I was the sharpshooter. Like a sniper trying to have a shootout with a guy using an Uzi.
VS: Do you think you will ever compete at Heavyweight?
BH: Only even if it’s David Haye. Only because Michael Spinks vs. Larry Holmes, Roy Jones vs. John Ruiz. David Haye was a Cruiserweight himself. We got history in Miami a few years back. He is a fan of mine, and I am of his. He came into my room and was rooting for me to beat Joe Calzaghe. I’ll tell you what, I know how bad Audley wanted to win, and I will do better than him. So, I am not kicking any other fighter down, but its how I feel I would represent.
When I was watching their fight, I said wait a minute, this is ridiculous. The problem is that many people look at my age and not at how I perform. We got a thing in America called discrimination. Everyone that becomes old at everything, guess what happens, a young person takes over their job. And they work for half of what they are paying you. And now that I am not giving up, everyone who is young is mad at me, because I am not retiring.
VS: What is your favorite boxing workout routine?
BH: I really don’t have a favorite. I know you are probably surprised. I like doing what I do, I feel good doing all of them. Yesterday I did eight rounds of boxing, and I split that between three people. When I am in the ring, that’s my fun time. It’s matching my wits with my sparring partner. And guess who they have in their corner? Nazeem.
That’s what we do. He is only in my corner as we get real close to the fight. He then switches over. We talk before the fight and after the sparring. He tells me the mistakes that he sees me make, and what good things I do. So Nazeem tells my sparring partners how to imitate Pascal, and I have to go in and use my wits against the teacher. And that’s the best because Nazeem knows me, and I have to be above and beyond what I already know. That way I have to beat the teacher at his own game. That’s part of the art of war.
VS: After all this time, how much did the win over Roy mean to you?
BH: Personally, it meant that I tracked him down like a bounty hunter tracking down a criminal. I got him. I achieved my long time goal. I got him by any means necessary. It wasn’t quick, wasn’t pretty, but I got him. Personal gratification. For boxing it was nothing, but for me it was knowing that I got to even up. I got the victory so we are 1-1 in the books and I can live with that.
So I was happy to get to fight Roy, even under the worst of the circumstances, after his knockout losses. It wasn’t about the coins. I just got to show that this is what I wanted to do. This is how bad I wanted this fight. You don’t care about anything, but you just want to pay back to someone that beat you up. I think that most people will go through anything to get even.
VS: What fight would you like to have as a career closer?
BH: I don’t know. I don’t think Haye would be it. Because it would have happened some time ago already. I will just keep trying to get higher and higher. My heart has never been questioned in boxing. I know I can upset the world.
VS: Have you ever given any thought to commentating for HBO since Lennox and Larry left a void?
BH: I would love to commentate. I would have no problem with that. I do a lot of that already in Philadelphia on Comcast and another station. I am doing radio now too. Many people say I should do this. I can talk about any sport as well, I know all of them. Not about golf, only if it’s about Tiger Woods. I stay current with the sports world.
VS: Have you ever considered writing an autobiography?
BH: It's funny you mention that. I have a lot of propositions about that. Not only a book but a movie was being discussed. There are a lot of things on the table now. The thing is these movies sometimes do bad for the fighters, so I want to wait until I am done with boxing first.
VS: What is your favorite alcoholic drink?
BH: I don’t drink. Honest to god I haven’t drunk, smoked or done anything to alter my natural feeling in 24 years. No champagne and very rarely some wine. There were moments where it would have been justified for me to do so, and I never did. I want natural success and second life after boxing. I drink wine and champagne every day, but it’s a different kind, not in a glass.
VS: Anything you want to extend to your fans?
BH: December 18th they get a chance to witness history. Whether they pay for it in Canada or get to see it for free in USA on Showtime. I will be victorious. It will be a good Christmas present for my fans. Thank you all.