Bernard Hopkins is one of the last of a dying breed. As a boxing master, he uses techniques from the sports golden era that are lost on many modern practitioners. But its not just Bernards boxing acumen thats kept him a top pound for pound fighter even into his mid 40s, but also a strong, defiant belief in himself created from a turbulent history. Recently, the future Hall of Famer took some time to let loose his thoughts on a variety of topics, ranging from boxing, to racial stereotypes, to the connection between sports and African-Americans. Love him or hate him, Bernard Hopkins is a self-made man. Delve into the mind of one of the sports true throwbacks.
On the Klitschkos Heavyweight Dominance
Theyve come up in a time where the heavyweight division is non-important. So they [promoters] try to create these guys and trick people into thinking theres something special happening as far as fights go and there is not. This is something Im not proud of. Im a promoter in the boxing business. It aint about the Recession unless you want to bullshit yourself. It could be clear and if the heavyweight division is like it is today, who cares? We need that excitement. But if that excitement is gonna come, I dont know.
A promoters only hope with the Klitschkos is that maybe theyre underestimating a guy, the dark horse. Like Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson. They got to create a reality to make something happen. You got nothing to make soup; you still try to make something out of nothing, even if its hot water and some salt.
Why Boxing Doesnt Have the Next Generation Talent Pool of Other Sports
The community that I come from, the luring of the streets and the lack of patience, discipline needed to be a champion is not there. Gyms are not producing a deep pool of talent. The NBA can look at high school or college players right now as we speak and already know who the next Jordan is, the next LeBron. Right now they can say boy if you think LeBron was something out of high school, wait until you see this kid. It got so deep in the NBA you cant come out of high school anymore. Lets look at us. Whos going to be the next Roy Jones, Bernard Hopkins, Manny Pacquiao, or Floyd Mayweather? Theres no deep pool of fighters yet. Yeah, we get one every now and then like Andre Ward, Olympic gold medal winner, but no deep pool.
Ive been asked why kids arent having the discipline to go into Philly gyms that I came from like the Power Clubs and Philadelphia Police Clubs where you had the talent being groomed to become fighters. The problems are the streets, crack cocaine, and videos they see so everyone thinks they can become a rapper. So you have the choice of starting off at the Blue Horizon like I did for $400 with the hopes of being a champion later on. Thats too much hope for some people! Theyre like wait a minute; I can go in the gym and box for $400 and it still may not happen? Or I can get a ki of cocaine and be driving a Bentley in 6 months if I dont get caught? Now weigh the options between patience, investing in your life by fighting local fights for small money or seeing your friend on the corner make 10 grand in an hour. And I gotta get a trainer, too?
We have the knowledge that its wrong [to sell drugs]. But thats too much thinking and trying to figure it out for someone in the hood. Its gonna get worse. Were in a microwave society. It aint about the family sitting at home anymore for over 50% of this country. Everybody has to work, pay taxes, etc. Theres no time to sit home like grandma used to do and cook food from scratch. That sacred process is gone. Now you hit 3 buttons and you got a full course Thanksgiving meal in seconds.
Now translate that mentality to boxing. Fighters are getting exposed so early because they didnt get a chance to blossom and become that sweet peach. If you pick it before its ready it becomes hard. When you bite into it, it has no sweetness. Now look at boxing. As soon as a guy gets so many wins they snatch the money. When a fighter gets pushed into that microwave mentality by greedy, thieving promoters and some managers, then they dont care about the future. They care about their quick hit. Because their biggest thing is nothing is guaranteed. When you got that mentality, youll guide a fighter through safely, and as soon as a dollar becomes more than the future, thats where boxing becomes dead.
How Hes Survived and Thrived in Boxing
How was I able to come up with a mentality to counteract the bullshit? You have to be around it but not become of it. Keep your immune system always up. Im going to be judged by being different and rare. You can say I lost my first fight and pulled myself up by my boot straps. But I had a history and really a hard lesson before life in boxing ever hit me.
I did 5 years in the penitentiary. I walked off 9 years of parole. I got 30 felonies. They said I was going to be a statistic and come back. I said why? And let me prove it to you that Im not. From that never give up attitude, I had it in me and used it in boxing. Now Im using that defense, that immune system thats already been built from my life.
So heres a fight challenge. A fighter looks me in the eye and he says Im gonna win. I say no, Im fighting for a cause and reason. My upbringing, struggle, and lessons of life prepared me for this. Thats why I can look Death in the eyes, because Ive walked up and down the cell block and seen guys that when you turned your head, youre raped. You had to realize that this guy here got 30 years and you got 5, what does he have to lose compared to me? So when you survive that type of fear, when youre 17, people have to understand this [boxing] is a piece of cake. Theres stress yeah, but Im a survivor and I took that mentality into boxing.
I survived the promoters and the bad press. When they said I cant, I did. I dont care what the odds are. I dont have a rabbits foot in my pocket, I dont believe in luck. They cant come to grips that I have more going for me just rolling the dice. For me the war is never over because life is still going. Im going to deal with other challenges, whether here, educational, or business-wise. Unfortunately, we are judged by what others do because we are fighters. And so Im constantly a magnet attracting people who might not know the history of Bernard Hopkins.
The Nigger Mentality
So when you got a Floyd Mayweather telling everyone hes a silverback gorilla? Doesnt he know the significance in white folks using that name? See nigger is not the only name that was used. Nigger to me means ignorant, and I still dont use it because to me it didnt mean a color even though it was used like that.
But when I see high-profile athletes who have the power to guide young fighters watching, who feel they need the Bentleys and to throw money, its what I have to deal with to show Im not ignorant. And thats whether Im with Ross Greenburg [HBO] or other business, Im no silverback gorilla. To some thats funny. Some think its good TV. But my mom always said theres people that laugh with you, and those that laugh at you. My opinion? They laughing at you, dog.
A silverback gorilla is a powerful animal. Youre a nigga with money. And youre crazy, but a silverback is dominant. So when you say silverback gorilla piss, dog you think thats kosher? But it is that mentality. Floyd just dont know his history. Hes blinded by the business thinking that makes you a man. My 17,000 square foot, 6 acre house in Delaware doesnt make me. Thats not my God. Im glad to have it, yes. But I dont worship my cars, watch, clothes, or anything. When you get caught up in that its very hard to reprogram it back.
Part 2 Coming Soon, with more on Floyd Mayweather, Mike Tyson, Building Wealth, and the Naiveté of Black Athletes