In 24 hours, Bernard Hopkins will again defy father time and continue his quest to unify the light-heavyweight division when he faces WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev in Atlantic City. Hopkins schooling younger, undefeated punchers is not a new phenomenon – the feat has become Hopkins’ calling card going back to 1996 when he KO’d Joe Lipsey in 4 rounds.
But this feels different. Sergey Kovalev’s fights have been short, brutally efficient affairs. He’s shown skillful boxing acumen in varying his offense, allowing for KO’s that have come from hooks, crosses and body shots. One opponent even died from the damage received from the man nicknamed “The Krusher.” And Hopkins, for all his remarkable feats, has been getting hit more, most notably in his recent entertaining wins over Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov.
Those aforementioned fighters don’t bring the skills and power Kovalev possesses. So why is the Executioner turned Alien not worried?
History. Hopkins goes into Saturday with a legendary track record on his side, a resume he’s confident has prepared him for anything Kovalev can bring. But all legends eventually die – has the time come where Bernard Hopkins can no longer defy history, but be forced by the hands of Kovalev to fade into it?
KO Nation: You’ll be able to answer this question better after the fight. But from what you’ve seen, where does Kovalev rank among the previous undefeated “boogeymen” you’ve faced?
Hopkins: I think he’s got Pavlik, definitely. I believe he’s got Jermain Taylor. Any of those guys that like to bang but aren’t slick boxers would have been bait for him. That’s not disrespecting their abilities because they became champions, but their styles play right into his hands.
KO Nation: This might be the first time where the media is overwhelmingly on your side for a fight of this magnitude. It feels like people aren’t underestimating you anymore. Previously you’ve thrived off the underdog status. Where are you drawing the motivation from this time around?
Hopkins: My motivation comes from a few things. One, I still respect the game. I still love it and it excites me. Second, numbers in this world mean something. Whether it’s a female worried about her age and how her body used to look, or a guy who had a six pack and now has a pot belly, age is very important in our society. We define what we can do based on age. This causes a burning flame in me to succeed and defy expectations.
Third, what you’re seeing is the dedication I had in the amateurs before I went astray and became a thug in the streets of Philadelphia. Once I got a taste of success and what life is truly about, I vowed to never go back. I vowed to make something of myself. The future is now.
Fourth, once you come from this journey and the accomplishments and failures I’ve put myself through, you understand what type of man you’re dealing with in the ring. It goes beyond boxing. My biggest accomplishment was not to be the norm.
I’m not chasing a million dollar watch, car or house. It doesn’t make me more of a man because I chose something else. What made Bernard Hopkins is I put the labor behind the dream – not just the dream, go to sleep and never wake up. The dreamers, that’s all they are. Most people never put sincere effort behind it. It may not happen for years. How do you stay in the race and not compromise? I’ve mastered these things. It defines the way I think.
So whoever comes up against me, no matter if its business, the ring or otherwise, it won’t be an easy win. I feel I’ve already beaten the odds. Now I’m stacking the odds in my favor. This isn’t bragging. This is confidence in where I’ve come from. If I didn’t have it balanced to not get overconfident, I would’ve strayed a long time ago with the riches I’ve earned. I’ve planted that seed for generations to come in my family.
KO Nation: Let’s talk strategy. You hear people say against a power-puncher you don’t let them get set, keep moving etc. But that’s easier said than done. Explain for the layman why these sluggers and big punchers tend to struggle so much against you.
Hopkins: Everybody has this theory about how to fight punchers. You know how you fight punchers? Don’t get hit by them! People want to get fancy. Listen, a puncher can punch whether he’s set or not.
If your chin is not susceptible to take a punch, you will get knocked out. It’s not necessarily how hard a guy punches; it’s if the next person can endure more. Some can take more than others. The theory of who can punch better is easier to discover – look at his knockouts compared to the next man. But then, you have to look at who he fought. Boxing is totally different from other sports. You have to analyze the credibility, the resume of anyone claiming to be the best at anything. That record is your DNA and who you are.
KO Nation: In the 80s, young fighters wanted to mimic Muhammad Ali’s hands down style and a lot of fighters got beat up and knocked out because of it. Now, Mayweather’s shoulder roll is the craze and a good number of young guys are getting worked over by trying it. If I’m a young fighter, how would you build me defensively?
Hopkins: There would be a lot of fighters from the past I’d show you. There are only a few fighters today I’d show a young fighter in regards to defense. You have to give Floyd Mayweather credit, but he’s not the top defensive man. If you want to hit and not get hit, you watch how a person uses his elbows to block shots, his shoulder to make them ricochet off. I call it the turtle shell. If you watched 24/7, I was telling a young undefeated cruiserweight about it.