Listening to Bernard Hopkins talk about boxing is like listening to Bo Diddley discuss the blues, or Michael Jordan explain the jump shot. You don’t argue, you just kick your feet up and listen.
At 40, it’s pretty clear Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) speaks with experience and understanding when he talks about the fight game. After all, he’s been king of the middleweight mountain for about 10 years, surviving 20 attempts to wrestle his title away from him.
That’s quite a standard he’s setting, and he’ll be the first to tell you that his record 20 title defenses will probably stand up for many years to come, probably “until long after I’m dead.”
Make that 21 defenses or 22 defenses, depending on how the rest of his year goes.
“At this point, I think each (title defense) is worth about a decade,“ he said this week on a conference call promoting his July 16 fight against undefeated Jermain “Bad Intentions“ Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs) at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. “I’m not going to be around forever, so you better enjoy me now.”
Even if all that doesn’t get your attention, you got to like the guy for the way he respects his sport. He knows the names and places of fighters and fights, and he keeps track of the writers who cover the sport. He’s a dedicated student of the game, and maybe that‘s why his legacy is what matters most to him.
He wants to go out a winner and he wants to go out fighting the best. He doesn’t want to end his career, as he puts it, “fighting the bum of the month.” That’s why he decided to fight Taylor, considered one of the top middleweights in the world. And that’s why he’s looking to finally wrap up his career by moving up a couple classes and fighting light heavyweight Antonio Tarver.
“Those would be the last two fights of my career like I promised,” he said. “And then I’m gone.”
Of course, both a fight with Tarver and Hopkins’ eventual ride into the sunset are still one big fight and several months away. Taylor isn’t expected to go gently into the night against the undisputed middleweight champ of the world. He claims to be bigger and stronger and quicker than Hopkins.
And at 26, he’s a helluva lot younger.
But Hopkins doesn’t care.
“I want no excuses when Bernard Hopkins makes Jermain Taylor look like an amateur,” he said.
His opinion is based on the understanding that it isn’t always the big, muscular guy who gets the win.
“I’ll take brains and skill over muscle any time,” he said.
Asked what he thought about the recent rash of fighters who quit on their stool, Hopkins stayed away from judging anyone.
“There were plenty of times when I could have quit,” he said, referring to the time he spent in prison as a teenager in the mid-80s for strong-armed robbery. “But if I didn’t quit then … (boxing) is like being in Disneyland compared to that. So you talk about quitting? No, no, no. Quitting is not in my DNA, not in my genetics.”
Just in his plans.