I don’t bet against the phases of the moon, the rise and fall of the tides, a mother’s love or the Green Bay Packers.
And I don’t bet against Bernard Hopkins.
OK. The Packers aren’t always a sure thing, but they are the home team for me and that means something.
Hopkins? If I’m betting, my money goes on the 49-year-old. He doesn’t really box anymore as much as he maneuvers, avoids confrontation, performs sleight-of-hand with 8-ounce gloves on. He can make an 18-foot ring look as big as a basketball court.
The thing about Hopkins is, he doesn’t go toe-to-toe with the guy he’s fighting as much as he goes from over here to over there. He doesn’t slip punches, he smothers them. Trying to hit Hopkins with a right hand is like trying to hit a ghost on speed.
I keep waiting for Father Time to grab Hopkins by the shirt collar and yank him back into reality.
“Sorry Bernard. No more 12-rounders.”
Problem is, Father Time can’t seem to catch up.
Saturday night on HBO, Hopkins fights heavy hitter Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. for the IBF, WBA and the WBO light-heavyweight titles.
Lot of money on Kovalev. With 23 KO’s in 25 fights, the guy has a higher knockout ratio than the Miss America Pageant. All it takes is one punch by Kovalev and one miscalculation by Hopkins and the miracle on Boardwalk is over. The legend limps off into the sunset until called later for his Hall of Fame induction.
But I won’t bet against him.
Hopkins said he’s been watching Kovalev, that he found some film of when he was fighting as an amateur.
“I know how he breathes, how he sits down, where he sits down and what he thinks,” Hopkins said. “I know everything about him.”
If Kovalez wants to know how to fight Hopkins, the best way to prepare himself is to imagine what it would be like to wear a blindfold and go 12 rounds against Houdini.
Good luck finding film of that guy.
If I’m Kovalev, I’m tucking in my chin and expecting a long, frustrating night of hide-and-seek. I won’t throw many wild punches to tire myself out and I won’t chase Hopkins across the ring for the same reason. And I’ll try to avoid any clinching. Nasty things can happen inside.
Doesn’t leave much. It could be a long night for the Krusher.
The thing about Hopkins is, he’s 49 in experience and 34 in his heart. He’s Peter Pan with 30 years of ring smarts. He doesn’t grow old, he grows wiser, slicker, trickier. He’s been preaching to us for decades about how he doesn’t age and now he’s proving it.
“I’m the youngest old man in the world,” he said recently on HBO. “I’m having more fun now than I had when I was in my 20’s and 30’s. I fear no one and when you don’t fear anyone, they fear you.”
Go ahead and bet against him.
I remember doing columns on Hopkins 10 years ago when he was still called “The Executioner.” Listening to him preach and rant on conference calls, I always wondered if his next fight was going to be his last fight. After all, he was quickly closing in on 40. You don’t fight at 40, you coach.
Now he’s chasing 50 and he’s still out there having fun, still holding onto world title belts. He’s not “The Executioner,” anymore, he’s “The Alien,” which better explains the phenomena that is Hopkins.
So why is he still fighting today? Maybe because he keeps winning. He’s having fun. He sure doesn’t need the money. He made it pretty plain that he hasn’t squandered his winnings.
“Money is no issue,” he said. “ I live off my interest, not my principle.”
Rumor is he’s tighter than a double knot when it comes to money.
“I love the game and I respect the game,” he said. “I’m looking to make history and show the world who I am.”
Don’t worry, Bernard. We already know.
Photo credit : David Spagnolo