Bernard Hopkins is one of my very favorite fighters ever. He’s also one of my least favorite interview subjects. I find him needlessly combative and achingly discursive. Moreover, he has a way of talking down to you as if you’ve never watched a prizefight in your life, and that’s something I haven’t encountered in any other professional prizefighter I’ve ever interviewed. Still, Hopkins does offer some good insight here and there, and such was the case last week.
Hopkins, a partner at Golden Boy Promotions since 2005, said he believes the current boxing TV landscape is oversaturated. Take that with a grain of salt, of course. That’s a term I’ve heard so much recently that I almost believe it to be a talking point agreed to and distributed via power point presentation to everyone who is a direct competitor to Al Haymon’s Premier Boxing Champions series.
Still, when Hopkins speaks, I listen.
“I think there can be too much junk—less action and fights that people don’t really care about. Yes, there can be oversaturation.”
Hopkins said the key to making interesting and compelling matchups was simple: the best fighters fighting the best. Yes, that’s a bit of promoter speak but coming from Hopkins, a man who heedlessly trudged into the deepest waters during his long and successful boxing career, the words seem to carry a significant amount of weight.
“I believe people will watch anything that they like and that there’s suspense about. You only get those things when you match the fighters the way they need to be matched.”
To Hopkins’ eyes, the bread and butter of Golden Boy Promotions is matching fighters exactly that way. He pointed to the upcoming bout between Canelo Alvarez and Miguel Cotto as evidence of it, and said his employer sincerely wants to make the very best fights in boxing.
“You can always tell when you put two guys together who are going to fight. Canelo-Cotto is a good fight. The way they fight and the way they are: This is going to go down, and that’s the kind of fight we all want to see.”
Still, Hopkins and Golden Boy Promotions, along with the rest of the old guard in boxing, have been forced off of most TV stations thanks to Haymon’s PBC series. Golden Boy Promotions currently has a lawsuit pending against Haymon, as does Bob Arum’s Top Rank promotional company.
Hopkins referred to PBC as “premier or whatever” and said he’d leave it to fans to decide whether it was a worthwhile venture. For his part, he would be focusing on making fights at Golden Boy.
“We really need to do less talking and just show more good fights, and the fans and the reporters both the biased and the non-biased ones, will be able to say to themselves ‘you know what I got to take my hat off to them; they’re doing a good job.’”
Hopkins was happy with the work Golden Boy had done so far in 2015, but said the work had just begun.
“But it’s only the honeymoon stages of doing what we’ve been saying we’re going to do for the last six or seven months. Now, we’re trying to get these fights to happen and we’re trying to get other promoters or advisors or whatever it is they call themselves [to do the same thing].”
Hopkins said Golden Boy was happy to work with anyone to make the best fights happen. He pointed to recent promotions with Top Rank and pending promotions with Roc Nation as evidence of Golden Boy’s willingness to make the best fights possible.
“If we can make the fight, we will make the fight. We’re putting pressure on those who want to cherry-pick and want to get all of the revenue [without fighting the best].”
Hopkins said the fighters of today, unlike those of the previous era, are more concerned about making money than securing their legacies. He said the previous era, led by himself, De La Hoya, Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad, was better for the sport, and said part of his task at Golden Boy was leading young fighters to the right way for thinking.
“If you’re the guy in the division and you aren’t fighting the guy in your division that everyone wants to see you fight….is it legacy over money or is it money over legacy? Some I don’t think care about legacy.”
In Hopkins last fight, he was soundly defeated in a light heavyweight title unification fight by Sergey Kovalev. Hopkins, age 50, said younger fighters could learn much from his audacious attempt to usurp perhaps the scariest light heavyweight of the last 20 years.
“I have no regrets. It’s in my DNA, man. Sugar Shane, Oscar, Trinidad and I were the last of a dying breed. Things have changed.”
Hopkin said part of his role at Golden Boy was helping young fighters understand the importance of building a legacy. If you’ve ever had a chat with Hopkins, you know he’s the naturally pedantic sort who attempts to disperse his knowledge to anyone who will listen.
“You want to build your legacy. Money will come. The money will be there but then you will have the strength of both. If you aren’t wise with your money, the money will go and if you never had a legacy then nobody will even know you were ever there.”
He’s fit for his role. For all his subtle jabs and insults, Hopkins still doubles down on giving advice in every interview I’ve ever had with him. And fighters in the Golden Boy stable, for better or worse, have one of the greatest fighters ever in their corner, one who genuinely seems to have their best interests at heart.
“I love helping fighters. If they’re in the Golden Boy family, I’m there.”