Bernard Hopkins Interview Transcript
Bernard Hopkins: It’s good to be back home in Atlantic City where my first fight was at in 1988. I’ve been there a few times, but to come there again at this stage is pretty exciting. It’s pretty exciting in a lot of ways. This never gets old for me. That’s been a love that’s still there and the energy is still there because this never gets old for me. You can’t do it all your life, but it never gets old. And when it gets old it gets kind of through the motions. When that happens there can’t be nothing positive come out of that. But I’m looking forward to next Saturday to, again, continue to add another page to this long book.
My question for you, Bernard, we’ve been on a lot of these calls, but usually on these calls you’re either challenging for a world title or you’re fighting a big name. You, yourself, have said leading up to this fight; admittedly it’s a mandatory.
You need to get it done in order to get a bigger fight. I wonder from you Bernard, because this is probably your least recognizable opponent in I couldn’t even tell you how long, how do you still get up for this kind of fight knowing all the huge fights that you’ve had in your career?
Because I know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, there’s what I consider a super fight at the end of this title, whether it’s my division or some other division. But I know one thing, before you get to the Tootsie Roll you’ve got to do a lot of licking. That’s not in a disrespectful way, but it’s in a way of knowing that you got to get through the prize before you get down into that box of the Cracker Jacks and you get the prize.
You’ve got to get through these things. These things are just part of business, whether you like it or not. I’m going to Atlantic City like it’s a super fight and knowing that I have to be on my A game no matter who I’m fighting at this stage of my career, especially when the opponent is not really known in the states, like myself.
So is that then, I was going to ask if that’s what motivates you to do the running in the morning and do all the things you need to do to prepare for the fight, even though it’s not a Trinidad, a Pavlik, a Tarver, whoever is across the ring from you?
Yeah, because those guys are long gone. I’m in the second era of somebody else’s era. I’m in the Broner and the Danny Garcia’s and the other fighters; I could mention era. I extended the era of my era to this era, and I just have to just go ahead and just go in there with that youthful thinking, with the body that you and a lot of other reports reporting of my lifestyle.
I mean I don’t think nobody really, really, if they look at, are surprised that I’m really here. I guess they’d be surprised why I’m still doing it because I shouldn’t mentally and physically be motivated to do it anymore, but that’s not necessarily true when it comes to me because I’m ready. I’m ready and I’ll always be ready, and I’ll never go in a ring without being prepared physically and mentally.
So I look at myself ending my career with a super fight, and peoples is going to remember that. But this here, to me personally, is not a super fight in boxing but is a super fight to me because there’s no other, no other fight if this fight is not completed the way it should be with Bernard Hopkins, with myself. So I know how important it is for me to get to that, again, that Tootsie Roll at the end of the tunnel, that prize that says you got to work through.
This is just an obstacle. My obstacles can be kind of nagging sometimes, and I got to get through the obstacles and the obstacle is what it is. It’s there. I had 20 of them, and I won a lot of fights, but the mandatory came up and I want a breaking records and setting records and didn’t even know I was doing it until I got close to it and somebody reminded me from the boxing historic world.
I just want to keep-it isn’t going to be too long, but just get past this one and then I have the freedom by the rules to be able to at least have multiple months to be able to make some big fights in between, not waste time looking for one, but at least knowing that there’ll be one on the horizon.
I’ll just end with this thing. You mentioned you’re still around and this week the Boxing Writer Association made their hall of fame votes and two guys much younger than you … and Oscar De La Hoya were on the ballot and you’re still here a champion. Congratulations.
Listen, I wanted-if you’re not motivated now, you might be motivated by some of the things that Karo said. First of all, he was five years old when you began your professional career. He said more or less, “Your loss to Clinton Mitchell is what’s going to happen now. You began with a loss in Atlantic City and you’re going to end with a loss in Atlantic City.”
And he also said, and this I don’t know where he got this from, but he said, “Your gray beard and your gray hair are evidence of your age, in addition to the clinching you did in your last fight with Tavoris Cloud and others, and that Cloud fought a dumb fight.”
I mean that’s his information. His information is what he’s registering and what he’s responding on, and when you have information and it’s not correct totally then you have the wrong information. Everybody know the history and even like, when you get information you’ve got to look at the information and take the information what it is.
And so far as I’m concerned, he has the wrong information, whether he came up with that information by, I guess, looking at the fights or being told by his handlers or whatever. When you have the wrong information, based on his statement, I’m already up four rounds on him.
So when you been in the game so long, and you hear guys say the things that they say, I’m not surprised at this stage of my career, but he’s 29 or 30 years old and he’s talking like a 30 year old. He’s talking like a young fighter.
There’s two things that he said that stands out. So when he said gray, he’s talking old. Well you all heard that before, and obviously he’s not paying attention to the guys that I’ve fought that are ten years younger than him, or at least eight or nine years younger than him. So you got to erase that. Then he’s looking at, “Okay, he clinches and he holds.” To me, that was an offensive/defensive fight to the T, a masterpiece. But he sees something different that others didn’t see or even think there was something I was doing in appropriate.
So when you’re young, you try to find excuses why a 48-year-old guy shouldn’t beat you, and when you get in the ring, and you realize you in the ring with me, and you see that it isn’t as easy as you might see, that’s the ultimate shock and surprise. Always, always catch a person that’s not prepared off guard.
The unknown, the unknown is not actually knowing or not knowing what you see. He’s seeing what he thinks he’s seeing, but it’s a whole new different story, and this is an experienced guy talking to you. When you get in that ring, you realize that you’re not faster than me. You realize that you’re not an all-around fighter better than me. You realize that there are stages in life like there are stages in boxing.
When you get in that ring and you come with a checkerboard, and you’re trying to beat me, and I got a chess board, playing chess, then you in a situation where you’re like, “Oh my God, he really is an alien.” He’ll start admiring my work. He’s going to start admiring and being happy that he’s there, and he’ll be able to tell those stories like he said to you and others.
Listen, listen to me right now, he was five years old. He was XYZ years old. He was here when I done this. So he watched my accomplishments. He’s already in awe about Bernard Hopkins. He’s already lost four rounds.
One other thing, I guess one thing I did ask is, you talked about wrong information. I scratch my head and said, “When was the last time I saw you with gray hair or a gray beard? I mean, when was the last time I saw you with hair?” Then it did occur to me what fight he might be watching, because for most accounts the Tavoris Cloud fight was a masterpiece. Your thoughts on that?
Well, one is he might’ve quoted me I didn’t have a shave, but most of the time, like now, I’m skin from the top of my head to the chin of my chinny-chin-chin. So I don’t know what photo he might’ve seen. But no question, I have gray. No question, when my hair grows I’m a gray beard and gray everything, but the gray is wisdom.
He’s looking at the outside of it, but he’s not looking at the man and the body itself, and that’s what a lot of these young guys get fooled at. Cloud was one of them. Pavlik was definitely one of them. He hasn’t been right since. And a lot of other young ones was fooled based on age, because the lot of them, parents are my age or a year or two younger or a year or two older and they aren’t in good shape.
So they’re home or they see them every day, wherever they at, whether they live home still with them or not, they see them as they see their condition, and they say, “Well can’t nobody beat me that’s 40 years old,” and they get illusion. They get the illusion that I’m like them.
And so when they get in that ring, they get the first peak at the press conference, then they get their second peek at the weight in, and then they get their third peek when they’re actually in the ring and they be like, “Man, I can’t hit this guy. Man, every time I hit him I get hit four times.”
Those subtle little things that only a few fighters in the world have them, and I can count them on one hand, and that’s Bernard Hopkins and one of them is Floyd Mayweather. When you in there with that type of pedigree and that IQ and you come in with a checkerboard to a game that from A to Z and some, the plus sign, unless, unless, unless I completely discontinue, just black out of knowledge the night of the fight, he has a chance.
That’s something that nobody would bet against. Bernard Hopkins comes one way or the other, love him or hate him, he comes right and he comes ready, whatever happens, and then Murat will understand that he’s in there with totally different than the European fighters that he fought.
So welcome to the United States, it’s a whole different ballgame. It’s a whole different style. He hasn’t been in the ring with anybody, anybody with the attributes and the skill level and the knowledge of a Bernard Hopkins, unless you talk about Cleverly.
Hello, Bernard, thanks for taking the time. What would you say, what is the most important lesson that you learned in boxing or in life that has made you the person that you are today, a boxer than can still at this age beat guys up?
Never take anyone for granted or lightly. Always look at your opponent as the enemy who’s trying to take your spot, who’s trying to take everything you work for or try to enhance his career off of your legacy, at that time, early in my career, off my career. So that’s one.
I gave you a couple of answers, but never under estimate your opponent, the art of war, the art of war, which is a fine, fine, fine roadmap for me for over 15 years, even before I came out of prison. The art of war, never under estimate your opponent. Never under estimate your enemy. Never under estimate the next general. You always have to take everybody from what their word, and that is they believe they going to beat you. They’re going to try to beat you. You have to change their mind.
Bernard, recently I had a chance to speak with Brother Naazim Richardson, and he said this type of fight are the kind of fights he hates, because the guy that you see in the ring isn’t going to be the guy that you see on video. I’m curious for you, how are you preparing to fight someone like Karo Murat? And I know most of the cases it’s how is he going to prepare to fight you, but how are you preparing to fight him?
I mean I take every fight seriously, and Naazim Richardson thinks like I think because everybody know the big names in the light heavyweight division, and everybody knew the big names that I fought in the middleweight division. You can prepare for them easier than you can prepare for a guy that, you know, nobody actually knows and never fought anybody in the states or anybody that’s on my level. It’s the fighter. It’s the person itself. It’s me. It’s how I approach it mentally, physically and prepare for.
That’s what makes Naazim feel, on that part, a lot better because he knows he’s dealing with a guy that don’t look at anybody as, “He’s not this guy so I’m going to be light in training or I’m going to be light in my thinking or I’m just going to over look this guy.”
That’s the tricky part of a veteran compared to a younger guy. A younger guy will probably blow it off, “Well he’s no big name, just a mandatory. Let me go in and do and what I got to do and get out.”
No, I don’t look like that, because A.) I’m at the age where I can’t have a mental block, and B.) If this big fight is what I want to do before I leave, I must get past the roadblock. I must get passed the mandatory obligation.
So these fights can be nagging. It’s been a pain, really, in a way ever since it’s been postponed. So it’s been more than just what Naazim was saying, which is true, but it’s even further that it should’ve been over with July 13.
But nevertheless, he has more time. He got more time. He needed more time, and he got it. Fine. I enjoyed my summer with my family. I had a chance to get to the business part of the promotion with Golden Boy, and now we here. So pick back up the pieces. Start back up. Go do it again, and now we here.
So I’m prepared to do what I have to do, but this is the unique-Bruce said it earlier. Somehow, sometime, people, not all of us, take certain things for granted, and I’m going to make sure I do all I can so no one takes me for granted before I leave the game.
Because there’s going to be more eye-opener stuff and mouth-dropping stuff that peoples going to say, “This is amazing. Where do we put this guy? Where do we put this legend? Where do we put this icon?” Whatever name you want to give me, “Where do put him at before he leaves?” And that starts, to me, 20 something years ago, but it also starts right now.
You said that you see the light at the end of the tunnel with this particular fight and at your particular age. Do you think a stumble against Karo Murat could mean the end for you, because he’s not the type of level fighter that you’re usually used to fighting? If you have a stumble here, do you think that could be the end?
The thing is, I mean, it would definitely be good for me. It definitely won’t be good for what I have in my plan. I’m not preparing to come to another guy’s level. I learned no matter what I have to make this guy bigger than what he is. I make this guy as threatening as he is.
My sparring partners was really, really vicious dudes, and they was coming, and one of them was a cruiserweight, and I had to use my legs to get away, not try to use strength for strength. Why do that? Use my brains. Use my intelligence.
Today, in the world of boxing, man, in the world we live in now, boxing is sort of a curse to be a slick boxer right now. You know what I mean? So I mean it’s a curse. I don’t if the MMA the UFC had anything to do with that, to influence that. But, you know, I’m from the sweet science, as you mentions all the time when I read articles, and the sweet science, you have to know what that means if you understand boxing. So I prepare to fight anyone.
I mean I had 20 mandatories in the middleweight division, and I’m not going to sit here on the phone to anybody who’s listening and say all of them were the hall of fame fighters. They shoved it on the table. I’m not going to say down my throat, but I had a choice, fight them or move on or get a title fight.
So this is another situation, deja vu all over again, but I will not go in there knowing that this is the carrot that’s hanging out there for anybody that likes titles, these young guys like titles, anybody that wants a unification, anybody that wants to do it. Now, you can have a title.
So it’s back to déjà vu. Here’s a title. Come get it. Here’s the caviar. Here’s the bait for the fish. So trust me, Karo Murat is not a guy I’m sleeping on and under estimating, and he’s going to see that early. Can’t nobody fight for me. Can’t nobody fight for him.
They’re going to call me, probably, which is not a popular name right now, they’re going to call me a bully. After next Saturday they’re going to say, “Oh, Bernard is-“So it’s really not a win-win for me. It’s really like, okay, it’s a throwaway fight, but I’m not treating it like that, but I know others are. So I’m not going to gain more superstardom because of Karo Murat.
I mean, I’m no fool, but I might be called a bully. Okay, I’ve been called that in high school, elementary school, in the streets, in boxing when I was a middleweight. Hey, so it’s cool. I mean I’m not saying that I accept it, but it’s cool. You can do what you want to do, but at the end of the day the story becomes, “He beats Bernard Hopkins.” That’s the story. I beat him; what else is new? So I understand that.
So it’s more than just Karo Murat. It’s a lot of intangibles that surround this name and this fight, and I have the ability and the mindset to handle all that because that’s what I do. And that’s what I’ve been doing basically the majority of my career, handling difficult situations that will break the average man.
Hi, Bernard. My question is this, no disrespect to Karo Murat, but frankly his resume doesn’t suggest he’s near your caliber. So I wanted to actually pivot to something you referenced yourself, a super fight in the near future. A Bernard Hopkins fight against Floyd Mayweather would be a lot of fun in the promotion and an intriguing fight. So I’m wondering, have you had even a preliminary discussion with Team Mayweather and Golden Boy about that fight? If it took place, what weight would it take place at?
Well, first of all I had no conversations, but it was a conversation said to me, and that’s why I responded. And when I realized that there is a fight that they owe him in March of next year, I believe May, excuse me, of next year, and whether I’m willing or can I make 160, and I said, well, if I have that much time, a guy like me, the way I live and the way I keep my body right, even six pounds from fight night next week, sure.
They didn’t act like they were joking, and we’re talking powerful people. So I’m sitting back saying, “Okay, hey, you know,” because no one else is going to beat Floyd Mayweather in their 20s and even in their early 30s. Not this checkerboard man colony, young fighters who can be great later, but right now they just don’t have the degrees to do it. So that’s the only reason I threw my hat in there.
After the sixth or seventh round, when you’ve got two people looking across each other saying, “It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen tonight,” and I say, “You got that right.”
So my thing is it will be at 160 pounds, it will be at a weight division-that’s what I’m saying. It will be at a weight division that the history-and can you imagine the promotion of the ten plus years that I held down that middleweight division and made those defenses.
So like I look at Henry Armstrong and look at all them other guys, even De La Hoya, who’s not a big middleweight, who came up to challenge Bernard Hopkins at 160 because I cleaned everybody out for the only belt that I didn’t have, which was a WBO belt.
So this happened in history before. You hear people say, “The guy’s too big. The guy’s too small.” In weight division, “This guy is this. This guy is that.” Okay, but it’s been done by historic great fighters before so that’s what I’m saying.
But right now, Saturday becomes a thing-I can let everybody off the hook if I just get brain dead Saturday night and they be saying, “Okay, got him out of the way.” So I got to make sure that mentally and physically, because I get that question all the time in the … I should have.
But I keep reminding people, okay yes, there’s a possibility of anything. I’m not chasing anybody. I’m not standing in line for anybody. I’m not trying to pick on the little guy. But if you can find somebody that people want to see fight after that performance, masterful performance of a king chess player that we witnessed than less than two months ago, good luck. Good luck.
Last time you made 160 was 2005, sir. Wow, the time has flown but do you believe you can do it and no problem really?
Hey, listen. How many times I been right when I said I can do something or wrong in my career, as long as you’ve been following me?
Yeah, I never doubt. I never bet against you.
Listen, I know it won’t be easy. That’s what I’m saying. That’s the fun part. I mean this is what people do, like yourself and others listening, this is the fun part.
Can you imagine the fun part by like, “We want to put a camera on Bernard, all access, and we’re going to watch who helped Bernard leave from 160 to jump two weight classes to go to 175,” which no fighter, well only one fighter attempted to do that, and that was the great, late Sugar Ray Robinson, the fight in New York City at Yankee Stadium when he couldn’t come out to the 15th round because it was a hundred something degrees, and they changed one referee and gave him another referee because the referee fell out of heat in that fight.
To do that, to do that and to make history, I would love to put a feather in my cap to go down two weight classes after coming up two weight classes to make history with Tarver, almost seven, six years ago. I mean can you imagine the all access? Can you imagine the promotion for that fight because I’m not a shy guy and I don’t have a shy camp?
So you don’t have to pinch me or stick a needle and get me to do something out of my character to get hyped, no, because you have two chess players in there. And some would say, “Well two chess players be a born fight.” No, because somebody’s going to have to go ahead and be able to be out of character.
And the bottom line is after Saturday it’s a whole options out there for me. I got the whole light heavyweight division. The light heavyweight division has more than a heartbeat right now with some dangerous punches in the boxing game right now, which has got a lot of people excited, got a lot of people saying this guy and this guy, which is definitely the truth, is blasting everybody out of there.
I’m in a society right now where they like knockouts not skills. Okay, great, great, fine, I’m the last of the Mohicans. I’m going to see if my skills can survive with the punches, with the bang ‘em out, sock ‘em, rock ‘em robots. So let’s see what happens, but definitely this Saturday in Atlantic City at Caesar’s in the Boardwalk Hall, I have to make sure that I get passed this obligation.
And then, you know, they might be calling me a bully because I’m going to pick on everybody. And they going to wonder, boxing people’s going to wonder why is the people letting the guy who everybody should be knocking on the door saying, “Let me go ahead and get this old man out of the way,” but instead they running with fear.
I live in a different era than my era. I’m in a whole new different two era, man. It’s kind of a little strange to me, but I understand. But it’s still strange, but I understand. I don’t accept, but I understand.
I’d like to go back to Karo Murat. What do you know about him? What do you know about his special skills? Do you have a special eye on it maybe?
Do you have any special skills? I have never heard of anybody having special skills. I know just as much as you know, I mean, even though you have a different accent than myself. You might know more than be, but I know what I see. I see that a guy is coming for an opportunity to become a world champion, and I was at that place at one time. I respect that, that a man done something to get where he at.
You can’t-I’m no fool. I’m an old fox, f-o-x, and I understand when you work your way up to get to a position like I did to fight Segundo Mercado in ’94 and ’95, I understand that wherever I see and whatever I think he’s going to be ten times more than that because he’s fighting for a world title, and he’s fighting someone that can make him a superstar over night. You can’t over look those things if you got any sanity of reality.
That’s going to be a problem that I think that way for my opponent. That’s not good if you’re fighting Bernard Hopkins, and he understands how significant I think, which is the number one contender. I know how he thinks. Why? Because he was five years old when I won my title or when I had my first fight.
So I know what he’s thinking. I know how he’s feeling. I know how he’s motivated and energized. So you can’t look at anything that he did last week, last year, two years ago, three years ago, and say to yourself, “Oh man, this is going to be easy.” No way. I let the reporters, I let everybody else opinion, great, fine.
But I know anybody that fights Bernard Hopkins, that has fought Bernard Hopkins, except for one or two guys in my career, and that was early in the 90s. They come to fight me because my record and my history and the way I work and the way I come in shape, they come to get beat up in shape or they come ready, and if I have a mental lock or a mental block rather, it’d be a problem.
He would look a lot better, in spite of what’s going to happen to him, he’s going to look a lot better, and he’s going to be game, because that’s his style. He’s a game guy. He isn’t going to be running. He’s not going to be trying to out box me. That’s not his thing. That’s not his thing. And if he do that, I’ll definitely will be even easier.
But I’m telling you right now that he’s coming with his A game, and he’s coming because he got an opportunity to fight for a world championship. And the last time he fight for a world championship, to my knowledge, was Cleverly, and he didn’t pass the test. So he’s been there before. He’s been there before and he felled. This his second maybe only chance.
I understand that. I’ve been there too. I had a shot, I got a draw and I had to fight six months later to get a title. I understand his mentality. He haven’t been through it yet. Only the first task and that’s now. And that’s fighting for a world title for the second time. That’s the only task that he can say and I can say that he has a little experience with.
Okay, great, thank you. Another question, I saw you with the alien mask. Can you explain for me, again, the story behind this mask?
No story. You understand the story. You know the story. You read the story. You want me to repeat the story? So I have to repeat the story again, because you already know.
I’m a smart fighter, and when you ask that question I realize you already know what I said. You already read it. You want me to repeat it because you want to hear me say it again, and it’s just really a waste of everybody’s time to be honest with you.