The Man Who Trains Bernard Hopkins: Interview With Bouie Fisher

By Ike Enwereuzor /

I spoke to the man himself, the old school legendary trainer, Bowie Fischer, who is been in the games for over 3 decades and traines the undisputed middleweight King Bernard "the Executioner" Hopkins since 1989. Mr. Fischer beats all the odds to be where he's today.

On Saturday, September 29, at Madison Square Garden, New York City in front of over 19,000 boxing fans. It didn't surprise me at all to see Hopkins who was regarded as the underdog entering the biggest fight of his career but he excute his game plan by knocking out previously undefeated "Tito" Felix Trinidad at 1:18 of the 12 to unify 160 pound division since 1987, when Marvin Hagler was stripped for taking a match with "Sugar" Ray Leonard. It was a spectacular 12 round of action between Hopkins-Trinidad but Hopkins took away Tito's left hooks and became the first man to handle him his first professional career lost.

Hopkins' fought a very brilliant fight and masterful clinic against Trinidad allows him to be compared to the past legends like Marvin Hagler, Jake laMotta, Carlos monzon, Emile Griffith, Dick Tiger, Ray Leonard or "Hitman" Tommy Hearn. It was a lot of movements and jabs did the job and Hopkins had Trinidad stunned in the 11th round but couldn't finish it untill 12 with a shot right hook.

The new undisputed middleweight champion would never allow himself to get out of shape just like Hagler and Duran did. Hopkins is expected to return to the ring Febuary 2002 against No.1 mandatory contender Carl Daniels

"It's all I wanted since I was 15 years old" Said Hopkins

What's going on with you these days?

My life is working in the gym 4-5 hours a day. It's a pleasure to see kids want to do this. I teach them how to fight and how to respect themselves and others. We get no financial support from anyone, the man in our area who promised financial help never came up with anything. The gym charge is $10 for amateurs kids and $25 for professionals if they have it. If we can save one kid from getting in trouble, that's our aim and I feel we do. People, not just blacks, are welcome to take advantage of our gym. The kids in our gym must bring their report cards to us at the gym. They must do well in school, if not we send them home untill they improve their grades. They must finish High school and get their education. It has been a journey, but Iwill never retire. I'll be in the game for the rest of my life. Two of my sons are working with me (James is Bernard Business manager and Andre is my co-assistant). We have been travelling a lot receiving awards for myself and Bernard. The city just keeps building jails and they aren't being built for nothing, it cost them a lot of money, so it's a business and some of these kids will end up there. The poor kids get hit the hardest. This is why we feel that education is important. If you don't have your report card I'll send you home to get your grades right. Some of the kids start to cry because of this, but I think it's better to cry now rather than later. Sometimes the kids will come up with lies, I'll tell them I have done all that BS. They will lie about their road work just like I use to do many years ago. I simply tell them I have been there before.

You were a professional fighter yourself, what do you remember from your first pro fight?

I started in the amateurs in 1945 and I becama a professional in 1947. I remember my first fight very well. I got knocked on my butt 4-5 times. The guy just beat me up. In those days there were a lot of great teachers who use to talk to me like I'm speaking to you now. Philadelphia had so many great men.

When did you start training Bernard Hopkins?

I started training him in 1989. When Hopkins came to the scene and wanted me to train him, he seemed to have his mind in the right direction. We shook hands, then he came back and hard work was the thing. I'm so happy we beat all the odds. They regard me now as trainer of the year.

What's has it been like training Bernard for all these years?

Bernard's very dedicated to this game. I don't have to call him to come to the gym. He does his road work and comes to gym ready to go. He's the best figher I have ever worked with. He tries to do the right thing and treat people right with respect. Now, people are asking me for autographs. How about that? Now, I'm getting the recognization for over 60 years in the business.

What do you think he has improved on since 1989?

He's a remodel, goes to schools, churches, organization to speak to groups. When Bernard first told me he wanted to be a Boxer, I told him I have heard that so many times. Bernard said to me, "I don't care how many times you have heard this." After I started to train him I never had to call him to come to the gym or do his road work. He always comes in without being called. He improved so fast now he's regarded as the best figher in world.

How would you compare Bernard's fight with Felix Trinidad to his fight Kieth Holmes?

I think both fights came out the way we wanted. Keith Holmes was awkward and more difficult to fight. He was there to survive not to win. Trinidad was a perfect fight for us and we knew it was going to be the easiest fight of Bernard's career. We prepared ourself for this fight 12 years ago and it worked out pretty good. I want to make about 3 more champions. I'll do what I can to win but something illegal I must back up. This is my business, I gotta to do it right.

What is your impression of Carl Daniels?

If you are No. 1, you must be doing something right. He is a good fighter. The last time I saw him fight he looked pretty good. It will be a test for Bernard and that's why we're here. If all goes well, maybe we'll fight Oscar De La Hoya. They are talking about it now.

What are your thoughts of William Joppy?

He didn't look bad in his last fight with Eastman, but he looked like he ran out of gas. At least he won. Eastman's not a bad fighter he put Joppy down in the last round. Joppy took a bad beaten from Trinidad but bounced back.

I talked to William Joppy before his last fight and he brought up an issue that Trinidad's people wrapped Tito's hand illegally and that is why he lost. He said that your people caught Trinidad illegally wrapping his hands. Can you tell us what happened?

I tell you, Ike. They have been getting away with that for a long time. I sent my people to Trinidad's locker room to make sure everything was right. When they got there they came back to me and told me that Trinidad's left hand was wrapped before they got there. So, I had to go over to his dressing room myself, this is my business and I have been doing it for over 50 years. When I got there I told them to unwrap the hand and do it over because we need to see the hand being wrapped. They refused to unwrap the hands so I told them I guess the fight will not happen then, we can reschedule to another date. The officials came in and said we don't have time to do this over. I told them, well we must do this right or no fight. They know the rules, no tape on the skin or tape on the ankle. His left hand was heavy just like your camera. Guess what, the officials then said you can go and wrap Bernard hands anyway you want. Trinidad's father and his people didn't want to make the change because they knew they cheated and they tried to cover it up by asking me to wrap Bernard's hands anyway we wish. I wasn't going for that, we have to do this right, they raised hell like you couldn't believe. I said you can do it your way, but there will be no fight if you don't do it right. They said we are going to leave it as it is, so I told them we can reschedule the fight untill next week. They didn't want to do that. This is why we had a delay coming out. When they saw Bernard they tried to ask us to take off just a little tape, but they had a half roll of tape on Trinidad's left hand. This is why people say he has a good left hook. David Reid paid a big price, Trinidad took away the fighter in him. David Reids people were trying to schedule a fight with Bernard and it could have happened if Reid would have won his last fight. I'm glad it never happened.

Which fight do you think was Hopkin's toughest?

I think his fight before Roy Jones against Gilbert Baptist was a tough 12 round fight. Our first fight with Segundo Mercado in Equador was a draw but Bernard is the most competitive fighter I know, always physicallly and mentally ready. He came back and stopped Mercado in 7.

What do you like most about working with Hopkins?

I like his work habit and the way he turned his life around. He was in jail for 5 years but came out and improved himself. I like him also for the way he prayed and got the help he needed, I'm proud of him. He works hard and he does his job. A week after his fight with Trinidad he came back to the gym. I told him to go enjoy himself for another week but he started working with the heavy bag and speed bags. He's going to start sparring in 2 weeks. He wants no trouble with the authorities. He is always ready to go speak to groups and organizations and he is always signing autographs. He is certainly a remodel and my sons are there for him just like a brother would be. Our families are looking great, I have 11 grand children and 9 adopted. We're happy to be here.

What are your thoughts about Calvin Davis?

Davis is certainly going to be alright. He has only one loss with 22 wins . We're looking for some good things from him. He fought in Philly about 2 weeks ago, but I wasn't there because there was a special award in Scranton, PA., for Bernard and myslef so I had to go. But Calvin won the fight in a 10 round decision and he's scheduled to fight again in California in January 2002.

Do you think Bernard will move up in weight to fight?

I don't think so unless Bernard had to fight Roy Jones jr. again. Roy will have to move down to 168 lbs and we'll put on a couple of pounds.

Your advise to anyone who wants to become a boxer?

If you want to be good in this games you have to put in all you got. You can't cheat because it will show in the ring. You must train very hard to make it.

Send Comments To: Ike Enwereuzor


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