by Geoffrey Ciani (Exclusive OTR Interview with Jenna J & Geoffrey Ciani) – This week’s 127th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio (brought to you by CWH Promotions) featured an exclusive interview with newly crowned WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion of the world Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs), who made history last Saturday night when he broke “Big” George Foreman’s record and became the oldest boxer at age 46 to win a major championship when he dethroned 28 year old Jean Pascal (26-2-1, 16 KOs). Hopkins spoke about his historic victory and also discussed his future plans. Additionally he shared opinions about Emanuel Steward, Roy Jones Junior, Chad Dawson, and other aspects of his long and illustrious career. This is a complete transcript from that interview:
JENNA J: Well let’s move to our final guest of this week’s show. We are joined by the new WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion of the world, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins. How are you doing tonight, Bernard?
BERNARD HOPKINS: I’m doing good. I’m sitting back resting with my family. I got the hot tub waiting. I’m going to get in there as soon as I get done and I’m just taking it easy. You know this is like a ritual. I don’t run to the streets. I don’t go to after parties. I take care of my body which is my temple and it’s 5% of the repercussions of doing the right thing. Everything is good. I got some hickeys in the back of my head. That happens. It was a fight. Things happen and I’m just licking my wounds I can say in a good way.
JENNA: Great! Well you made some history this past weekend breaking George Foreman’s record and becoming the oldest man to win a major championship. How do you feel about your performance?
HOPKINS: First it was bittersweet but history is meant to be broken, or records rather are meant to be broken. They often aren’t, but I had a chance to make it happen and I grabbed the opportunity the second time around. So the bittersweet comes. You know George Foreman, what can we say? He was an icon. He’s “Big George” who changed his style and personality and became the loveable teddy bear George. So to break that record and to achieve my own personal goal is well worth the wait and it was worth the struggle. I feel good about the victory. I feel good about everything as far as it took place and the outcome. I mean when things happen in the ring it happens, and when the outcome comes and you’re victorious in spite of. I came out of there without any cuts and without any major swelling. I got the blessing of the year, or at least for this month.
JENNA: Alright well you seemingly improved on your first performance even though you deserved to get the victory in the first fight. How do you feel about the way the fight went down?
HOPKINS: Well I feel good the way the fight ended and went down, but there are some adjustments that always need to be made, even in a situation where it might look like it was a perfect fight. This was a twelve round fight so there is always room for criticism on my end because I’m always looking to improve on everything I do win, lose, or draw, and that’s what keeps me competitive and not still-minded in the game. We practiced on things that we didn’t do or I didn’t do the first time more often, which I believe I have one of the best jabs and counter-jabs in the business, and when I get away from that I still look impressive but I’m not extremely impressive and I make my job harder when I don’t use the jab. The great Emanuel Steward and the great trainers behind him or in front of him will tell you, one of the most deadly but underrated punches is the jab and everything sets off that jab. I got back to the basics and I executed it.
JENNA: Now speaking of Emanuel Steward we had him on after your fight and he mentioned that the whole boxing world was on the shoulders of one Manny Pacquiao but now there’s a new star, Bernard Hopkins. How do you feel about the credit you’re getting after this win?
HOPKINS: I think really that Emanuel always spoke highly of me and has also been critical in situations and I understand that. But when you’re Emanuel Steward and you’re a Hall of Famer and you got the resume of the guys he’s worked with over the years, I mean you’d be a fool to try and come up against him as far as credibility. As far as being the new star in the game, I’ll take that and run with it at 46 years old because I know you don’t get that unless you earn it. Even though it might be a few people, because there are always a few that might still think I don’t deserve to be mentioned in anybody’s category let alone the word “star”. I think that at the end of the day, whether people love me, hate me, or are in between, they respect what I have accomplished and respect what I have done. They might not like me and they might like what I do or what I say, but at the end of the day I think most people however they feel, they respect the craft and the sweet science of boxing, because that’s what it is. It’s the sweet science.
I know that we’re in an era of life with the knockdown, drag out UFC/MMA, and I’m not knocking that. They are athletes in their own way, but if I could help people stay conscious of the sweet science, the Floyd Mayweather, the sweet scientist, his uncle Roger, his father senior. That’s the sweet science, man! I can name more, Nazim Richardson, you know, Buddy McGirt. Guys like that that I watched coming up and understand that this is the sweet science and that’s what I try to put down and that’s what I believe I put down on Saturday. I feel great. I don’t think anybody gets an A in any fight because there is always room for improvement, but if I was going to rate myself it would probably be a B or a B+. But I know at the end, the victory is important however it comes and I’m glad it came exciting. I’m glad it didn’t come in a way where people were snoring or didn’t care. So that was cool to me, to not be selfish and let the fans get what they wanted whether it’s in Canada or the United States or whatever, to witness something that they might not see for a long, long, long time.
JENNA: Now while you seemingly improved on your performance, Jean Pascal really didn’t. Were you at all surprised he wasn’t able to make any adjustments in the rematch with you?
HOPKINS: He didn’t make adjustments because I wouldn’t let him and that’s part of the game. It’s playing chess. A guy wants to move but you have to offset that move. Boxing, it has some percentages where strength is important and toughness is important, but also thinking and being smart and outsmarting and outthinking and out-strategizing a guy. These things are important and that’s why we say “sweet science”. I mean my pound-for-pound I guess ingredient for a fight is totally different from 99% of the people that have pound-for-pound ratings in any book, catalogue, or anything that they feel that they can rate fighters from today or yesterday. My theory on how pound-for-pound should be respected and how it should be rated is based on all of the above. If a guy is undefeated, to me that doesn’t mean he’s pound-for-pound. That just means he never lost!
When I say “pound-for-pound” I use one person that did it all, and that was Sugar Ray the great Robinson. Backing up sideways, hands down, hands up, everything! Outthink you, make you move without even throwing a punch; move you into a position that you really don’t even know you are until you get hit and realize that I tricked you to be in that spot. I mean this is the sweet science of body language before the contact of a punch, and that’s what I’ve been taught, and that’s what I’ve learned, and that’s what I’ve studied. That’s why even though I believe I could have fought in any era without any boldness or cockiness—any era! And to have a credible guy like George Foreman say, “Bernard was right, he could have fought in any era”.
Emanuel Steward, “He could have fought in any era and held his own, lose, win, or draw—but he could have held his own”. That’s saying a lot, because I’ve learned from as they say in the Bible, you go back to the basics of history and you go back and you read that. If you’re a young athlete, or a young scientist, or a young lawyer who wants to be the best lawyer and even better than the ones you look up to and pattern yourself after, then you have to do some research, and you have to be diligent, and you have to be patient, and you have to be on mark and execute it to the fullest. So Saturday was an opportunity for me to talk that talk, but also walk that walk. I think that that’s where, and this is not a first time thing for me, this is the first situation of being the oldest and attempting to be and then accomplishing that. But this is not the first time that I have went out and said, “I’m going through this door and I’m not coming back”.
I said that in personal life. I’m leaving out of this penitentiary and the warden said, “I’ll see you in six months”.
“I’m not coming back!”
Two decades and some years later, it’s in my DNA. There is nothing special I’m doing. It’s just something that I’m very, very disciplined about. That’s it.
JENNA: Well Bernard, we’re also on the line with my Co-Host Geoff Ciani.
GEOFFREY CIANI: Hi Bernard. Congratulations on your great victory and thank you for coming back on our show.
HOPKINS: No problem, man! No problem. I promised you I would and I’m here.
CIANI: Than you. Bernard it seemed to me that the referee did not do a particularly good job in this fight. I thought you were getting hit with an awful lot of rabbit punches and I thought you got robbed out of at least one and probably two knockdowns. Did you have any doubts when they were reading the scorecards that they might have screwed you out of the decision again?
HOPKINS: It came into my mind that they were going to screw me out of the decision again. I went over to Richard, “What’s taking so long?” Richard Schaefer, to those who will listen to this audio or transcript, is Golden boy Promotions CEO. And I went over to Kelly Swanson, my publicist, and said, “Why are they taking so long?” Then I was trying to get my mind off it, because the longer they take it’s not normally good for me from my previous experience.
If you could see the back of my head now with these four lumps, I did have an MRI yesterday. The doctor said I’m fine but he said I got severe bruises in the back of my neck towards the brain stem. Let me tell people something real quick about when a guy knows that he’s doing it, and I don’t believe this was an accident. This happened in the first fight, this happened in the Roy Jones fight, and the word is out that this is my sweet spot. That’s anybody’s sweet spot because the structure of the skull is not as thick back there as in the front of your head. The front of your head and the top of your head is like a helmet, a football helmet. When a baby is born the top of the head, the cranium, is so soft that you have to be careful because that’s a very soft sensitive spot until it molds into a protective shell of the brain sort of like a hard concrete cement. So when a guy hits you back there intentionally, he’s trying to hurt you! And I know that I’m in the hurt business. I’m not a whiner, but at the end of the day when it comes to the point that it’s right there in your face then you just got to do what you got to do as a survivor. You hit me, I’ll get you, and you hope that the referee does his job on both ends, but I couldn’t worry about that.
I can’t fight the referee and my opponent at the same time on the same night. Somebody has to get ignored, and you know what? It was better for me to ignore the referee and keep fighting and not fight two people, and that could be a distraction! I’ve seen that played in boxing for so many years. I knew the deal, but at the end of the day when a man can’t be denied and I want something, I don’t care if the referee, the commission, I don’t care who it is. As long as I’m in the order of what I’m supposed to do that’s right by the law, I’m going to win because think about it. At the end of the day he’s the only one allowed to punch me in that ring, I’m the only one allowed to punch him, and no matter how much help he gets he might think it’s going to be helpful but it’s going to be more painful because now it’s more incentive for me to do what I have to do because I’m going up against all odds. So I had to deliver and I had to do something to let him understand that not only am I going to outlast you, but I’m going to give you ten pushups while you’re resting.
CIANI: You know one of the things that I’ve been thinking about recently, about three weeks after 911 you shocked the boxing world when you beat Felix Trinidad. Now here we are almost ten years later and about three weeks after we finally got bin Laden, you’re still out there shocking the boxing world. I’m just curious, when you think about things from that perspective, and at the time you fought Trinidad they were already saying you were too old to compete on that level much longer, I mean what do you think of that and what does it mean to you?
HOPKINS: First of all, to be honest with you and I’m not being diplomatic about this. I’m just as surprised as you are, man! I’m not surprised that I’m in good shape. I take care of myself because I eat to live. I take care of myself. That’s a given, but if you were going to ask me ten years ago or five years ago would I be fighting at 46 years old, closer to 50 than 40, I would be telling you you’re crazy. If my mother was still alive, whether I wanted to fight or not, trust me, I wouldn’t be on the phone with you. So I’m just like I know I put the work in. Of course I know I didn’t hit the lottery. I didn’t wake up out of shape and hit somebody on the chin to win the championship belt. I had to put the time mentally and physically, but to predict beyond what I already have achieved—I’m not saying it’s luck, because I don’t believe in that. I believe you create your own path. You get some good fortunate here and there at just the right time and it’s meant to be, no luck.
If I put my mind to it, which I did, and I sort of got the hunger and the love back for it after going through the political rollercoaster of the Kelly Pavlik fight and then the punishment of sixteen months sitting on the pine waiting for something was devastating for me and that made me not leave the game because I felt I was being forced, and pushed out, and bullied. Every time I’m denied something that I believe I deserve, I’m not leaving until I’m ready to leave, and sometimes they win but most times I win. But to have the courage to challenge that, there are only a few people that have that DNA in the world and even in history in the past that are willing to have the courage to say I’m not leaving until I’m ready to leave. I don’t want to have any regrets five or ten years from now. I could have walked away many fights ago, but guess what? You would have never gotten the chance to talk about what we’re talking about now, and you know what? It could have been different the conversation right now. It could have been the Roy Jones situation right now.
So I’m blessed! I’m blessed and everybody is not blessed like that. But I’m no fool to think that just because I am I’m better, as far as it’s supposed to happen to me and not them. There is a reason I’m here and there is a reason everybody else is not. Some for good reasons, hey just had enough, and some like most of us, the ring beats us. We don’t beat the ring. The ring is undefeated like the streets of Philadelphia. You can’t beat those streets. We thought we could when we were street thugs, but the streets are undefeated. The penitentiary is undefeated. They don’t close down because lack of patrons. Boxing is the same way. When people say Bernard when are you going to retire? You see fighters don’t retire from boxing; boxing retires fighters. Wow! You make a good point Bernard, and it’s a realistic point. I’m not a philosopher. I’m just telling you the truth!
CIANI: Now Bernard, I’m actually not even trying to be funny here because I could realistically see a situation where this happens, but could you imagine yourself fighting at a high level when you do reach the age of 50?
HOPKINS: I could see myself fighting at 50 if I would choose to, yes, and I would look like I’m about 40 when I’m 50. Seriously! Just like I said in many quotes, you might have read it and I might have said it to you. I don’t feel like I’m 46. I feel like I’m about 36. I didn’t say 26. I said 36. I get pains. Oh trust me, any opponent out there that thinks that I’m Superman, I might be in so many ways but trust me! I got pains here and there. Oh damn! My back hurts sometimes. My knee hurts sometimes. I got a lot of mileage on my body from running five miles, three miles, boxing hundreds of rounds, sparring, doing this, doing that, doing this, plus my everyday stuff I do at the spa, at the health spa. You got to add that in there.
So if anybody wants to know out there whether I’m human or not—yes! Is my blood count different than anybody else’s? Yes, because I took care of myself. Is my inside like a 29 year old as Mackie Shilstone said? Yes! Do I live clean? Yes! Do I put anything in my body? No! I don’t even like wine on my shrimp scampi, but if you ask me Bernard do you feel sometimes you get up like, oh man! I got to stretch for an hour! I got to put some rubbing on me like icy hot or something. Yeah! I got to do just like what 90% of boxers do. Trust me we know how to fight through pain, dog. We know how to fight through pain, we know how to bite down, we know how to wrap our legs up with ace bandages and hope the swelling goes down. We do all of that. Very few fighters say they can’t fight because they have a bruise. That’s what we do. My left hand looks like an eight ounce boxing glove.
CIANI: Now Bernard, Jenna mentioned before that we had Emanuel Steward on the day after your fight and we were talking to him about a potential matchup between you and Chad Dawson. Emanuel admitted, he said if Chad fights like he did this weekend he’s going to have a really hard time with Bernard. I’m curious, what are your thoughts on fighting Chad Dawson next?
HOPKINS: First of all to go up against Chad Dawson is nothing to sneeze at and get blinded by because he had say a B- or B performance. The man was out for almost a year. Trust me I don’t care how good your car is. Don’t start it up in a year. Don’t start it up in six months. You’re going to need a new battery. Again, I’ve been around the game a long time and when you got Emanuel Steward in your corner, and I don’t see Emanuel taking any stiffs to train. That says it all! See you’re not fighting Chad Dawson. Physically you are, but you’re fighting Emanuel Steward. And listen, Chad Dawson is fighting Nazim Richardson and Emanuel is trying to out-strategize Nazim Richardson. It’s nothing to sneeze at!
I have the utmost respect for Emanuel Steward and I know I have to be on my game because I have to not only beat Chad Dawson physically when we fight, if we fight, whenever. This will be an accomplishment that I went up against one of the all time great trainers in the world. And guess what? I stood around long enough to even go up against the great Emanuel Steward as far a trainer and a strategist, and a trainer and a fighter. Guess what? I wasn’t around in the Tommy Hearns days. I got a blessing to go up against Emanuel Steward! Now I ain’t getting side swiped. I know I ain’t fighting Emanuel, but can you imagine? I never got a chance because I came in a different era. Thank God, but I believe I would have handled my own with anybody. But to go up against a guy where I know I got to be on my game even more now. It is a motivation for me to never underestimate anybody, and not even Chad Dawson. He’s dangerous and he will always be dangerous. He’s strong, he’s big, and he’s a southpaw.
I must admit, I have a 90 plus percentage of winning against and beating southpaws, but again I’m 46 and he’s 28-27. There is Father Time always knocking on my door, I just ain’t letting him in and hopefully we can get this thing done before the year is out. I want to get back in as soon as possible with whoever it’s with. It could be him, it could be anybody! I take that back. Not “anybody”, but it has to be something that’s going to get me off of this couch. If it ain’t history, then I have to look at it as the money is too good to be true, I got something to prove, or I’m just going to do two or three more fights and then I’m leaving just to beat Jersey Joe Walcott or Ezzard Charles’ record when he fought in his late 40s. I found something. There is some history out there that nobody told me about because they were afraid I was going to break that record. So I do my research. I didn’t know about George Foreman until I stumbled on it, and boom! That was the promotional hook like a rapper, like Lil’ Wayne. You get a little hook, you go with it! You go ahead and you pop it! Now I’m going after George Foreman’s record and everybody starts talking about it. That wasn’t brought to me. I had to find that. I had to stumble over it.
JENNA: Bernard, for all the reasons that you mentioned, do you believe Chad Dawson will be a more difficult task than Jean Pascal to beat?
HOPKINS: Yep, because he’s experienced and he has a more experienced trainer with him. I’m telling you, Emanuel can’t fight for him but trust me—time Emanuel Steward works with him in the gym, and before the second fight. This is only his second fight. He’s going to be better. I’m hoping he’s better because then I will be better. I don’t want to fight the Chad Dawson that fought the other night. I mean it won’t do anything for me. It would just be what? A payday! I’m not going in there just to snatch $1 million or $2 million and jump and down and say that all of a sudden I have done something. In the recession, a recession is money, but by the same token if I’m not motivated then I make myself vulnerable to not be mentally, and physically, and spiritually in a fight, which I need all of the above as everybody out there will read this and know me. Trust me, like me or love, that’s what I need. I can’t just walk in there and say I’m fighting just to fight. Something has got to be created, something has got to be started, and something has got to be finished. And we’re starting with one key—his trainer! Who I must respect and I will respect, because I’m no fool; take that away from him then we might be talking something different.
JENNA: Bernard, while you added to your legacy this past Saturday night, a fighter that you’re known to have gotten into the ring with, Roy Jones Junior’s took a little bit of a hit. He got knocked out in the tenth round of his fight with Denis Lebedev. What do you think about the fall of Roy Jones Junior from a man who was considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world to a fighter, now, who’s lost four of his last six bouts?
HOPKINS: Well first I did see on YouTube in my dressing room of Roy fighting, it was I think the tenth round. It was sad. You know that was my rival and we had lots of words over the years, but at the end of the day I don’t want to see Roy go out like that and I know he wouldn’t want to see me go out like that. He’s got two nice sons. They’re twins. I’ve never met them but I’ve seen them. He also has a family, at the end of the day, just like I have—a family. We got to look at ourselves and say hey! This is the reality. This ain’t fiction. This is what happened. It’s time to roll, man! I mean we haven’t had the Muhammad Ali-Joe Frazier situation, but some would say he’s not too far from it. But I don’t wish anything bad on him. I can’t tell a man what not to do because they were telling me to retire when me and him fought. I just showed the world that I still have something in me. I’m not saying Roy has the same in him because he’s been knocked out three or four times, and the last time I talked to a doctor he told me to protect my head and that was last week when I was taking my test for the Pascal fight. Knockouts ain’t cool, back-to-back, or spread out, or whatever. That’s why they sideline football players who have concussions.
If Roy Jones is listening to this, like this is not me telling you what to do man. You’re a grown man. You’re a couple of years younger than me. You got a great life man and a great career. There are a lot things you can do in boxing to help a lot of great young guys who love him—not admire him, they love him instantly. I believe Roy Jones has a lot to offer without throwing a punch in his life again.
JENNA: Alright Bernard. I just have a few more questions before I let you off the line.
HOPKINS: Thank you.
JENNA: While Chad Dawson is slated to be next, can you see a situation where you face somebody different because you are in fact the Ring Champion and not just the WBC champion?
HOPKINS: I’m willing to fight and fulfill my obligation that Chad Dawson is next and that’s the purpose of him being on TV the night I fought. I just hope he comes with all of his game and he is comfortable with his new trainer and so I know they will practice in the off season before the fight. It will be a great light heavyweight fight! The light heavyweight division has been snoozing for a minute. I think it is not too cocky to say that I brought life back into the light heavyweight division. If that’s the truth and if that’s accurate to most, then buckle up because I’m not done and I’m going to top last week. I’m going to top last week! Whoever I fight I’m going to top last week. If it’s Chad Dawson, which I’m hoping it is and it’s contractually supposed to be, let’s go!
Gary Shaw and them have been calling me out for many years. Some have written that “Bernard might not want to fight Chad Dawson”. It was all about the value of that fight. Was it going to do well? Nobody wanted to put up anything to prove that it was going to do well. So now that we fast forwarded and I injected life and excitement back into the light heavyweight division, I think the people who are now looking at the situation are thinking differently. I’m not talking about who wins or lose. That’s not their business. Well it is, but it’s not their business in a way. There is the time to get it done and a time to get it done respectfully, and that’s how you do it! That’s how we do it and we get ready, and find a date, and find a location, and let’s get go. Because I want to prove that I am cut from the cloth of the 60s and early 70s.
JENNA: Bernard if you beat Chad Dawson and you fight the other fighter you’ve mentioned before, Lucian Bute, what other challenges do you see out there before you retire?
HOPKINS: Nothing else, it’s a done deal. It’s a wrap.
JENNA: If you beat the both of them will you retire?
HOPKINS: Yes. Yes! I will fight Bute in Canada. I will go to Canada. I will camp out in Canada and we will sell 50,000 people who will be there to watch us, or more. We couldn’t do that in the same stadium we did the Pascal fight. We have to find whatever stadium they have over there with baseball or whatever team they have to play outside, we’re going to need that and some. But he is contractually tied to Showtime. I don’t know how long he has. I’m not waiting around for anybody. I don’t really have the time to, to be honest with you. There is no promotional thing with internet. I’m just trying to tell you I have a time frame on things that I want to do and I want to win so I don’t want to come in there with a handicap. I want to come in there with all of the advantages that I can give myself, but if you’re talking about what I want and I’m telling you honestly my dream fight what I would want as far as a package deal. It’s a package to go out where it’s like wow! He didn’t fight any cream puffs. The only thing is I wish is Bute was 20-something so people could see that I’m not picking on old people. I’m not picking on people that are passed 38. I’m picking on young dangerous guys that could win or lose with anybody or myself even.
I’m glad everybody enjoyed the performance Saturday, I hope. There is always somebody out there with a criticism that he should have knocked him out earlier or whatever. But at the end of the day I’m hoping to do something exciting before I leave this game and I promised everybody that on HBO. You’ve seen the tape. You heard it and I said it the first fight. I put on a display of heart, talent, and courage and I showed you the second time because I didn’t have to go to Montreal. I pushed Richard to do it in Montreal. We could have done it in LA. We had a date at the Staples Center. I want to push the envelope as far as I can. When I leave, I’ll be 47 in six more months from next month. January 15, 1965. I’m done! I’ll sit around for a year or do a vacation. Even if I get bored, I’m 48-49 years old. Come on bro! Are you kidding me? So enjoy me while I’m here. Enjoy me while I’m here and I’m going to give ya’ll something to talk about on my way out.
JENNA: Alright well Bernard, I have one final question.
JENNA: You earned a lot of new fans with your performance this past weekend, with actually your last two performances. Is there anything you want to say to all the people that support you, watch you, to the fans who were with you ever since you began, and to the fans that you’ve earned now?
HOPKINS: Yes, I hope everybody enjoyed the fight. Never say never. You always have a chance as long as you’re breathing. Work hard. Think positive. And never let anybody let you think that you’re not a winner. Good night. Next time you’ll see a better performance than you had seen last Saturday.
JENNA: Alright well Bernard it’s been an absolute pleasure having you once again back on the show. Enjoy your hot tub and enjoy being the new WBC and Ring Magazine light heavyweight champion of the world.
HOPKINS: Thank you, and hopefully we’ll talk again. Let me get off this phone now because my wife’s giving me “The Executioner” look.
CIANI: Thanks Bernard!
For those interested in listening to the Bernard Hopkins interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and thirty-nine minutes into the program.
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