Bernard Hopkins once told legendary trainer Manny Steward that he would have dominated even his best middleweights.
"I've never faced a fighter with Emanuel Steward in his corner," said the 46-year-old veteran. "But I told Emanuel years ago that if I was around in that era, I would have knocked out every middleweight that he had, including Tommy Hearns."
Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) and Steward will oppose each other as fighter and trainer for the first time in their careers when Hopkins defends his RING and WBC light heavyweight belts against 29-year-old Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles on Oct. 15.
"You beat Emanuel Steward, then you beat Chad Dawson," said Hopkins. "Chad Dawson is a dangerous fighter because he has a dangerous teacher. Notice that I didn't say trainer, I said teacher."
The feeling, said Steward, is mutual.
"I'm a big Bernard Hopkins fan, so this is a challenge for me because I have so much respect for Bernard. And for him to say that about me is unbelievable," said Steward, who is only his second fight with Dawson.
"I've followed Bernard's career from a distance throughout all of his fights. So this fight is important, and I know that the reality is that I'm going to be greatly responsible and accountable for the outcome."
Known for his gamesmanship as well as his "Executioner" nickname, Hopkins' act used to include providing his "victims" with a ceremonial "last meal" at the final press conference.
Hopkins promised to begin working on Dawson as early as Monday's press conference at the Staples Center, when he will come face to face with Dawson and Steward.
"Chad Dawson is going to have a hard time listening to Manny and focusing on Manny at the first press conference, because that's when the head games are going to start. I've watched Emanuel Steward for many years. I respect the teacher, I respect what he teaches and I've even I've even taken pages from his book," said Hopkins.
"So anything that Emanuel tells Chad Dawson to do, I've seen it before and I've probably done it. I know that I can adjust to any style, so whatever Chad brings to the table, I've already picked up. That's the luxury that I have compared to this younger guy."
Hopkins made a middleweight record 20 title defenses from January of 1996 through September of 2005 before being dethroned by Jermain Taylor in July of 2005.
Meanwhile, Hearns earned six career titles over as many different weight divisions from 1980 through 1999 comprised of the welterweight, junior middleweight, middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and cruiserweight belts.
"I told him that I would have knocked out Hearns, and I know that he doesn't agree with me. But I would have loved to have been in that era," said Hopkins. "I'm not bragging or boasting, but I just believe that I would have held my own in wins and losses within any era of boxing."
Hopkins is coming off of a unanimous decision over Canada's Jean Pascal in May, which made him the oldest fighter in the history of the sport to win a significant title belt.
Hopkins-Pascal was a rematch of a disputed, majority draw last December during which Hopkins rose from knockdowns in the first and third rounds for what many believed was a victory.
Dawson lost his title bid to Pascal (26-1-1, 16 KOs) by 11th-round technical decision a year ago in August, but rebounded with May's one-sided unanimous decision over Adrian Diaconu on the under card of Hopkins-Pascal II.
"Age is always a factor. So I'm always negotiating with father time, and we're sort of have a standoff right now," said Hopkins. "I'm like the old deer hunter trying to get another young buck."
Steward is trying to prepare Dawson mentally, physically and tactically for Hopkins.
"We're fighting one of the smartest and most intelligent fighters in history. Bernard knows how to fight on the inside, to counter punch and to box. Plus he makes adjustments. Against Pascal, for example, you'll see him throw the probing jab alternately with a hard jab. Plus Bernard's got a good, old-school trainer with Naazim Richardson in his corner," said Steward.
"My challenge is going to be to have Chad in good shape, unbelievably focused, and ready to fight a good, 12 hard rounds. Because if he has a mental lapse anywhere in the fight, then Bernard is going to take advantage of it and he's going to exploit it."
Steward's presence simply bolsters Hopkins' resolve.
"Chad beat Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson, but he struggled with them and I beat them easily. But having Emanuel there is a game-changer because he's a legend and he's seen everything, which makes Chad Dawson a serious fighter," said Hopkins.
"But I'm motivated by the fact that I can beat an Emanuel Steward-trained fighter. It's like going up against Angelo Dundee or a Freddie Roach. To get a victory against somebody with a mindset like them, that's another big notch on my belt."