While the younger light heavyweight challenger Chad Dawson stood at the podium calling him names such as, “punk,” and, generally questioning the veteran’s heart and intestinal fortitude, RING/WBC champion Bernard Hopkins, appeared to be unfazed.
The older man by 20 years, Hopkins sat calmly on the dais, at one point, resting his chin on his hands, eyes hidden beneath the cap that he wore.
During his turn at the microphone at the New York press conference on Wednesday, the normally effusive Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) was uncharacteristically brief.
“All was said,” Hopkins uttered during the event promoting his HBO-televised rematch with Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) on April 28 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.
Later, Hopkins hinted that there was a hidden agenda in the quiet demeanor which contrasted the bombastic Dawson’s.
“Dawson’s anger is something I can take advantage of. Either way he’s going to be frustrated like he was frustrated the other way. I have a way — and I was accused of this when I was smaller — of talking and getting under your nerves. I can institigate in a way to get under your nerves. But I can also keep my mouth shut and do things in the ring to frustrate you,” said Hopkins.
“It’s 99 percent mental. He’s not mentally tough. It’s not that he doesn’t have talent. It doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have heart. But a mental toughness is, when things aren’t going your way, and you still have 6, 7, 8 more rounds to go through, how do you have confidence and patience to make something happen in spite of you getting your [butt] kicked for the first three rounds?”
In a bout that is being billed “Once And For All,” Dawson will get his second opportunity at Hopkins’ WBC and RING belts after their first clash ended controversially on Oct. 15 at Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Hopkins was diagnosed with a left shoulder separation following a fight that was initially ruled to be a second-round TKO victory for Dawson after Hopkins was shoved to the canvas and deemed unfit to continue by referee Pat Russell.
“His frustration and his missing more than he hit me in the first round and a half in the first fight made him frustrated. When a person is frustrated, they can be dangerous in a lot of ways. They will do anything that’s not expected,” said Hopkins.
“They’re dangerous to the point of swinging recklessly, and if they’re not aware of that, you can be hit by anything because he’s fighting you off him and not fighting to control you. Frustration is in his character. If you have knowledge to exploit that.”
Hopkins was later reinstated as the WBC’s beltholder, their fight was ruled a no-contest by the California State Athletic Commission, and the WBC mandated an automatic return match up.
I’m not going to talk about the ruling,” said Hopkins. “Because that’s not what we’re here for.”
In short, said Hopkins, talk is cheap.
“If I’m quiet they’re going to say I’m getting into his head,” said Hopkins. “What do I have to do to show that I don’t have to talk to win the fight? You win fights by fighting.”
Although Hopkins accused Dawson of being mentally deficient, Dawson says the same of Hopkins.
“Bernard Hopkins saw how phyiscally strong I was and he realized that he couldn’t manhandle me or do anything with me,” said Dawson, who predicted a victory by sixth-round knockout. .
“Once Bernard saw how big and how strong I was, up close and personal with my shirt off and everything, I think that it really changed his mindset about what was in front of him and I think that he just found a way out of the fight.”
But in returning to Atlantic City, Hopkins will be back at the site of two of his most definitive victories.
Hopkins was the perceived underdog before scoring unanimous decisions over then-RING beltholder Antonio Tarver in his light heavyweight debut in 2006 and previously unbeaten then-undisputed middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik as 170-pounders in 2008.
“I’m 6-1 [in Atlantic City,] and that one is my first loss at the Resorts Casino in Atlantic City in 1988,” said Hopkins, who lost a four-round majority decision in his first professional fight as a 177-pounder to Clinton Mitchell in September of that year.
“I’ve done great things in Atlantic City and I will continue to do that. I want people to come and see and talk about Bernard Hopkins long after this fight. I’m just something different in an era that’s not really appreciated until it’s over.”
In December of last year, Hopkins rose from two knockdowns during his draw with RING No. 1-rated light heavyweight Jean Pascal in the latter’s native Canada. He returned to Canada and dethroned Pascal as WBC beltholder by unanimous decision in May.
In victory over Pascal, Hopkins became the oldest man to win a major title in boxing. Before facing Hopkins, Pascal had vanquished Dawson in defense of his WBC belt by 11th-round technical decision in August of last year.
Hopkins believes he has at least one more big night left in him, hence, the theme of his rematch with Dawson.
“It’s all ‘Once And For All,’ when you have a conflict. It speaks for itself. It’s always once and for all for Bernard Hopkins,” said Hopkins. “I’m knocking on 50 more than I’m knocking on 30. The last 10 years has been Once and for All for Bernard Hopkins.”
Photo by Jeff Fusco, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org