ATLANTIC CITY– Bernard Hopkins gave a clear indication that he is in a fighting mood on Thursday in the Tiberius Room of Caesar’s Hotel and Casino, where the 47-year-old RING light heavyweight champion closed a nearly 30-minute round-table interview with an obscenity-laced tirade focused on his boxing legacy before abruptly rising and walking out of the room.
“I’m the last of a f___ing dying breed. When you guys want to write something, you write that. I’m the last of a f___ing dying breed. Because all of this other stuff that you’re looking at, it’s all substance and bulls__t. It’s all T.V. promotion. It’s all smoke and mirrors,” Hopkins told about 15 reporters, videographers and camera men.
“But when you get past those mirrors, you know what you see? Bulls__t. So I’m the last of what I said. That’s what I am. That’s the headlines. I’m the last of a f___ing dying breed. Just like there’s no more mob. Just like the 15 rounds in boxing became 12 rounds. I’m the last of the dying f___ing breed. Thank you, have a good day.”
Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts) will defend his RING and WBC belts at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City in Saturday night’s HBO-televised rematch with 29-year-old Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs), who, with his promoter, Gary Shaw, has consistently questioned Hopkins’ heart and intestinal fortitude stemming from their controversial first meeting last October.
That fight, which Dawson and Shaw claim they chased for more than three years, ended in a no-contest after Hopkins was shoved to the canvas and deemed unfit to continue by referee Pat Russell.
Hopkins was diagnosed with a left shoulder separation following what was initially ruled to be a second-round TKO victory for Dawson, but later changed to no-contest ruling by the California State Athletic Commission, which allowed Hopkins to retain his belts.
“My motivation has always been adversity. If things are too good, I’m suspicious. If things are too good, I’m worried. If things happen the way that it’s supposed to happen, that’s something I’m not used to,” said Hopkins.
“It’s like taking a kid who has been in a rough environment and then you put him in Beverly Hills. That’s the same way I feel when I’m not the underdog. So right now, I’m at my comfort zone.”
Nearly an hour earlier, Dawson sat in the same chair as Hopkins with Shaw adjacent to him. Together, they re-iterated their belief that Hopkins had simply quit out of fear during their initial clash at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
Dawson said Hopkins was intimidated by him, physically.
“It was obvious. It wasn’t a long fight. Just two rounds. But in those two rounds, I was the one trying to press the fight and make the action. Bernard did nothing the whole two rounds. He didn’t once try to make it a fight. I mean, people look at that and they can see the difference in the size and the strength,” said Dawson.
“I think that he saw the difference in the size and the strength. There weren’t that many punches thrown, but I did land a good left hand in the first round and I think right there is the point where he figured it out. I think he realized that I’m not a joke…I was going to be crowned the light heavyweight champion that night.”
In their wake, Hopkins defended his reputation, which includes having made a middleweight record 20 title defenses before losing the first of two straight decisions to Jermain Taylor on July of 2005, and also rising from a shoulder injury after being slammed to the canvas to defeat Antwun Echols in December of 2000.
In August of 1998, Hopkins cited a fourth-round ankle injury for failing to continue an IBF middleweight title fight with southpaw Robert Allen. Although the resulting no-contest allowed him to retain his belt, Hopkins dominated Allen in their immediate rematch of February, 1999, dropping him in the second and sixth rounds of an eventual seventh-round knockout.
“Against Antwun Echols, I got up with an injured shoulder. As Larry Merchant said, ‘Bernard got up, but he shouldn’t have gotten up. He was ahead and he’s winning the fight. But he knows if he doesn’t get up, then the system is going to screw him.’ Against Robert Allen… I didn’t expect that and you know what happened. I’ve proven who I am,” said Hopkins.
“So I have heard that before from other people. From Robert Allen. From Antwun Echols. I heard that from Jean Pascal. As a matter of fact, he said that I was on something. I mean, sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will always motivate me.”
At one point, Hopkins indicated that Dawson might represent his last fight, no matter the result.
“I know for a fact that you will never see another Jackie Robinson. You will never see another Michael Jordan,” said Hopkins, who was the perceived underdog before scoring victories over Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik.
“You will never see another Muhammad Ali. You will never see some of the people that came and we took for granted.”
In December of 2010, Hopkins rose from two knockdowns to salvage a draw with former RING light heavyweight champ Jean Pascal in the latter’s native Canada. In his next fight, Hopkins returned to Canada and defeated Pascal by unanimous decision to claim THE RING and WBC belts for himself.
“I’ve given you the evidence that I’m special,” said Hopkins, whose win over Pascal made him the oldest man to win a major title in boxing at the age of 46. “I’ve shown you that I’m a throwback by doing what throwback fighters do, like Archie Moore and Ezzard Charles. Well I’m the modern day them.”
Ultimately, Hopkins vowed to be victorious on Saturday night, saying “at the age of 47, I will spank this guy.”
“The other two guys, I destroyed, and they couldn’t get any more years from them. That’s Jermain Taylor and that’s Kelly Pavlik and a few other guys that were contenders,” said Hopkins.
“They never even got the chance to be champions because they were ruined physically and mentally. More mentally and spiritually.”
Photos by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos/Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org