BROOKLYN, N.Y. — “History outlasts money,” declared Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins during Saturday night’s press conference following his unanimous decision that dethroned Tavoris Cloud as IBF 175-pound titleholder before 12,293 approving fans at Barclays Center.
In victory over the 31-year-old Cloud (24-1, 19 knockouts), Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs), whose 48th birthday was on Jan. 15, eclipsed his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown, a feat the Philadelphia native accomplished at the age of 46 with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal for THE RING and WBC light heavyweight belts in May of 2011. He lost the titles to Chad Dawson in April of last year.
Hopkins drove home the point that he is “doing it clean,” unlike cyclist Lance Armstrong, whose record of seven Tour de France crowns was disqualified due to a steroid and doping controversy.
“I’m doing this from the hard work and with honest muscle. Clean,” said Hopkins. “Lance Armstrong got almost $200 million doing it the opposite way…I’m the poster boy that you can do it this way.”
Cloud represented Hopkins’ first New York appearance since Sept. 29, 2001, when his 12th-round knockout of previously unbeaten Felix Trinidad added Trinidad’s WBA title to his IBF and WBC belts, unifying the 160-pound division for the first time since 1987.
Like Cloud, Trinidad was promoted by the legendary 81-year-old Don King, with whom Hopkins has maintained an adversarial relationship throughout most of their respective careers.
“Who would ever think — in anybody’s wildest dreams, not even I would bet on it — that Bernard Hopkins would be the one to put Don King out of business,” said Hopkins. “I did everybody a favor because Don King, whether you like him or not, is no more.”
Nicknamed “The Executioner” for his focus on the macabre death imagery, which, in the past, has included offering his rivals a ceremonial last meal, Hopkins said the win over Cloud “was more gratifying” than that over Pascal “because I’m older.”
“The Executioner and Bernard Hopkins are not the same people. The Executioner, I don’t even like him,” said Hopkins. “The Executioner don’t care about nobody. He’s got a job, he executes and then he leaves.”
By defeating De la Hoya by ninth-round knockout in September of 2004, Hopkins held the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight belts — the first fighter in boxing history to do so.
After he lost to Taylor, and then endured an immediate rematch loss, Hopkins rose into the light heavyweight division for triumphs over Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones, suffering his first defeat in the division by split-decision against Joe Calzaghe.
Hopkins became a light heavyweight titlewinner for the third time by defeating Cloud, having also vanquished Antonio Tarver by unanimous decision in June of 2006 for THE RING title.
Although he has promised his sisters, Charmaine, 40, and Marcella, 42, that he will not fight until he is 50, Hopkins said he is not retiring, even as he is unsure whom he will face next.
“I believe that if I’m healthy, and if I’m ready to go, mentally and physically, I don’t believe that anybody in the 175-pound weight class, and possibly 168 … can beat me,” said Hopkins.
“I’m here to stay, but not until I’m 50… I’m looking for the names, and I’m looking for the big reward, because I feel that I want to continue to do what I’m doing to a point and set history so deep that it will take 30, 40 or 50 years for somebody to top me.”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at email@example.com