Exclusive Interview: Bernard Hopkins

By John Bell


Exclusive Interview: Bernard Hopkins

JB: I want to kick off by retouching on a couple of things dating as far back as the Jones fight.  Not comparing the speed of the ’04 version of Oscar De La Hoya to that of the ’93 version of Roy Jones, Jr., but I think it’s fair to say that Oscar is probably the fastest fighter you’ve faced since you fought Jones.  What are your thoughts on that?

Hopkins: That fight in 1993 was more of an adjustment to all around experience for me.  Speed wasn’t the main factor in the Roy Jones fight.  It was an accumulation of things, that made me a better fighter all around, as you can see is obvious 10 or 11 years later.  I learned how to adapt to speed, and I learned how to adapt to different styles, and speed is one of them.  I don’t think that anyone has really taken the time to look at the decent speed that I have.

JB: (cuts in) Well, you were one of the only fighters, up until Tarver recently, that ever really made Roy Jones miss.  You and I have previously discussed your fight with Roy as a chess match… 

Hopkins: Yeah it was definitely a chess match.  It was a chess match on both our parts. Roy Jones moved his hands more and won some crucial rounds and out-pointed me in the fight, but you know, I’m not the same fighter now that I was back then.  But what’s cool is, if people are making their decisions based 11 years ago with Roy Jones, Jr. then that’s great because that means they haven’t started paying attention until the last 6 or 7  years (which I doubt).  But if they just concentrate on the fight with Roy Jones then hopefully…well, I know he’s not THAT stupid…that Mayweather, Sr. is ONLY looking at the Roy Jones tape.  He KNOWS that Bernard Hopkins is a far different fighter from back in 1993 compared to 2004.

JB: Floyd, Sr. has just been quoted as saying that they’ve examined films of you and that you are not a complete fighter, that you loop punches and that you are a one punch at a time fighter…

Hopkins: Yeah, but that’s cool though.  It’s all a mind game.  Floyd Mayweather, Sr. has the utmost respect for Bernard Hopkins, and I know that.  He don’t have to tell me.  Cuz he knows I come from the old school.  See, I read the comments that he made prior to me even being matched up with DLH.  It was a different quote about Bernard Hopkins.  It was, “He’s one of the guys that I love to train”, “He’s a throw back”.  “He stays in shape”.  It’s a different atmosphere, but now since I’m fighting his guy, this is all part of boxing.  I take that with a grain of salt.  I‘m not gonna fire back negativity because I have grown a lot from the Don King press conferences.  I don’t have to turn it in to none of that type stuff.

JB: Many people, including yourself, during and after the middleweight tourney, have mentioned that stylistically, William Joppy might pose the most problem for you due to his hand speed and movement…

Hopkins: (cuts in)…and I DOMINTATED him

JB: (finishing sentence)...and in your fight with Joppy, you pretty much manhandled him from both the inside and outside.

Hopkins: …and Joppy’s faster than De La Hoya.
JB: Considering you said he could stylistically cause problems, how were you able to incapacitate him so easily?

Hopkins: Stay close to him…and that’s what I’m gonna do with DLH.  See the plan, well…it’s not actually a plan because I know what I have to do and they know what they have to do.  DLH has to run, and I don’t think any judge out there will let him win a big fight like this by running.  He paid a price like that before with Trinidad.  But I’m gonna make De La Hoya run.  I’m gonna make De LaHoya fight.  No matter what De La Hoya do, you gotta understand, there comes a time in that fight, that he’s gonna have to sit down and show his bravado.  He’s gonna have to show his Mexican cajones.  In order for him to score, at SOME point, he’s gonna have to get within range.  Look, man, if I didn’t get tired fighting Antwon Echols straight up for twelve rounds, how the hell am I gonna get tired walkin down Oscar.  That’s EASY.  What does he think, Bernard Hopkins is gonna follow him around the ring and just get hit like Diego Corrales did against Mayweather, Casamayor I?

JB: A classic case of taking the title from the undisputed champion…

Hopkins: (cuts in) Nowadays it ain’t basically about takin' the titles from the champion.  It should be.  I mean, that was the old school, but you gotta understand, a guy 9 years younger than me runnin’ like a pussy?  Nobody wants to see that.  My thing is, if he runs, it ain’t a problem for me.  I’m gonna track him down.  As a matter of fact, he’d do better fighting than running.  You know what I mean?  There’s a saying, “When there’s a fire, you don’t panic and run”.  Well, there’s a fire, De La Hoya, you better not panic and run.  In a smokey building you might run straight into the fire.

JB: Thus far, this has been a “sportsman-like” promotion.  When do we see you kick it up a notch and take it into “Executioner” mode?  De La Hoya has been talking.  Says that if he saw you on the street, you guys would fight right then and there.

Hopkins: (completely unmoved) Yeah, I read that.  (Pauses).  It’s gonna heat up.  My main thing is, De La Hoya wants to force me to be the villain in this promotion and wants to try and con me and trick me into being a villain in this.  If you take a poll around the boxing world with fans, they respect my adversity, they respect my hard work to get here, and the sacrifices I’ve made to get here.  And even if though they might not agree with fights that I should have fought whether they were cruiserweight fights or light heavyweight fights, I don’t know, but …I’m pretty sure that some fans can find something they dislike about Bernard Hopkins, but that’s cool.  By the same token, it’s very hard to find an overwhelming villain in this promotion, so I’m not going to be the opposite of what De La Hoya has been portraying himself as for the last decade in boxing – that he’s the good guy, he’s the corporate boxer.  He might be that.  I’m not envious or jealous of De La Hoya.  I think he’s good for boxing when it comes to those aspects of that, but I’m not gonna play either of the roles they want me to be.  I’m not gonna be the nice guy to go along with De La Hoya - I didn’t do that with Trinidad – and I’m not gonna be the villain talking all that crazy stuff, and let him take the high road.  I’m takin’ the high road on this, because I know what I can do.  I believe come September 18th, after the fight’s over with.  There gonna call me a bully anyway.  See, De La Hoya already called me a bully.  So after September 18th, I’m gonna be called that by writers, I’m gonna be called that by fans.  I’ll probably be called that by De La Hoya AGAIN after the fight…because I’m gonna look like a bully September 18th.  Now, that’s De La Hoya’s words…called me that.  So, now I’m gonna look like one.  (pauses) I WILL play that role!

JB: It has seemed that, over the years, you have taken the tact that anyone coming through the middleweight division HAD to come through you to do so.  For example, when Trinidad was going to use William Joppy as a stepping stone to get to Roy Jones…

Hopkins: (cuts in) They tried to duck me.  Tried to go past me.  I raised my head and I started controversy.  I went to the press conference of the Trinidad/Vargas fight, and he was there, and I bum-rushed it, and I told the media, “y’all gonna let Don King pull the ‘okey doke’”.  I said, “Don King’s ready to pull the wool over your eyes, and let y’all think that Trinidad is gonna fight for the middleweight championship and he’s THE middleweight”, and all due respect goes to the media because they didn’t buy it.  They didn’t go for it.  The media started writing for boxing.  They started writing what’s best for the fans.  They started writing, “Hey, Bernard Hopkins makes a great point: that he is THE guy at 160, and if Trinidad goes up and fights anyone at 160 besides Bernard Hopkins, then it’s meaningless”.  Now, he can go up and test the waters, but to claim fame like, “this is your division”, then, who you foolin?

JB: Would you agree that the Robert Allen fight was the fight for all the money, and that this fight is for the legacy? 

Hopkins: (definitively) Absolutely.  100%.

JB: We watched the first Jones/Tarver fight over at the Sport Café when you were training for Joppy.  What were your thoughts as you watched Roy Jones get knocked out by Antonio Tarver in the rematch?

Hopkins: I was impressed before the fight because Tarver went out and got gangster on Roy and asked him if he had any excuses.  That there meant more to me than the knockout because he put himself out there to be challenged and to be criticized if he didn’t deliver.  That’s “controlled gangsterism”.  I have respect for that.  I mean, I have my own bones to pick as a professional athlete against Tarver.  I don’t have anything against him personally, you know, we’re competitive combatants.  I mean, we ain’t in the same weight class, but that’s how boxing is.  As far as the knockout…knockouts happen in boxing.  You have to take the necessary measures to minimize the likelihood.

JB: Watching the third fight with Robert Allen recently, we saw you get caught cleanly with two decent right hooks, and you got caught pulling your head back just like Roy Jones did.  Hagler mentioned it when you two were featured on ESPN 2’s Friday Night Fights together.  Obviously it did not really affect you, but we’re not used to seeing you get caught cleanly too often.  What goes through your mind when you see mistakes you make which could ultimately spell your downfall?

Hopkins: (cuts in) Get my ass back into the gym.  That’s what I start thinking.  First of all, I think it shows I can take a punch; that my chin is solid.  The Echols fight, which I’m sure you saw, proved that as well, when he hit me after the bell in the opening round.  Look, I’m in the gym everyday, and everyday I learn.  A great fighter, or, a potential great fighter has to be in the gym constantly working on things: defense, squatting on punches, the basics; fundamentals.  At 39 years old, I am still learning everyday.  Some people say I am a complete fighter.  I will leave it to experts/analysts to make their assessments; I won’t declare that about myself.  What I will say is that I try to learn something everyday in order to become a complete fighter.

JB: Bernard, you made a comment that kind of flew under the radar during your commentating gig on Friday Night Fights.  You said something to the effect of, “you don’t sit on your punches as much as you could…on purpose”.  Explain.

Hopkins: Well, more so now and over the last few years than early on in my career.  I hit and get out.  I don’t dig in.  What I will do is give a guy just enough to let him know that, “Hey, I can take you out at any time”.  I see what they can take and then add more sauce.  I’ll give a guy enough to gain that respect and then I break them down.  Drown ‘em.    I get a guy hurt, I don’t rush in with reckless abandon.  There is no need for that.  I mean, I pressure a guy when I have him hurt, but not to the extent that I will be reckless or leave myself exposed to get caught in the process.  DLH will feel it.  Come September 18th, he is going to feel like a window washer without a safety net when he starts feeling my heat.

JB: You commented that Oscar KO’d Vargas, so he has proven to be what people said he wasn’t, yet, you’re no Vargas, and Oscar get’s hit a lot more now than early on in his career.  Comments?

Hopkins: Vargas was in Oscar’s ASS for 10 rounds of that fight.  Vargas got tired though.  He shot his load, and Oscar’s professional experience kicked in and he was able to take a tired Vargas out.  I don’t get tired.

JB: We know that you and Bouie are diligent students of fight film.  What films have you been watching of Oscar’s to prepare you for this showdown?

Hopkins: Shit, I got 16 tapes.  Hell, I even have amateur fights.  I have footage of Oscar fighting Ivan Robinson in the ams (Olympics trials).  Jorge Paez.  Pernell Whitaker.  Vargas. Mosley.  Oba Carr was getting in Oscar’s ass pretty good. Trinidad.  I watch them all. 

JB: In the rematch between De La Hoys and Mosley, Shane seemed to really hurt Oscar to the body in the later part of the fight.  Do you plan on softening De La Hoya up in the body?

(vehemently cuts off) I don’t want his body.  I want his head!  I want his head!  I want to do serious damage to his pretty face.  He says he treats his face with olive oil or Oil of Ole or whatever the fuck he said.  He’s out there in L.A.  I know he’s got access to a great plastic surgeon.  He’s gonna need one.  I want to do THAT kind of damage.

JB: Mayweather, Sr. has recently stated he doesn’t want Oscar using the “shoulder roll” defense…

Hopkins: (cuts in) Let them try that shoulder roll shit with me.  I’ll break his fuckin’ shoulder.  Mayweather, Sr. is smart.  He knows that shit ain’t gonna work with me.

JB: Obviously you are aware of all the comparisons of this match-up with Oscar to the Leonard/Hagler fight.  I personally disagree in that I don’t think that Oscar is currently as talented as the Leonard who fought Hagler, and I see big differences between you and Hagler in that, I think you’re style is more versatile.  What are your thoughts on the comparisons?

Hopkins: Look, Marvin had his own style, and it was different than mine.  Marvin will be the first one to tell you that.  He was strong, determined fighter.  I think that I am a little bit more versatile in that I can give you a few different stylistic “looks”, if you will.  Look, if you want to compare Leonard and DLH as the gold medal winners and the golden boys of boxing, fine.  I’ll give you that.  If you want to compare Marvin Hagler and me because we come from the same kind of background, fine.  I’ll give you that too.  But my fight with DLH is NOGT gonna be like Hagler/Leonard.  I have been telling everyone that.  It is going to be like Aaron Pryor vs. Alexis Arguello.

JB: You mentioned to me earlier that you have read in the press about De La Hoya lifting up his shirt to flex his abs and muscles for the boxing media…

Hopkins: (cuts in) Yeah.  Someone needs to tell De La Hoya to stop showing his body to everyone.  That is what a boxer is supposed to look like.  Remind De La Hoya that Fernando Vargas was doing all that flexing for the media too…and he got KNOCKED THE FUCK OUT!

Sidenote:  After talking with Hopkins and his team, I was reminded of how long Bernard has actually been studying De La Hoya.  Bernard has been talking up a fight with De La Hoya since the second half of ’98 or early ’99 (about the same time he was calling on David Reid, Vargas and Trinidad).  Rest assured that when he was calling for the fight, he was studying the fighter as well…almost as if Bernard KNEW that at some point he was going to get his crack at De La Hoya, and listening to him go through off the record observations of De La Hoya’s style, it was apparent that he really has been dissecting this opponent, and that this is not a task he has recently undertaken.  I don’t see De La Hoya having anything for Bernard that Bernard won’t have an answer for.  Ultimately, I see DLH getting frustrated to the point where he gets into heated exchanges with Hopkins (like he did Vargas), which the champion will get the better of.  I think the conditioning, coupled with the completeness of Hopkins style, could lead him to stopping DLH late (DLH’s corner sees enough, throws in the towel), or Hopkins wins a comfortable UD.  I respect Oscar’s skills.  However, I think he is in over his head here.  There are always the intangibles which could play in Oscar’s favor like “the big business” of boxing, as there is much more money to be made with DLH in the sport (especially with potential rematches with Trinidad, etc.) than with Bernard.  However, I don’t think the fight will be close enough to give DLH the decision. Not to say it won’t be an entertaining fight, but Hopkins does not lose rounds, and I don’t think that all of a sudden, Hopkins is going to puke up the first 5 rounds to DLH when he hasn’t done that in ten years.  Time will tell. The gambler in me likes the little payoff on Hopkins by stoppage (+210), and a modest wager is a responsible bet.
-- JB

Stay logged on to Boxingtalk.com, members, as we will be bringing you training camp video footage of the Executioner from both Philadelphia and Miami.  Team Hopkins heads to Las Vegas on September 8th to acclimate, and Al Mermimi and Greg Leon will keep you up with coverage from “Sin City”.  Enjoy.