Exclusive Interview: Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins

By G. Leon


Exclusive Interview: Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins

GL: Can you tell our readers how Bernard Hopkins day-held in Philadelphia on Friday afternoon-went? "It was a big day for me in Philadelphia. Kelly Swanson, my publicist, had gotten me and everyone together to let me know that the people of Philadelphia were behind me. They basically held a pep rally for me and it was pretty big. Anyone who says that Philadelphia doesn't support Bernard Hopkins or whatever the case may be, that certainly wasn't the case on Friday. There was over 4,000 people there at the Love Park in Philadelphia. It's located next to City Hall and Greg, I'll tell you there haven't been too many good times for me in that area because the courts are right there, and that's something the mayor pointed out while he was speaking."

GL: Can you give us your thoughts on the Mike Tyson fight?

Bernard Hopkins: I was saddened. I'm a Mike fan. I love Mike as a fighter and as a brother. I got to be in his grasp a lot of times. I was hurt. I think I would feel a little bit better if the financial situation in his life were better of. I think there's a little truth but I think others have played a role, and they know who they are, as to why his life is a mess outside the ring. The shell of Mike Tyson really came to pass and I was saddened. My phone was ringing at midnight, because even though I'm usually sleeping at that time, people know I was going to stay up to watch Mike fight. Mike has always been a guy that always stood out different from everyone else. And I have nothing against the other guy because he was there to do his job and he did it well.

GL: When you say the shell of Mike Tyson has come to pass, is that to say you feel he should stop fighting? And do you think he'll ever fight again?

BH: I think that he should enjoy the life that has been exciting and rough for him at the same time. But as far as boxing, why should he become a side show? They were contemplating some future fights but why should he become a side show? I think we should look at his legacy and what he has done in his career and try to let time heal. My thing is, Mike Tyson, with the medication and the problems sort of gave up a little bit on being a regular person. Maybe he's not mentally fit to box anymore. Has anyone ever thought of that? They might have thought that ten years ago, but Mike Tyson's life is important and boxing is only a sport that doesn't last very long. In fact, boxing probably has the shortest life span of all the major sports, and you can ask David Reid about that.

Mike has done a lot of good for boxing and he's earned a lot, but the tragedy is him ending up on skid row. Where is going to make the money now to pay the IRS? Where is he going to get lucrative fight, money making fights, and championship fights to bring the dollars that satisfy his outstanding situation? I don't want to see Mike end up like Redd Foxx or become a comedian's favorite joke on a comedy skit. What's bad for someone else should be a lesson to me and others.

GL: I just wish someone would step up to the plate and give Mike a commentating gig, because he really knows his boxing.

BH: He knows it very well and it would be great if one of these networks did that. In boxing, Mike Tyson was probably finished around the Holyfield era and when people have so much money invested in him that in order for them to get their money back they need to have Mike Tyson in the ring by any means necessary. And Mike Tyson has more obligations than have been reported which he has to fulfill. He has a TV obligation and I don't know if Showtime has made money, but they've had to keep him fighting. Mike's life is going to be a lesson from both sides. Everyone can learn a lot of the do's and do not's from Mike Tyson's life, and to me that's history in itself. Mike Tyson has accomplished a lot and the only thing you could do is ask where does he go from here if he continues boxing? There's a lot of soul searching that's going to happen in the next couple of days with Mike Tyson.

GL: Let's get back to Bernard Hopkins now. For your last three fights, you've spent half of your camp in Philadephia before concluding it in Miami. Can you explain the differences between the work you put in Philly as compared to your work in Miami?

BH: Well, the work in Miami is like a taper off situation for me. Camp is nothing but the preparation to go to war. I'm 75% ready for combat now, the other 25% is mental. But when it's all said and done, 99% at this stage of my career becomes mental. Because once you get the strength and the muscles and all of the rest of the perfection that comes into the product, you have to have years of experience to know when one situation takes control of the other. The mind controls the body but you need to have the body in shape for the mind to be able to get what it needs from the body.

If you tell yourself that you can do something mentally, but you physically haven't put the work in to have that extra gas tank, you're only fooling yourself. It's a hand in hand situation with body and mind and if one is lacking the other must pick up the slack. Camp is nothing but a mental preparation for me. I do most of my hard studying in six or seven weeks in camp. I look at tapes a lot when I'm away by myself, away from sparring partners, away from the phone ringing, away from the dogs barking, away from my five year old daughter, who I don't like to be away from and love playing with. I'm married to studying when I'm in camp. I wake up at 5:30 in the morning, before the sun comes up to run those bridges that are built like hills in Miami. If you sprint up those three or four times that's like an all day workout in and of itself. But it doesn't stop there, we put several hours in the gym. And for this fight my nephew Demetrius is going to get a first hand look at what goes into the preparation for a high profile fight.

GL: In terms of profile, it doesn't get any higher than your fight with De La Hoya. I know you train for everybody the same way but it is more difficult or more challenging to stay focused on a high profile fight like Oscar De La Hoya?

BH: If you want to forget what's happening here, if you want to block it out, it's going to be very hard because this is a Hopkins Vs. De La Hoya fight. It's big. How can you avoid the pressure? How can you avoid not hearing what's said? And you've got to remember that I'm one of the combatants. Oscar's doing his part, and I've never had my problems with living up to my end of a promotion, but I always take it a step further even when I don't feel like promoting a fight because that's always been my style. The promoter has lived up to the obligations of his agreement, Oscar De La Hoya is going to live up to his agreement and you know I'm living up to my end of it. But I'm prepared for all of the hype and all of the things that could distract me if I'm not careful. Right now me and Oscar are both in a strong demand, and maybe even moreso with me because I'm someone you know you're going to get a good quote from.

But even a guy who loves to talk to the press like me knows where to cut it off. James Fisher is going to have my phone while I'm in Miami so I'm not going to be doing much while I'm down there. But people should know by now that Boxingtalk.com has an ankle braclet on me and everytime that braclet goes off that means they want some more juice, and I'm giving it to them raw because that's how they give it to you, and exclusively.

GL: Let's forget about boxing for a second. What's the biggest difference between Bernard Hopkins and Oscar De La Hoya as men?

BH: First of all, I believe I'm the better athlete. But I've been through things in my life that superseeds what he's been through. That doesn't make him lesser of a person and it doesn't make him bigger or smaller, but the hunger of our lifestyles leans comfortably in my favor. When it comes to hunger Bernard Hopkins wins hands down. As far as him putting up a struggle to prove that he's a man, I believe he has done that and I believe he'll do that again this particular time. When it comes to a person showing in and out of the ring, mainly out of the ring when it comes to proving who I am by showing you even if it costs me. De La Hoya has been blessed to go through things a few times that have been publicly put out there with ease. If you look at the adversity we've gone through to get to where we're at, I think even De La Hoya would tell you that for him it was like it was raining diamonds and for me there was no rain at all.

GL: Most would say that makes you a harder man. Could that intangible be difference in this fight if Oscar provides a bigger struggle than most, including yourself may have expected?

BH: Absolutely. Look at that ten years I've been a champion and then take the life before boxing, which has hit a lot of people's ears lately because I've been getting a lot of offers from people who want to do documentaries and reality shows with me, but there's too much contractual stuff that goes into that and it could become distracting so we're going to deal with that after the fight. But my life outside of the ring should let you know what kind of man Bernard Hopkins is. To overcome adversity and become what I am today proves what kind of man I am dawg. It has nothing to do with talent to be able to know that my first paycheck was $400 without anything other than the subway and a trolley taking me back and forth to where I lived.

Talent never kept Bernard Hopkins out of jail for over fifteen years, what's done that is me understanding that there's no room for failure. No room at all. And that's more important than anything, including winning the belts. Once I came home from jail I weighed out my options. Eight felonies with nine years of parole to work off with a high school GED. Go figure, I went to the gym and here we are fourteen years later. De La Hoya's route was little bit different. And we're talking about that hunger, not about me being the better man or the harder man, but he's talking about the eighth round, ninth, round, tenth round and so on, when things get tougher I win those hands down because I want them more. I'm still starving because let's not forget I've had to fight in and out of the ring to get to where I am today. Mostly out of the ring, so do I have bitterness in me? Absolutely, to the point where I want a victory. Even though I'm here I haven't forgotten anything I've been through and I'm bringing that struggle with me into the ring because it's been part of my life support. It's been part of the CPR that keeps me breathing.

GL: Sometimes high profile fighters like De La Hoya have made excuses to explain why they didn't perform the way they should have. Do you train the way you do to make sure we don't hear any excuses from you? And do you feel that there can't be any excuses from Bernard Hopkins because the first time you slip up the system is going to get you?

BH: The last time I made an excuse was when I was in front of a judge and I made an excuse on why I did what I did. He gave me five years....so I know where excuses leave you at.

GL: You've based and predicated your entire career on delivering and in you De La Hoya is facing the biggest challenge of his life, which I'm sure he knows would be at risk if he doesn't put 110% into his preparation for this fight. If De La Hoya rises to the challenge against one the hardest working and most disciplined fighters of our time, what should the boxing world expect?

BH: The world would not be disappointed at how competitive this fight is going to be. De La Hoya has said that he thrives on challenges and even in his some of his past big fights, he didn't look as good in the fight before. But I think everyone who gets in there with me knows they have to come motivated and ready for anything, because they might not get out of there the same if they don't.


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