Bernard Hopkins was at Joe Hand Boxing Gym this afternoon to discuss his March 9 fight against Tavoris "Thunder" Cloud at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. If Hopkins emerges victorious, he will break the record for the oldest fighter to win a world title – a record he set himself two years ago after taking the WBC light heavyweight crown at the age of 46.
"This falls in the category of, 'Can Bernard outdo himself and break his own record?'" Hopkins said today. "Which I will be doing on March 9."
Hopkins, who last month turned 48 and will soon face off against the 31-year-old Cloud, said he's not concerned his age will affect his abilities in the ring. "I don't feel 48 because I don't know what 48 feels like," he said as he wrapped his hands with tape and chatted with reporters on the ringside warmup bench. "The rule is for the majority and I'm not the majority."
Still, he admitted that he struggles to know when to say "when." He claimed that critics who question whether he's fit to fight only egg him on. "When I'm constantly told something, even if it's a mistake for me to do, I have a problem with that," he said. "I really need to work on that."
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Hopkins did say his age has made him take a long look at exactly what he's fighting for. "Either way it goes, I look at it as I have something to defend, and that is something I'm very proud of, something that I don't want to make a mockery of or just give it away. That is my legacy," he said, becoming emotional as he reflected on the long career behind him and the road ahead. "To me, nothing is close to that as far as titles or records," he said between long pauses. "I'm past that. At this age, I'm not going to have my legacy tarnished."
Hopkins began boxing as a 17-year-old inmate at Graterford Correctional Institute while serving a nearly five-year bid for armed robbery. He became a professional fighter the same year he was released and has since amassed a 52-6 record with 32 knockouts.
But according to The Executioner, the boxing world has irreversibly changed since he first entered it in 1988. "It's different," he said, gesturing to portraits lining the gym's wall depicting past ringmasters like Bennie Brisco and Bob Montgomery. "I'm not saying it's for the worst or for the best, but they were more substance than actual action. Now, it's more about looking like you know what you're doing, but nothing is actually getting done. I have to make adjustments in a time that's changing so fast."
Discipline – and being different
The secret to his longevity? "[People] want to know if it's deceit – it's discipline," he said. "We all struggle with something we know we should do and we don't. It's very easy for me and it's not easy for most."
Hopkin's March 9 match will be his 29th world championship title fight, and he said he feels good about his chances against Cloud. "At the end of the day, it's something where he's coming with youth, he's coming with strength, he's coming with confidence – he's coming with all the things you need as a fighter," he said. "But I'm different."
And he wants to show other up-and-coming Philly fighters they need to be different, too. "There is really no effort to being average because average is common."
In a move that's certainly in no way common for a fighter pushing 50, Hopkins said he doesn't see retirement on his horizon. "I know that I still want to compete on this level," he said. "I love what I do and sometimes love can hurt. In this business, it hurts."