Bernard Hopkins’ eyes operated as his built-in GPS system, strategically roaming the Atlantic City Boardwalk Hall until he had systematically mapped out the whereabouts of every single scribe who’d dared to doubt him in his upcoming light heavyweight title rematch with upstart Chad Dawson.
“I have a chance to settle the bullshit from the first fight and straighten that all out,” the now 47-year-old Hopkins says of their first bout which ended in a second round no decision. “I can’t believe so many of you guys have taken what he’s been saying he’s going to do to me as gospel. I know he’s like 30 and he talks a lot… but a lot of guys come to the ring looking to knock the old guy out.”
And still, not only does Bernard Hopkins yet stand, more often than not, he still reigns. And rarely has he ever been more motivated than he is for his April 28, showdown with Dawson.
“Trust me, I’m going out guns blazing,” he said. “I will pull off my best performance in Atlantic City, and that’s saying a lot. I have a history of making (good) history in Atlantic City.”
You could pretty much say the same thing about everything he’s touched and everywhere he’s gone since those dark, troubling yet clearly formative teenage days when a nine count felony arrest for armed robbery landed him nearly a decade behind bars.
With all he’s faced— won and lost— since then, Ebony.com felt compelled to pose the question many still wonder about the man revered as ‘The Executioner,’ namely what yet makes him percolate. Ebony.com: Your legacy is ironclad. You’ve been champ, become wealthy. Just how long do you plan to keep fighting?
Hopkins: I’ll being doing this at least until I’m 50. I feel that good, that fit, that unstoppable. If you want longevity, you have to take care of yourself. It’s all mechanical, kind of like taking care of a car. I devised my own diet plan, cook my own meals and the rest, as the say, is pretty much history
Ebony.com: What about your career have you been most proud of?
Hopkins: To have done five years in the pen and have faced nine felony charges, I’m a man that’s overcome a stigma. That’s what keeps me going, much more so than now having a few pennies in my pocket or a few American Gods in the bank.
Ebony.com: It’s been reported you love hip hop music, but Sinatra’s my way is your favorite song. How did that happen?
Hopkins: In ‘My Way,’ Sinatra talks about having no regrets. That’s the Bernard Hopkins way. If you see me do something, right or wrong, good or bad, it’s because that’s what I’ve decided to do. No one else gets all the glory, nor all the fault as the results play out…I did it my way to begin with.
Ebony.com: You’ve enjoyed amazing longevity at a time when the reign of an athlete is on the decline. What’s been different for you?
Hopkins: First and foremost, I’ve taken great care of my body and mind. Beyond that, I’m not that guy in the club making it rain, or splurging on a different vehicle every week or enough gold to start a mine. I’m secure in myself, and because of that I’m still able to put my hand on most of the dollars I’ve ever earned.
Ebony.com: How much has your, more or less, straightforward boxing style figured in?
Hopkins: Part of my game has always been intimidation. I wanted a name like the “Executioner,” who else would name their kid that? I wanted people to think I was a badass.
Ebony.com: What’s the hardest thing you’ve found about being famous?
Hopkins: Being Bernard Hopkins is a blessing and a curse. I sometimes have a hard time getting through to young people. They respect who I am, but they tend to respond to what they can see and touch. I’m not a fancy guy, and so the message I try to convey sometimes gets lost.
Ebony.com: You’ve been criticized as being just another angry black man. How do you respond?
Hopkins: I have a lot to be angry about. Most people who look and talk like me never seem to get a break. Being a boxer, it’s easy for others to label you as just another angry, violent black man. Boxing is what I do, not who I am.
Ebony.com: What’s your beef with Donovan McNabb?
Hopkins: Donovan suffers from a lack of identity. Being black isn’t just about color; it’s a mindset. Most black guys can be tough when they need to be. I haven’t seen that in Donovan. Being a boxer isn’t quite like being on the football plantation, so I’m not afraid to say it.
Ebony.com: Do you feel you’ve gotten the credit you deserve for the kind of career you’ve had?
Hopkins: Athletes like me only come around every 20-years or so. I know that… and I don’t run away from the legacy. Some people try to defer from that I’m not humble.
Ebony.com: Your life story is like few others. Once facing nine felony charges, locked down for over ten years and now a superstar athlete. How did you do it?
Hopkins: I never let my jail term or that jail cell define who I was. Yes, I made mistakes that landed me there but I always knew I was capable of so much more. I always believed in Bernard Hopkins.
Ebony.com: So who plays the role of Bernard Hopkins on the big screen?
Hopkins: That’s actually something that may soon be in development. I’ve talked to the producers of both “Training Day” and “Brooklyn’s Finest” about it. I’d like to see 50 Cent get the role. He has the swagger. He doesn’t look approachable but he really is. He understands my life. It was his life.
Ebony.com: Who wins Mayweather vs. Pacquiao? Hopkins: Floyd would win that on style points alone. He’s a little too slick for Pac-Man, most black fighters from the inner cities are. Maybe I’m a little bias, but to me it’s just something about the styles that would make him successful.
Ebony.com: It’s been jokingly said that you may still have the first dollar you ever earned. What are you willing to splurge on?
Hopkins: A vacation or my house. I don’t consider it splurging with my daughter. She just takes all my money.
Ebony.com: What’s your advice/message to young brothers who find themselves on the wrong side of the law early on in life they way you were?
Hopkins: You have to stay strong of mind and believe in yourself. Be willing o follow the wisdom of your own heart and experiences. The last time I totally listened to what someone else would have me do it cost me ten years in prison.
Glenn Minnis is a veteran sports/culture writer and regular contributor to the NFL and Hoop magazines. He also writes extensively for blackamericaweb.com and has been a staffer with aol sports and cbsnews.coms and the Chicago Tribune newspaper. He was also the founding sports editor for 360 hip hop.com.