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I prepared for this fight like it’s my last fight. I am ready to die to get the victory and you’re going to see that. I am a man of my word, so you’re going to see a great fight. Then he reached over and reclaimed his belts. Hopkins, the ultimate baiter and a master at head games. broke out in a wide grin. “Now we got a promotion,” he said. “He’s alive!”
A living legend
Hopkins is a living monument to boxing, fighting in the city of monuments. Fittingly, he was presented with a portrait of himself Thursday that will hang in the Smithsonian’s Portrait Gallery. There’s already a wax figure of him at Madam Tussaud’s in the nation’s capital.
He will probably end up with a statue of himself in Philadelphia alongside Rocky and Joe Frazier, the latter of which Hopkins helped get passed by the Philadelphia Art Commission. The Frazier family was on hand Thursday to honor Hopkins for his work in helping make it a reality.
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He is unlike anybody else in his sport, maybe even on the planet, he says. It’s why he now calls himself “The Alien.”
In boxing years, Hopkins is old. He has been fighting professionally since Ronald Reagan was president. He’s in the second quarter century of his career. He came into it straight from prison, where he spent almost five years for armed robbery as a teenager. That’s another lifetime ago for Hopkins.
He lost his first fight but after nearly reverting to his criminal ways, made a crucial decision to stay in the sport, thanks to Bouie Fisher, who became his longtime coach until they split in 2002.
He went another 12 years without losing. He set a record with 20 consecutive middleweight title defenses.
At a time when most of his contemporaries have long since vanished from the boxing landscape, Hopkins (54-6-2, 34 KOs) remains a top-10 pound-for-pound fighter.
“It’s a testament to what I stand for and what I believe,” Hopkins told USA TODAY in a recent interview. “I didn’t plan to be here at this age. Who in their 20s or early 30s in any sport, says, ‘hey, I’m going to be playing in the NBA at 48 or 49 years old’? They’d laugh at you and tell you to get your head checked.
“But time goes by so fast and you look at where you’re actually at in your life and you get to the doctors and they evaluate you and say, ‘you’ve got the blood of a 25-year-old.’ I mean, you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you don’t abuse your body, you don’t hang out with 30 women. I mean, this is all stuff that puts wear and tear on your body, believe it or not.
“So it means a lot, but not just to be boxing, per se, it means a lot for what I’ve always spoke about.”
Big 5-0 on the horizon
What Hopkins has spoken about is living his life the way he wants to live it. It’s how he’s lasted so long. His diet is more strict than most people could tolerate. He almost never falls off the wagon, though he did enjoy a piece of well-deserved cheesecake after his victory against Jean Pascal in Montreal in 2011.
Hopkins’ next goal is to win a title fight at the age of 50, which is nine months away. When — Hopkins never uses the word ‘if’, it’s always when — he gets past Shumenov, he will go after the other light-heavyweight champion, 36-year-old Adonis Stevenson, the WBC champ. That could be promoted as “Superman vs. The Alien.”
Yet Hopkins does not worry about championships and belts. He talks legacy.
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“I’m not defending my title first, I’m defending my legacy,” he insists. “I worked hard for that legacy.
“If you don’t know (Shumenov), it’s my job to make sure you don’t know him after April 19. Other than he’s just another guy that Bernard Hopkins (defeated).
“It’s not a bad thing losing to a 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins. It isn’t embarrassing losing to a 49-year old Bernard Hopkins. Nobody’s laughing at anybody who loses to Bernard Hopkins.”
Hopkins’ longtime trainer, Naazim Richardson, shakes his head when talking about his student, who is not that much younger.
“This is a special athlete we’re dealing with,” Richardson said Thursday. “What he’s doing is ridiculous. I’m right here every day in the gym watching the work he’s putting in. It’s unbelievable and it’s historic.
“What he’s doing now has never been done. There’s no one you can call. Stop saying he’s the oldest boxer to hold a championship. No, Hopkins is the oldest athlete to hold a major championship in any sport.”
The man known as B-Hop agrees.
“I am totally different,” he says. “Just sit back and watch because you’ll never see anyone else in your lifetime like me.”
Strong undercard: The Hopkins-Shumenov bout is not the only title bout on the card at the D.C. Armory on Saturday night. In the 12-round co-features, Shawn Porter (23-0-1, 14 KOs) defends his IBF welterweight title against Paulie Malignaggi (33-5, 7 KOs) and Peter “Kid Chocolate” Quillin (30-0, 22 KOs) puts his WBO middleweight title on the line against Lukas Konecny (50-4, 23 KOs) of the Czech Republic.Two unbeaten former U.S. Olympians are also on the card. Sadam Ali (18-0, 11 KOs) tangles with veteran Michael Clark (44-0-1, 18 KOs) and Marcus Browne (9-0, 7 KOs) fights Otis Griffin (24-15-2) in a light heavyweight bout.