In 2006, while running around like a teenage skycap at Tampa International Airport, I had a chance encounter with Bernard Hopkins just days ahead of his fight with Antonio Tarver. Maybe I was gassed by his portrayal of a loudmouthed Mason Dixon in “Rocky Balboa”, but I thought Tarver would kill Hopkins.
“Why? Why are you taking this damn fight?” I asked, with the urgency of a child begging his father not to jump in the Lion's den.
Hopkins, not looking anything like Daniel, turned to me deadass with dead eyes and dropped simply, “Because I can win it.”
I watched, in complete amazement, as he did just that. He embarrassed Tarver. It immediately brought back feelings of shame, because I thought he was too old in 2001 to defeat Felix Trinidad. You know what happened.
Surely, he'd gone too far when he decided to face Kelly Pavlik, who had mugged his conqueror and successor Jermain Taylor. Yet, there he was again, glaring at the media from the ring with that deadass look I'd seen live, after burying Pavlik in 12 rounds of ridiculousness.
My good friend Rodney sat in silence in my living room a few years later, just as confused and delighted as me, as we watched the IBF light heavyweight champion B-Hop turn Jean Pascal into a breakfast platter at IHOP.
At 46. Again.
Didn't see a competitive fight with a totally prime WBC light heavyweight champion Chad Dawson, with whom he had no business going the distance with in April 2012.
He really was “The Alien” in 2013, putting Tavaris Cloud under the umbrella of his UFO before raining all over the all wet Beibut Shumenov in 2014.
At 49. Again.
So when he agreed to face Sergey Kovalev two November's ago, I'd finally conquered my hero while feeling defeated. I wanted to be wrong about Kovalev bludgeoning Hopkins over 12 rounds, and cried during the final round.
I remembered the promise Bernard made to his mother a few years ago to never fight again. A promise he should've revisited after surviving Kovalev, for “The Executioner” tonight at the Forum in Inglewood will be just a regular Joe.
Because he can't win it.