Bernard Hopkins took part in the final tele-conference of his storied career on Wednesday, as he counts down to the Dec. 17 adios scrap against young bomber Joe Smith, who exited the womb a year after Hopkins debuted as a pro.
Now, there are no shortage of folks who believe that if Hopkins beats young Smith, he will renege on the promise to hang up the mitts. Me, I’d not blame him if this, “The Final One,” isn’t that.
Man lives but once and the temptation to climb the highest mountains while one is still able means that people sometimes need to have it proven to them in violent fashion that they should choose shorter mountains.
Oscar De La Hoya, who heads Golden Boy and works with VP Hopkins there, presided over the call, and then headed off to do other business before it reached completion.
Hopkins called the forthcoming evening legendary, and promised action. He said he’s in competition with himself, and said he’s “feeling great.” He said that he’d offer a textbook display on Dec. 17, in a fight I reported first, here, if we're keeping score, and said after we’d sit back and understand “there’ll be no more like me.”
Hopkins reiterated, “I’m done, it’s the final one,” when asked if he wouldn’t be tempted to fight on if he looks good versus Smith. He’d ideally like to look so good fans beg him to stay on, but he will not give in, he said. And does he worry that if he fights on, he will slip, and embarrass himself? Nah, it’s about timing…he wants to do it his way, he will come out to the song “My Way,” which he termed legendary, like him.
Hopkins was yet again asked that he’ll really retire. “Yes…yes,” he said after a long winded pressman query. He also said he’d consider doing a How To book, on how to maintain majestic fitness.
Hopkins spoke on his working with John David Jackson, a story I broke first, two weeks ago, and said that Naazim Richardson wasn’t capable of being his main man in the corner. He didn’t want to get into details of what was up with Richardson, and Hopkins said he didn’t want to elaborate, that Richardson could do so. I asked Richardson, and he told me that he does not have any personal situation going on that would impede him from training Hopkins.
Hopkins said JDJ and he sparred when he was coming up, and that he’s one of the small handful of the best trainers working today. He was asked about JDJ and his work in Kovalev-Ward, and with Kovalev when the Russian fought B-Hop. “It goes back way before that,” said Hopkins, who cited his own middleweight title defense against Jackson as proof of longevity.
Smith, prepped by the amiable taskmaster Jerry Capobianco, along with the living legend Tommy Gallagher (pictured below), got on the horn after promoter Joe DeGuardia lauded Hopkins for taking this stern test. The Irish-American said that he’s “ready to get in there and put on a great show.”
Smith was asked how the fight could look. He said he’s prepared to go 12, but will look to end it by stoppage if possible. Will he maybe be over-awed by the moment? Nah, he is there to get the W no matter who the foe is, Smith said. “I plan on putting on a great show and making sure it’s his last fight. I’m gonna make him go out my way, not his way,” said Smith, getting off maybe the best line of the call. He told media he’d be showing off better boxing skills, including a top grade jab, which most haven’t seen or know he possesses.
Hopkins was asked about the fight taking place in LA, despite him and Smith both being East Coast citizens. He has a following wherever, he said, and furthermore, Smith is a union laborer, and union supports union. He also cited his own “union” membership, having done time for robbery, reminding us how far he’s come. He said he thinks that even those who haven’t seen eye to eye with him, and there is no shortage of those, likely understand he has a certain strength of backbone and strength of character.
He said he won’t run from the gunner, but will be part Matrix, part Executioner…”the professor at work,” he said, suggesting that young guns should be wide awake. It’s like watching the last one from MJ, or Kobe, he said. “I won’t run from him but I will also be smart,” he said. He also said he’s choosing not to try and get into Smith’s head, and partially win with a psychological warfare attack; he wants to win with ring generalship, displaying majestic scientifically sound pugilism.
Hopkins, who said he’d not be interested in getting into the realm of politics, also said he’s been taking on a larger role at Golden Boy, but couldn’t talk more on that because of a confidentiality matter. He also cited his HBO analyst role, reminding people of the width of is resume. And yet again, he was asked about the temptation to continue. “I’m in control,” he repeated, talking about the timing being right for him to wave goodbye.
It will be interesting to see how this guy who so reveres being in control exits the stage where he’s in command of his fate. Of course, as one ages, one has less command of one’s athletic fate, so he gets that. Moving forward, Hopkins will have to be content with not being as interesting to media, and will be seeing the younger guns getting that attention. I think that’s why so many are thinking he will not be able to step away and stay away. “I love the challenge and I’m taking the challenge, head on,” he said of young gun Smith, as the call clicked down.
After 55 minutes, the operator said, “We have no further questions,” and the virtual gathering evaporated. It left me pondering, is this sufficient hubbub for Hopkins’ last stint on the stage. Boxing is diminished, so no, this last hurrah won't get one one millionth the buzz that Michael Jordan's finale did…Maybe there will not be proper buzz attached, but I think there isn’t massive anticipation out there because this curtain call has been going on for a decade, since he decided to go against his late mom’s wishes, and fight on past 40.
I for one will be mighty curious to see if the kid can batter the old sage, or the professor can once again show a whippersnapper student that he has maybe learned a lot, but the old guy has forgotten more than the kid could ever learn. And I also agree with Hopkins on this: there will not be another quite like him.