by David P. Greisman
It was subtle, and Beibut Shumenov might not have even noticed that there was more to what Bernard Hopkins was doing. But others saw and heard Hopkins as he directed Shumenov on where to stand and look during a photo opportunity at their press conference on March 11 in Washington, D.C., and they knew that more was at play than Hopkins merely being helpful to the press in attendance.
“I gotta transform that into the ring: move right here, get right there, get right there so I can hit you with this, so I can hit you with that,” Hopkins said to reporters at an event ahead of his April 19 bout with Shumenov at the D.C. Armory.
"There’s a way of having a guy being somewhere where he really don’t know he’s playing into your game, he’s playing into your dictatorship, and you’ve seen something that I ain’t thought you saw,” he said, soon adding: “Now how do you translate that into the ring and putting someone under a trance or hypnosis without them actually even knowing that they under that spell?”
Hopkins noted a few fighters that he’s played mind games with before, manipulating them physically before the bout even begins to see whether they will defer to him, to see how much he can do to them and get away with.
He mentioned one moment with Felix Trinidad ahead of their bout back in 2001.
“We was up on the stage and flexing with each other, and I grabbed him, put my hands on him, and pinched him, and I had about three inches of really loose skin in my hand,” Hopkins said. “He didn’t smack my hand down. He didn’t get in my face. He just let me do it. These are the things that might seem simple, but when you’re in a battle of a lot of things that comes into the outcome of the fight, those little things normally make up for what the big things didn’t.”
Tavoris Cloud was another target of manipulation, he said. And even though Hopkins has yet to face light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson, there was a moment between them when both were at an event in Los Angeles, and Hopkins asked Stevenson to come on stage with him.
“I said, ‘Let’s do a stare down and get everyone riled up, shits and giggles.’ He had his sunglasses on. I said, ‘Take your sunglasses off.’ He took them off,” Hopkins said. “It gives you a blueprint on how far I can go. I got a starting point that I shouldn’t never got.”
Beyond that, he said, is the mental aspect that comes with facing him in the first place.
“I think I win mental round one before I even say anything based on the time I’ve been in the game, the respect I have in the game,” Hopkins said. “And for any fighter of this era who steps in the ring with Bernard Hopkins has to know and think … ‘Man, I’m really getting in there with Bernard Hopkins.’ And as the days get closer to April 19, you can’t block out that you ready to fight and you ready to go up against Michael Jordan, against the great this or the great that. That’s a fight itself of nerves, of anxiety. That’s all kinds of things playing in your head.”
For more from this Bernard Hopkins interview, check the video at http://bitly.com/1fonfIn
Pick up a copy of David’s new book, “Fighting Words: The Heart and Heartbreak of Boxing,” at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsamazon or internationally at http://bit.ly/fightingwordsworldwide. Send questions/comments via email at email@example.comTags: Beibut Shumenov , Bernard Hopkins , Hopkins-Shumenov , Hopkins vs. Shumenov