By Chris Robinson
This Saturday night Bernard Hopkins will step into the ring for the 60th time as a professional when he again challenges WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal for his crown at the Bell Centre in Quebec, Canada. The fight is a rematch of their December bout in which Hopkins was dropped in rounds one and three before controlling the rest of the action in what was looked at by many as a remarkable victory that somehow ended up a majority draw.
At 46 years old Hopkins is still a marvel and one of the best fighters in the sport. He has always had a way of pulling off remarkable upsets, as was the case in one-sided clinics over Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver, and Kelly Pavlik, and was a heavy underdog in the first fight with Pascal. One fight prior Hopkins had looked ordinary in pulling out a lackluster decision over Roy Jones at the Mandalay Bay yet with Pascal he was a man focused, possessed and reinvigorated, countering the Haitian-Canadian's speed and athleticism with deft movement, timing, and a punishing attack to the body.
With the rematch less than a week away Hopkins recently hosted a conference call where he discussed several facets of his rematch with Pascal, including the type of beating he plans on putting on the 28-year old champion, why training is actually easier now despite his advanced age, and his ultimate goal of one day breaking George Foreman's record of being the oldest champion to hold a professional belt.
During his dialogue, Hopkins also took a look at last weekend's Manny Pacquiao-Shane Mosley WBO welterweight title fight at the MGM Grand, a contest thoroughly controlled by Pacquiao despite its lack of action or suspense. Hopkins shares the same trainer as Mosley, the well-respected Naazim Richardson, and had often been in Shane's corner in past fights due to their connection to Golden Boy Promotions.
Asked for his take on Mosley's performance, Hopkins seemed to see a fighter who was more bark than bite at this stage.
"I think that at the end of the day, he talked a really good game and he fought," said Hopkins of Mosley. "I just think that he would have went out as a winner if he just showed effort to win and not touch gloves every round. So everything works for different people and when people see me in the streets of Philadelphia and they see me coming in again and they see me now, they say "You see the fight Bernard? Why did he keep touching gloves every round?" This is a legitimate question, because that's strange to average people. These aren't hard-core boxing people. I say, 'That's a sign of submission'."
Hopkins, a man full of much intellect despite his rough exterior, went on to add that Mosley's mannerisms told the whole story.
"It's called body language and I'm not bragging my upbringing," he continued. "I was a guy in the street when I had that mentality. Some would call it a bully. I don't brag about being that, and I speak against that now, but when I was younger, they'd see me coming up the street, everybody would go into their houses. Part of that body language of submission is to praise the guy. You don't want that bully that's around that corner to take your watch or take your chain or take your wallet. So, you want to be friends with him. You want to be nice with him. So, translate that to boxing. Translate that to the match Saturday."
Pacquiao-Mosley image galleries: Massive gallery of Pacquiao's dominant victory Part 1 and Part 2 / Behind the scenes at the Pacquiao-Mosley weigh-in / Inside the Wild Card with Pacquiao, Ariza, Porter, Holloway, Concepcion and others
Oddly enough, Mosley and Pacquiao were both criticized for showing too much sportsmanship last weekend, touching gloves during nearly every round, and at the end of the day you got the sense that we were watching two guys who didn't really want to hurt one another. This isn't something Hopkins can relate to, however, as his fight with Pascal is nothing short of war.
"Listen, if Pascal starts trying to shake my hand every round, I know I got him mentally and now I've got to make it happen physically because at the end of the day, we're fighting. That's what we do. That's what changes our lives and my family's live...to be able to do things for them because we are fighters. So, the referee says, "Shake hands and come out fighting." He doesn't say, 'Every round shake hands'."
The respect Hopkins has had for Mosley over the years has been evident but as a fighter you are always putting yourself on a platform where the whole world is going to judge and critique you. Hopkins knows too well the look of a fighter without conviction and that's what he saw in Shane Mosley.
"So, when the guy wants to be friends and fight at the same time, everybody else sees it. He submitted early in the fight after the knockdown. Something happened and he submitted after that."