by David P. Greisman
Bernard Hopkins expects to face fellow light heavyweight titleholder Beibut Shumenov in the coming months. He spoke with BoxingScene.com on Jan. 24.
BoxingScene.com: The last time we spoke was before Beibut Shumenov’s fight against Tomas Kovacs. What did you think of Shumenov’s win over Kovacs?
Hopkins: “Credible. A guy that you got to take serious and not look at his record and dictate in your head and your mind that it’s a sparring match or an easy fight. For me — I can’t speak for any other champion in the division — I take everybody serious. More now than ever, and I always take everybody serious because of where I’m at in my life and what I want to accomplish in my life.
“When I say ‘where I’m at in my life,’ I’m talking age-wise, because age is important. Here I am going to fight somebody that’s 15-plus years younger, that has talent and [is] a champion, and I’m going to take the title at 50, at 49. I think the burden is on me and not actually on the guy I’m fighting, no matter who it is, whether it’s Shumenov, Stevenson or Kovalev. That’s where I’m at as far as in my mind and in my life right now.”
BoxingScene.com: It was a short fight at less than three rounds. Does that show you enough?
Hopkins: “It didn’t, but YouTube and DVDs, and I have a library guy that gets me any fights that I need when the time comes. There’s so much footage and so much things out there. But that’s one thing: He will be able to find a lot of material on Bernard Hopkins. But it’s what Bernard Hopkins that he has to worry about, and also preparation with sparring partners and whatever.
“I think a lot of fights in the past, the misconception is Bernard comes this way, he comes that way, he’s going to do this, and then when the fight happens, he does none of that. That’s the initial shock to a guy that can’t adjust, because the experience is not there from longevity. I think part of that can’t be fixed because time fixes everything, whether you like it that way or this way. They have to learn from experience.”
BoxingScene.com: What are the weaknesses in Shumenov that you can exploit?
Hopkins: “I think the weakness is to let him know that he can’t beat Bernard Hopkins, and that something is going to be done to him that he’ll have to make adjustments. And if he can’t make those adjustments early, then he’s going to see himself in school, learning his ABCs. It’s no magic. …
“When you see the experience from a guy that’s bringing a youthful body, that’s not 25, that’s not 35, and damn sure ain’t 49, even though I am 49, along with the overwhelming experience of résumé, compared to not just him, Shumenov, but all the light heavyweight champions out there. When it comes to the experience, they all in trouble. When it comes to how do they adjust to me and that I’m adjusting to them, I’ve seen their styles. Show me something I haven’t seen in 27 years.
“They have to adjust to me. How significant and strange that is where champions and younger guys have to adjust to an old man?”
BoxingScene.com: You were in San Antonio as Shumenov’s promoter, but you were also there scouting him. What’s it like being in a dual role where you’re trying to build him up, but now you’ll be in the ring trying to tear him down?
Hopkins: “It’s being versatile to know and understand that I’ve been doing this role, even for my own career, of promoting myself, even with the Tito flag, even with things that was distasteful, even with Joe Calzaghe, so when you’ve been doing that with my own career because I don’t feel like the media was pushing me like it was pushing everybody else, or promoters, I felt like I had to be able to have people either love me or hate me, and then at the end of the day, if I wanted to look like I’m a guy that can predict my own destination, then I have to win more than I lose.
“And so it’s easy for me to be in this position of Golden Boy and promoting Shumenov and anybody else with the possibility of fighting these guys, because then that hat comes off as a promoter, and then ‘The Alien’ hat comes on, as in I’m going to kick your ass. That’s a personality that’s normally called somebody that’s bipolar, somebody that has multiple personalities. Well, I do, but I know how to control the family man, ‘The Alien,’ the boxer, the Golden Boy partner. You don’t see many other fighters doing that, whether they’re active or not. I think that makes me not only different, but it makes me kind of unique.”
BoxingScene.com: But after this fight, you’re going to have to put that Golden Boy hat back on.
Hopkins: “And I will hug him, and I’ll say, ‘Don’t let this lesson of knowledge that you receive, it was painful, I understand your eye, I understand this, I understand that, but don’t let this lesson deter you from winning more titles and being in boxing. I told Kelly Pavlik the same thing. I’ve got a history of telling guys that I’ve actually destroyed, and then in the corner try to talk to [Tavoris] Cloud. They don’t listen.
“I understand that when I leave, it’s going to be analyzed by some smart person, and said, ‘You know, there’s some good fighters that could’ve been great fighters, but they never could bounce back from Bernard Hopkins’ — I guess you could say, hypnosis.”
BoxingScene.com: But you need Shumenov to listen to you and bounce back, and you as a promoter will need to tell fans that this guy deserves attention even though you just beat him.
Hopkins: “Well, they got destroyed by me, not Mini-Mo. It’s not embarrassing to get beat up by Bernard Hopkins. Hell, get in line. But it’s embarrassing to get beat up by somebody you don’t know, some shmuck. I mean, if you get beat up some journeyman that’s 49 years old. But nobody is frowning at a guy that fights Bernard Hopkins and loses. They say, ‘Hell, what else is new? Get in line!’ There’s a whole line full of people.
“One thing about losing to Bernard Hopkins, there’s no embarrassment for a young guy, because nobody is saying, ‘Oh, you lost to a 49-year-old man.’ You got to be a hater to say that, because when you got four or five different people and you’ve got a history of years back, well, Antwun Echols, or Felix Trinidad, I was 35 years old, they called me old then. So when you lose to me, they say, ‘Well, you lost to the wizard. You lost to the alien.
“That’s the difference, and that’s the unique thing about me is that a young guy can lose to me and still have a career.”
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 protected]