by David P. Greisman
John David Jackson has fought Bernard Hopkins, losing to him back in 1997. He has worked with Hopkins as a trainer. And Jackson, who now corners light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev, will prepare the power-puncher to face the 49-year-old future Hall of Famer in November - provided Kovalev defeats Blake Caparello on Saturday night in Atlantic City.
Jackson was always OK with Kovalev facing either Hopkins or 175-pound champion Adonis Stevenson, though he leaned toward Hopkins because he feels Stevenson won’t be free to fight due to the pending lawsuit against him and others. Kovalev is the best remaining opponent and the most lucrative option available, the trainer said.
In terms of how Kovalev and Hopkins would stack up against each other:
“You give experience to Bernard. You can’t argue with that,” Jackson said. “Power? Sergey. Ring generalship? Give Bernard that. Boxing skill? At this stage in Bernard’s career I give it to Sergey, because he’s older. The most important factor is the youth factor, and that plays heavily on Sergey. Bernard’s an old fighter. You’ve got to treat him like an old fighter.
“Most of these guys he’s fought, they give him all the respect and they kind of idolize him going into the ring. Sergey doesn’t understand English [Note: He does]. He couldn’t care less about Bernard Hopkins. He wants what Bernard has: the belts, which means more money. He could care less about who Bernard is and what he’s done. That helps him out.”
Jackson then broke down what it would mean to treat Hopkins like an old fighter:
“You have to make him move faster, punch more often. You got to hit him in his arms, hit him in his shoulders, hit him in his chest, hit him everywhere an old body doesn’t want to be hit, because once we get older we can’t take that kind of punishment. The body wasn’t built to take that. The way Sergey hits? Hit him everywhere. Don’t aim for the head. Chop the body, the head will fall. Make him fight the first six rounds. The other six? It’s your fight. Bernard has not had a hard fight probably since Trinidad.”
Hopkins would pose a threat otherwise, Jackson said.
“If he lets Bernard pace the fight, if he lets Bernard dictate what’s going on and he’s not pressing Bernard and hitting Bernard and let Bernard punch when Bernard wants to punch, it’ll pose a big problem, because Bernard will still be semi-fresh the last half of the fight. And he can play all the tricks. He can hold, punch when he’s holding, and just do what he wants to do and frustrate you and win a decision.
“Sergey has to nullify all that from round one. You got 12 rounds to fight me. We’re not going to sit there and dance and hold and get penalized for all that stupid stuff. You’re going to fight me. If you can fight me for 12 rounds at this pace with the kind of punches I’m hitting you with, then you deserve it. He should go into the Hall of Fame that day, that night.”
Jackson was then asked whether he’d advise his fighter to seek advanced drug testing for a Hopkins fight. The trainer responded that he feels Hopkins’ accomplishments are due to his strategy and intelligence in the ring and his conditioning outside of it.
“He’s smart. You’ve got to give him credit for that. He’s very smart in the ring. He’s very technically sound. He understands the game of boxing. He keeps the distance when he has to and he gets close when he has to. I just think his opponents haven’t made him fight harder. They haven’t pushed that old body. How many punches does Bernard throw per round? Not many. Because he doesn’t have to. He picks his punches. And these guys fall right into that trip. They follow him around the ring. He’ll touch you, touch you, touch you. Grab you. And then you look up, 12 rounds have gone by, he’s got the decision.
“I’d never say that’s [performance enhancing drugs] something that Bernard does. Bernard is smart. He stays in the gym all year long. He takes care of himself. He doesn’t get bloated up to 220 pounds and try to lose weight. He keeps it down relatively close. That’s just smart for his lifestyle. He’s been very disciplined his whole career.”
Pick up a copy of David’s 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]