By Chris McKenna, courtesy of The Daily Star
BERNARD HOPKINS may have more monikers than most - but the one he should be dubbed with is ‘Superman’.
The man currently nicknamed ‘The Alien’ and formerly ‘B-Hop’ and ‘The Executioner’ goes into a light-heavyweight unification bout on Saturday night just two months shy of his 50th birthday.
The WBA and IBF king will take on big-punching WBO champion Sergey Kovalev in Atlantic City this weekend 26 years on from his first-ever professional contest. He makes Ryan Giggs’ career look a little short.
It is nothing short of amazing that a man of his age cannot not only compete at the top, but still dominate opponents with, at times, seemingly little effort.
That inaugural bout may have been a defeat against the no better than average Clinton Mitchell in the same city that he struts his stuff against Kovalev, but 65 fights later he has won world titles at middleweight and his current division.
It has been a glittering career that time just does not seem to be catching up on.
He has beaten the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Kelly Pavlik, Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones Jr, albeit the latter being a faded force by the time they met for a second time in 2010.
Jones Jr, when they clashed in 1993 at middleweight, is one of the five men to have beaten him along with Britain’s own Joe Calzaghe, Chad Dawson, Jermain Taylor (twice) and Mitchell.
Hopkins is a strange character, who often goes off in tangents when speaking and coming into the arena before fights dressed as an alien only goes further to displaying his odd ways.
But he never loses focus where it matters most for him – in the ring and in his gruelling training camps.
That is what makes the difference. He looks after himself inside and outside the ropes so well that his body is still able to stand up to challenges from men born decades after him.
Some would call Hopkins, who only started boxing at 23 following a five-year spell in jail, a pound-for-pound great, but the Philadelphia-born fighter reckons there should be a new scale drawn up to chart his achievements.
“I don’t want to be on anybody’s pound-for-pound list when I win this fight because to put me on a pound-for-pound list says that I’m human. It says that I’m human based on you characterise me one, two, three or four,” said Hopkins.
“To me you got to make a new list and what I’m doing now I’m making a new legacy and a new list.
“So don’t put me on no pound-for-pound list because that would make me human that would make me just like them.
“I respect the pound-for-pound list but you have to do another list for me.
“You have to sit down and think we can’t put this man in the top 10 because he’s doing something that no one has ever done. 15 years ago my career was meant to have been over.”
The comments bring back memories of the countless times the Philadelphia-born fighter has given the view that because of skin colour he has not been given the due respect for what he has achieved. That is simply not true.
He is one of the few boxers who remain crossover star onto the general sports fans’ radars, he is a huge name and boxing’s fraternity do not take into account race or ethnicity when deciding who is the best.
Floyd Mayweather Jr is a black man from the streets of Grand Rapids, Michigan and is currently regarded as the best on the planet by many.
Manny Pacquiao, a Filipino, is another held aloft as one of the sport’s best even though he may be a fading force.
Hopkins will get all the credit deserves if he can become the first man to beat Kovalev, the same way he was when he became the oldest ever unified world champion in his last fight against Beibut Shumenov.
He is a certain for boxing’s revered hall of fame as soon as he hangs up his gloves with his delayed retirement they only roadblock for that to happen.
All good things must come to an end though, and in Kovalev it could come pretty quick and painful for Hopkins.
The Russian is a scarily strong puncher. Welshman Nathan Cleverly knows all about it as he lost his WBO title and undefeated record to him in 2013 after four punishing rounds.
He boasts 23 knockouts in his 25-fight unbeaten record and although most of the casualties on the list may not be well-known names, not many were there just to fall over.
Kovalev is so powerful some boxing pundits have even questioned if he should be allowed in the ring with a nearly 50-year-old Hopkins, or rather if the latter should be.
While Hopkins has not showed any real serious signs of deterioration to worry about his health, his corner should be cute enough to throw the towel in if the rumbling Russian gets lands too many heavy blows.
But the American himself is not one for caution and is out to take another fighter’s undefeated record.
He added: “I have a history of taking the ‘O’ away and giving a guy a devastating loss – some haven’t even bounced back.
“But one thing about a puncher is they have a punchers chance. They could be gone till the 11th round then ‘pow wow’.
“They are always dangerous but ‘The Alien’ likes to walk on his tightrope 50 feet in the air, maybe 100, with no safety net but I’m going to make it across the other side.”
Hopkins v Kovalev is live on BoxNation (Sky437/490HD, Virgin 546 & TalkTalk 525) this Saturday night. Visit www.boxnation.com to subscribe.