By Francisco Salazar
Bernard Hopkins recently started referring to himself as “The Alien.”
Whenever possible, Hopkins now wears that distinctive green alien mask, ditching the executioner’s mask, one that he wore for many years while dominating the middleweight division.
It could be amazing to think the longevity Hopkins’ career has lasted, considering he has fought inside the ring as a professional for 26 years.
To put things in perspective, Saul “Canelo” Alvarez was born two years after Hopkins made his professional debut in 1988.
Is it that amazing Hopkins still remained in the sport of boxing, considering he lost his professional debut to someone named Clinton Mitchell, not too long after getting out of prison for armed robbery?
Or is it that Hopkins wins fight after fight against foes who were predicted to not only defeat him, but would stop him? He must have not gotten those memos prior to facing Antonio Tarver, Kelly Pavlik, or Tavoris Cloud.
Where would a victory over Sergey Kovalev, who he faces on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City (HBO at 10:45 p.m. ET/ 7:45 p.m. PT), rank amongst the greatest in his career? Or in boxing?
Because Hopkins is in a familiar role, one he is accustomed to. There are those who believe Kovalev will be too strong for him. There is no way a 49-year-old fighter (two months shy of his 50th birthday) can withstand Kovalev’s devastating punching power for 12 rounds.
Then again, there are those who point out Kovalev has not been in the ring with someone like Hopkins, a fighter who can outthink you in the ring and can get in your head at the same time.
Was it more the in-ring ability or the cunningness that got Hopkins the win over Felix Trinidad 13 years ago, a win that might be Hopkins’ best win as a pro.
Then again, Hopkins’ legacy might skyrocket through the roof if he were to win convincingly on Saturday night.
“To me, it’s just not another fight, because I’ve been playing it cheap,” Hopkins said in a recent telephone conference with reporters. “This is one of the significant fights of the year, if not one of the fights of the year. I just want to make sure that when there is debate about Bernard Hopkins’ legacy that people will be up all hours of the night debating arguments amongst the world of the experts on trying to figure out where we put this, or do we start this new label, where to start Bernard at the top and anybody else that comes after that underneath.”
That is a bold statement to say, but it does make the casual or hardcore boxing fan think or consider the career Hopkins has had and could continue after the Kovalev fight.
With Floyd Mayweather and his branding of “TBE” on hats and shirts, it does beg to be asked: Would a win over Kovalev and the resume Hopkins has trump what Mayweather has done as a pro?
While Mayweather does have Hall of Fame credentials, it is refreshing to look and marvel at what Hopkins has accomplished. It is not just the world titles he has won or the significant purses he is making. Hopkins has set a precedent and is a dying breed of sorts for seeking the fights against the fighters other opponents may ignore.
Hopkins' last couple of fights were televised on Showtime, and Kovalev has fought exclusively on HBO in recent years. Rather than fight out his career on Showtime, Hopkins jumped ship so to speak to fight Kovalev on HBO. It was a bold move considering the close business relationship which Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime had at the time.
The move showed Hopkins is willing to fight a dangerous fighter in Kovalev. And it might not end there. Should he defeat Kovalev, Hopkins has expressed serious interest in dropping to 168 pounds and facing middleweight king Gennady Golovkin.
Now is this because Hopkins is very confident he can expose Kovalev’s weaknesses to hand the Russian his first loss? Or is it to create more buzz surrounding tonight’s fight?
Only Hopkins and those close to him know the answer. But facing one of, if not the, most dangerous punchers in boxing as a 50-year-old does not spark any interest, then who knows what can? Then again, he is fighting a boxer that could give Golovkin a run for his money when it comes to punching power.
“This is a unique situation and this is a challenge to me, because I feel like if you are in the game, you might as well be in the game on top. I always look for the best. I always wanted to take on the toughest, the most dangerous, what else is new?”
“If this was something that’s sprung up in my career, everybody would be shocked. But they know I took on some bad-asses in the last 27 years of my career where I really didn’t have to fight people, but I did. That’s the old-school. That’s the old throwback type of mentality that I’ve been taught, brought up with, and understand that it’s important to me.”
With Hopkins having the gift of gab to compliment his superior boxing skills, nothing from Hopkins should surprise the boxing world. He is a once-in-a-generation type of fighter who will continue to fight on as long as his heart is set on it.
Hopkins will continue to add to his legacy, a legacy that still has many significant chapters to be written. Because of that, people will still tune in to watch him in person or on television.
Hopkins could be called an “Alien” over and over again. Then again, because of what he stands for and his longevity, that nickname is very fitting.
“There are so many things I’ve done in my career. Just being able to be around as long as I’ve been and still (feel) fresh as a daisy, I believe, and I’ll prove it on November 8, there’s no definition behind it.”
“Just enjoy it, understand it, and realize that you might not be alive to see it again. I might not be alive long enough to see it again, so who knows?”
Francisco A. Salazar has written for Boxingscene.com since September of 2012 and has covered boxing in Southern California and abroad since 2000. Salazar also covers boxing for the Ventura County (CA) Star newspaper, RingTV, and Knockout Nation. He can be reached by email at [email protected] or on Twitter at FSalazarBoxing