At 45 years old, Bernard Hopkins continues to defy the expected career-span of a professional boxer. But the former undisputed middleweight champion does see his legendary run coming to end if he loses in December to Jean Pascal.
Hopkins understands that many have placed him on borrowed time since an atrocious performance against Roy Jones, Jr in April. That PPV fight was void of sustained action, and on multiple occasions Hopkins took several minutes to recover from alleged rabbit punches. Hopkins knows that another bad performance or loss would give ensure the end of his visibility on both HBO and Showtime.
“I understand that this fight is win or go home for me. There’s really no tomorrow for me…unless I take this fight and I take it impressively and I take it aggressively,” Hopkins admitted on the Canadian leg of his press tour with Pascal. “My career ends (if I lose). People will be calling for my head. Pascal is the guy to beat right now and my motivation to accept his challenge is to show that he is just borrowing that title.”
The people “calling for his head” has been from members of his own camp. Immediately after the Jones fight, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer recommended in the media that Hopkins consider retirement. That statement upset Hopkins, and for a time the Philadelphia fighter threatened to leave Golden Boy.
Earlier this year, Naazim Richardson revealed to Beats, Boxing & Mayhem that he told Bernard Hopkins to seriously consider retirement before suffering a bad loss.
“You’ve done everything in the ring but lose badly,” Richardson said.
But Hopkins has heard the retirement talk before. He reminds everyone that he was well into his 30s when he upset Felix Trinidad in 2001. In addition, the Executioner is confident that he can school Pascal in the same way he did a then undefeated Kelly Pavlik in 2008.
“At 35, people thought I was old and then I beat Felix Trinidad. I’ve been blessed to fight so long. It says something for me to be able to stand at a podium and speak articulately,” Hopkins explained. “I’m the teacher. I’m going to take the student and give him an apple. And then, he’s going to be humble. He’s confident, but when the bell rings, that’s when I’m at my best. I know he’s serious. You think I’m coming for the payday, but I’m doing okay (financially). This is going to be a blueprint for understanding that life’s not over at 40. For all the old guys out there, I’m your motivation and breath of fresh air … your inspiration.”
In recent years, Hopkins has struggled with late-fight stamina. Many believe his claims of fouls with Joe Calzaghe and Roy Jones, Jr were simply ploys to buy more time and catch a breather.
Hopkins expects Pascal to test that theory with constant pressure. However, the wily veteran cryptically hinted that he’ll be able to nullify Pascal’s game plan.
“I expect an all-out gunslinger’s fight,” he said. “He’ll be told to jump on me. Why? Because I’m old. But I’ve seen every style in 23 years. The fight will change as soon as he says ‘oops’. You can’t train for the unknown.”
Showtime airs Hopkins-Pascal on December 18.