The Executioner before a fight

Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins interview

This was a fun interview and it was also the longest I had ever done. I was on the phone with Bernard for over a hour and changed the tape on my recorder 3 times. At times I had to remind myself that I was talking with Bernard Hopkins and not Don King. Hopkins would answer a simple question with a 10 minute monologue and go about answering questions within that monologue that I had not even asked. So what you see here is more of a greatest hits instead of the full interview. I just did not have the time to transcribe everything onto this page. I did come away with one very distinct impressions of Bernard. He is a intelligent man who wants to learn about everything around him that could even remotely effect him and his family. If Bernard were not a boxer, with his mindset and eagerness to learn he could easily run a company or most anything else he wanted to do.

BW: Let's get right to the question that is on most peoples minds. How
is your ankle and is it healed.

Bernard Hopkins: Yes. It's been healed up since about mid October, I have
been running on it 5 miles a day and done dozens of rounds of sparring 
on it during training. I haven't had any problems yet and I don't think I
will have any, as matter of fact I think it is just as good as it was
before the injury. 

BW: There were also reports that you put on a lot of weight when you were 
not able to train because of the ankle injury.

Bernard Hopkins: Nah, the highest I ever get up in between fights is 168
or 169. That's not true at all I never had a problem with my weight. 

BW: Where you given any kind of explanation by the IBF as to why they 
sanctioned that "interim" championship fight which Robert Allen won so
quickly after your injury. When they give someone like Felix Trinidad who
has no injury 6 to 8 months to defend his title.  

Bernard Hopkins: Yeah, with Trinidad you know......he is promoted by Don 

BW: Yes that helps a lot.

Bernard Hopkins: It doesn't take a rocked scientist to know that we have
a lot of problems in boxing. You answered the question I believe 
yourself, When you said that Trinidad held the belt for 6 or 7 months. 
But Trinidad has Don King and Don King seems to have influence where the 
influence shouldn't be. Yes it was strange, I got a lot of calls from all
kinds of media people wanting to know "did you get stripped?", "did you
give your title up?". And I couldn't comment because to be honest with
you I didn't know anything about it. I was totally shocked, I said wait
a minute. I am looking at a letter that say's I am on a medical 
suspension, which is no problem by the rules of the IBF and I got the
rules in my presence right now. I know the rules verbatim. I didn't see
anything in the rules dealing with a anything "interim", I was just as
baffled as everyone else about the interim champion. If you are looking
at ways that say why, when, how or why did it happen I think it is clear
to people who are not biased on my side or his. That sit back and have 
a clear and open mind that something very strange was happening in that
situation. The only thing that I can say is that the title should be won 
and lost in the ring and politics shouldn't play a role in championship 
titles. I honestly always believed that before I even won my title. I 
just said O.K, am I still the champion? Mr. Bob Lee thru letters and 
things like that said "Your still the champion Bernard" and I had to get 
on that because people still thought I got stripped. That I was moving 
up to 168. That I wont fight Robert Allen. So I said that's not true, I 
am on a 90 day medical suspension. So they ask me "Why is Robert Allen 
the interim champion?". 

BW: Probably to get a sanctioning fee out of somebody.

Bernard Hopkins: Well that's what the word was.....your right (laughs).
To pacify Robert Allen and give him a belt, and take the fortune.

BW: Well let's talk about Robert Allen. You and Robert Allen have traded
some harsh words before, after and since your last fight. What is the
source of that bad blood.

Bernard Hopkins: To be honest with you I don't even know Robert Allen. I
think that a lot of the bad blood is hype. I think a lot of that bad
blood rarely lives up to peoples expectations. When it all comes down
to it when the fights over with 9 out of 10 times the fighters will come 
over and hug each other. It's part of the hype I guess. I was watching
tapes of Marvin Hagler and his career. He never really used bad language
and holler or scream. You go back to the fighters that fought in the 80's
even in the 70's you rarely seen the fighters actually promoting and 
hollering or screaming "I am going to do this". They are normally the
person who has fear in them. I don't really have any bad words for Robert
Allen. Have I said a couple of things to Robert Allen? Yes! To get in
his head? Yes! But I think it is more or less a situation when we get in
the ring and we fight, then I think all that actually goes out the window.
Especially when the other guy is about to give in and know's that he
doesn't really have a chance and shouldn't be in that ring. I think we 
should leave the promoting up to the promoters. Because Ali was the only
great guy who ever done that, promoted and fought at the same time.

BW: What about the actual fight? The first one was ugly to say the least.     
with a lot of grabbing and holding. Now that some time has passed how do
you look back on that fight and how to you look to counter his tactics
in the rematch.

Bernard Hopkins: Basically I am going to do nothing different. I don't see
why I need to change anything? Other than I did take a page out of Steve
Austin's book in wrestling to learn a couple of wrestling moves or how
to get out of the choke hold. Or even to learn how to get away from the 
laces in the face. That is the only thing I am adding on to my training
methods for this particular fight. I have to be conscious of everything
he does beside boxing. I believe he is a dirty fighter. But fear make a
person do anything. Fear, knowing that he was going to get knocked out
or get destroyed made Tyson bite Evander Holyfields ear off. Fear makes 
people do certain things that really they would do if they weren't scared.     
It doesn't take too much of a expert to sit back and watch a film after
a fight that has a controversy, to say this guy here elbowed, headbutted
he had him in a headlock. Mills Lane was trying to pry this guy off me,
and unfortunately I went thru the ropes which were kind of loose. So I
don't think I complained one time, as a matter of fact I know I didn't
complain at any time to Mills Lane. Because I didn't want to pump Robert
Allen heart up thinking I was whining. I continued to try and do my
craft and as the round goes on Bernard Hopkins was going to come on
and make this fight a exciting fight and end it. Robert Allen knew that.
There's two fighters that know what was about to happen. Around the 3rd
round even though it ended in the 4th, he knew he was loosing gas. He 
threw all his hard punches early, that's how he fights. And it was going
to be the same Barboza thing, as it goes on and on he was going to quit.
And I was going to bring that out of him. Another thing. I don't make any
excuses when I loose, but I haven't had that feeling since 1993 when I 
fought Roy Jones Jr. that been over 5 years. I don't have any excuses, if
a person out boxes or out hustles Bernard Hopkins then he was a great
man and he beat me that night. I don't have no complaints when it comes
to that. But when it comes to being dirty and trying to out and out lace
me, no accidents or nothing like that. Thinking it's to your advantage, 
that's not part of boxing. I wasn't taught that way, I was taught to keep
it clean. But if a guy goes to your cup and it's not a accident and you
know this guy is trying to hurt you. Then you go back to his cup. When
someone tries to lace you. You lace him back. I think it was his mission
for him to get disqualified. 

BW: You have said in the past that you would like to get a big money 
fight against someone like Oscar DeLahoya or Roy Jones. Exactly what
weights would you be willing to go down or up to, in order to secure
those big fights.

Bernard Hopkins: The highest I would put myself at is 168. The lowest
I would put myself at is 160/159 as I am fighting now. A lot of them
junior middleweights that are sitting down there, they walk around easily 
at 168. Trust me. I have seen Oscar at Big Bear. I train in Big Bear, 
Oscar Delahoya walks around clearly to 170 pounds. Clearly! Ike Quartey, 
bona fide middleweight. One thing about Bernard Hopkins. I am not the 
typical fighter and I am not downing my fellow fighters, by no means. 
When I say things like that, I say things like that because I master my 
craft out of the ring just as well as in the ring. These guy's are junior 
middleweights but they walk around way over the middleweight division. 
Let me tell you the break they got is this. Weighing in 24 hours before 
the fight. If you go back to the old rules where the guy's had to weigh 
in the morning of the fight or the day of the fight and fight that night. 
Trust me Oscar DeLaHoya would have been up at the middleweight division 
2 years ago. Not taking away from Oscar, not taking away from Roy Jones 
who has always been a big guy even when he was a middleweight. Hey, if 
you listen to Roy Jones at the Simon Brown fight when I fought Simon Brown 
in January. He said "when I went in the ring with Bernard Hopkins I was 
weighing 175, I was the bigger guy. The most I put on in 24 hours was 6 
pounds, so that clearly shows that Bernard Hopkins is a true full fledged 
middleweight. Weight advantages, especially for a guy that can fight  
whether it is Roy or Oscar. It makes a difference don't let nobody fool 
you. Trinidad....middleweight, the reason these guy's are not moving up 
and it is clear. Because Hopkins is there. If Don King didn't own the 
other 2 middleweights or the control of the belts a lot of those junior 
middleweights would have easily gotten those belts. David Reid needs to 
be a middleweight, he's not a junior middleweight. He is struggling every 
day to make 154. But you gotta get the kid a title because he is a gold 
medalist. It's part of marketing, it's good strategy. Roy Jones wasn't 
actually a middleweight but he did what he had to do in order to get the 
belt and beat me. 2 fights later he went up and fought James Toney. 
Bernard has been at this weight for 5 years now. By my discipline and the 
things I do, train and live right making 160 is easy. As a matter of fact 
I make 158. The John David Jackson fight I made 156 or 157. So why should 
I have to go down in weight to accommodate these guys? I am a blue collar 
guy, I don't ask for no easy opponents. Why is it that Dana Rosenblatt 
and let's be honest with each other, we both know that different ethnic 
groups or color's always is a sell out. Dana Rosenblatt who is not a bad 
fighter, who has a little name recognition. These are the guys that they 
wont give Bernard Hopkins. Before Terry Norris starting sliding down the 
last 2 or 3 years, that was a fight that could have been great for Bernard 
Hopkins. Right now that fight don't mean nothing. Vinny Pazienza, they 
don't want me. I am always willing and able to get in the ring and fight. 
I am not under pricing myself and also not over pricing myself. I just 
want the best fair deal for my services when I step in that ring. Because 
when it is all over with, no one, not my manager, consultant, promoter, 
reporter. No one will come up and write a stipend for me and my family. 
Whether I am healthy or in a situation like Gerald McClellan. There is 
life after boxing for Bernard! This is not all I can do. There is a lot 
of other things I would like to do out of life. Unfortunately 80% of the 
fighters are not thinking the way I am thinking. You have fighters who 
make hundred of thousands of dollars or millions, who haven't invested 
in a computer. But they bought a hundred thousand dollar Mercedes. This 
has got to stop.
BW: Let's talk about that then. Your career came to a stand still because
of Butch Lewis (his former promoter) because of contract problems. What
did you learn from that and what advice would you give a young fighter
about choosing a promoter or signing a contract.

Bernard Hopkins: I learned a lot from that situation. I learned the 
business, I am still learning. But the key part of that business is that
you don't trust anyone. You don't trust no one in this buiseness. Now Does 
that mean that you distrust people? How can you trust someone who you
don't know. If you cant trust the people you think you know, then how are
you going to trust someone who is selling you a pie in the sky, the big
dream. Do you look over their shoulders. No. But I think to safeguard
yourself you get insurance, and I think insurance in life or any 
buiseness is the law. I have a saying "mentally incarcerated and don't
want parole". Well I got parole and I was mentally incarcerated and 
mentally ignorant in the buiseness of boxing when I got involved with
not only Butch Lewis but with people as managers and things like that 
didn't know about the buiseness. That didn't know about boxing and didn't
know anything about negotiating. If the law does not protect the ones who
don't know from the one who do know, it doesn't matter. A lawyer stood up
in the boxing hearings last week, he was a lawyer for 12 years and there
were certain things in contracts where he had to ask another attorney.
So now you are talking about a inner city kid, there is no fighter I know
of that has come from Harvard or Yale. They are being taken advantage
of. So there need to be laws put in place where a promoter cant have his
cousin being a manager (for the promoters fighter). I am not knocking
anybody's hustle and that is what all this is. We are the cattle, Oscar
is fortunate and by his talents he deserves everything he gets. For the
1 Oscar, 1000's of other fighters will never get that chance to be 
contender. They will get swallowed up by the Blue Horizon (a famous
Philadelphia fight venue) before they even get to that level. They will
get swallowed up by the buiseness structure of the ring. Not only by 
King, he is simply a buiseness man who takes advantage of any situation
that helps him. Same with Dan Goosen, Bob Arum and all these guy's. The
only problem they have is when you take a page out of their book and 
become a business man, you cant become that. According to them you have
to keep you mind focused on the fight you gotta stay in the gym, you are
a fighter. Dino Duva said "a fighter stays in the gym and trains" to me
that is a ignorant person. I moved to Delaware because of the tax 
structure, nobody sat me down and told me that. I had to find my own
way. I am one of the fortunate ones that slipped thru the cracks. I was 
in the gym today and I can name 30 guy's who are not going to make it.
I am not going to tell them. There were people who told me I wasn't going
to make it. But I know before they ever get to that level they are going
to be duped and robbed unless McCain (McCain is a American Senator who 
is trying to create a law to help boxers) put the hammer down and change
some of these laws. 

BW: O.K all this talk about contracts and the IBF is starting to depress 
me. How about a little fantasy question. If you could fight any of the
great middleweight champions of the past like Monzon, Robinson, Hagler 
and Ketchel who would it be?

Bernard Hopkins: Oh definitely. You want me to name one or two?

BW: As many as you like.

Bernard Hopkins: I would have liked to fight Marvin Hagler because it
would have been a war. Because Marvin's right there, and I could adapt
to that style. Another one I would have liked to fight was Monzon, that
would have been a tough fight. Tommy Hearns, that would have been a 
tougher fight than the Hagler and Monzon because Hearns was tall, lanky 
and had that powerful right hand. You know what I would have had my work
cut out for me (laughs). I am not going to say what I would have done 
with them. I might have lost to all 3 or 2 of them fights. But I tell 
you I would have went down fighting. Because them guy's was legends.
Benitez all them guy's was legends. It's a thing where you wish those
days would come back and there is going to be a time where my career is
going to be over, and some guy will be saying "I wish I was like Bernard
Hopkins or Roy Jones because there is nobody for me to fight". Just 
imagine you never thought in boxing that there was going to be a time 
where the middleweight division would be so dry and dead. You never 
thought that a Roy Jones would even mention that he has to go up to 
heavyweight because there is not competition. And I am not saying he 
doesn't have competition at his weight. I am just saying, would you ever 
believe that in boxing with all the fighters in the world that you would 
actually hear a fighter say that "I don't have anybody to fight". That 
never happend in the Ray Robinson days, That never happend in the early 
70's or 80's. I hope things pick up because this is a great sport. 

BW: I obviously agree. What about your fights. I thought you fought your
best against Joe Lipsey probably and your worst against Bo James or
Gilbert Baptist. What would you pick as your best and worst fight.

Bernard Hopkins: I think the Baptist fight wasn't my worst fight. That
was one of my toughest fights up in Denver. That was a brutal fight, I 
think that fight really showed that I am really ready for the championship
level. My worst performance was against Roy Jones Jr., I didn't do enough
to win at the end. There is one more fight that you left out of there. 
The Quito, Ecuador fight against Segundo Mercado, where I was brought there
2 days before the fight 11,000 feet above sea level and fighting a 
Ecuadorian in Ecuador and getting a draw. I fought my heart out and there
was a rematch in which I knocked him out. I think that first fight needed
to be put on my record as "The will to win" and I had the will to win that
fight. Most people felt for me because of all the circumstances around
that fight. I beat them odds and I think that made Don King realize what
kind of man I am. To take me up in that situation because that was his 
fighter, as a matter of fact I am 5-0 with Don and his mandatories because
he has everybody else but Hopkins. Joe Lipsey great, great, great knockout
punch. The world saw it on CBS. Let's go back with Joe Lipsey. He was
24-0, 20 something knockouts and he was a southpaw. They were saying "This 
guy might be the one". I knocked the guy out flat, he retired, you never
heard anything from Joe Lipsey since. Gone, his career is over. Now I am
not glad about that, I am just saying he was devastated. That fight there
was to have taken Bernard Hopkins to another level. It was on free T.V,
It was a knockout. Now where was the hype? where was the media backing?
Where was "This is the next Marvin Hagler"? After that fight I was on
the shelf for nine months.

BW: Because of Butch Lewis.

Bernard Hopkins: Exactly. That's why I am pushing for laws in this boxing
business. Listen, I save my crumbs. I have a beautiful house, I got a 
baby on the way. I am not a millionaire, but I done right and I am 
independent. I don't need boxing to eat. I am vocal and I make sense when
I speak and educated people are dangerous when you want to keep people
ignorant. I have a career after boxing, and I don%27t think it takes a rocket
scientist to see what that is going to be. It will have to be something 
where I can communicate and talk to people and make sense. You have to 
have a plan, tomorrow I know what I am going to do. Saturday I know what 
I am going to do. I know tomorrow I will wake up, go run after I run go 
eat, watch some fight tapes and then go to the gym. With out no plan, you 
have no future. 

BW: After you do stop fighting, is broadcasting in your future.

Bernard Hopkins: How did you guess that? (laughs) That wasn't hard to
guess since we have been on the phone for 30 minutes already. All I have
to do is duck the next hundred thousand punches that might come after
me before that. I give myself a good three to four year's (before 
retiring). You have to agree with me, well you don't have to. (laughs)
I haven't been in the ring exposed, I have had so many delays. I have
been off nine months here, nine months there. I haven't had any abuse.
Other than being knocked out of the ring. I haven't been into any drag
out, pull your bootstraps up, get up of the canvas, bleeding, cutting
fights. This fight might bring that, I don't know. I haven't been beat up.
I think for 33 years old, I am young.

BW: The last 3 years you have averaged about 3 fights. Would you like
to fight more often.

Bernard Hopkins: Contractualy I was obligated to fight 4 fights a year.
I would like to fight 5 fights a year because I can make more money. You
know this basketball player just signed a 70 million dollar deal. My
wife said "Bernard why didn't your mom give you a basketball instead of
boxing gloves for Christmas when you were small".