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 King. 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".