Bernard Hopkins is now at 49 and holding somewhere around age 29, as the two-division champion and current IBF light heavyweight titleholder prepares for his April 19 Showtime main event against Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KO) in Washington, D.C.
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KO) will be looking to make it three straight wins following a 2012 where he beat Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat, winning the IBF strap from Cloud. He's been out of the ring since September, and will be the fairly heavy favorite for this fight, but he says that nothing will cause him to overlook any fighters going forward, and Shumenov is no exception.
"I'm not underestimating him. I'm in a position right now where I haven't been in many, many years, and that is people overlooking my opponent. People have overlooked Bernard Hopkins even with titles," Hopkins said on a media conference call this week.
"I mean, I have records to prove, but at the same time, I know what that can do to a guy. It can motivate a guy and also can put pressure on a guy, and that's the blessing and that's the education that I come from both sides. I'm still around to understand how he feels and how he has to be motivated, what motivates him, and that's dealing with the IQ and that's dealing with the experience and that's the luxury that I have in the game today amongst anybody I fight whether it's Shumenov, whether it's Stevenson, or whoever you name. It doesn't matter because I've been here longer than any boxer that's boxing right now in a respectful level and position, and I think that's an honor."
Shumenov echoed Hopkins' recent statements about wanting to unify the light heavyweight division, and once again stated his seemingly crazy goal, which is hardly the first crazy goal of his career or life.
"As Beibut said, he wanted to unify the titles. I'm answering that call because I want to do the same damn thing, and now, we have the pieces in line that has the same mentality," Hopkins said. "It gives you something to write about. It gives the fans and anybody that's listening that comes along after you, it gives them a chance now to say we unified the title in that division, maybe become a good disease, a good virus that might spread through other weight divisions and that would be good, I think, for boxing. I mean that's my opinion, I could be wrong."
While Shumenov declined to share what he feels he's learned about Hopkins through studying tapes, Bernard took a different route, not naming anything in particular, but making it clear that he doesn't think anything Shumenov does will be something new.
"I've been in this game almost three decades, and there's no style through the amateurs, short amateur career I had, I didn't have 100 fights, I didn't have 50 fights, but the short amateur career that I had, that and the one in state penitentiary is that it's no style, I repeat, there's no style on this planet earth dealing with boxing that I haven't seen or been in the ring with," Hopkins said.
"It's nothing I haven't seen that I've been in this game for 26, 27 years that's going to surprise me April 19, and that's not underestimating anybody. That's not overlooking. That's just keeping it real by the time I've been in this game and by the time I've been a student and still considered a student, a little edge of a teacher in this game that I'm in."
Questioned about whether or not he's a "dirty" fighter or uses tricks that could be considered underhanded or sneaky or whatever else, Hopkins feigned disbelief -- or maybe not. "I don't know where this dirty stuff comes from," he said. "I mean, I don't understand. Only thing I know in two weeks or less, man, we're going to be doing what we got to do.
"It's not my job to think about what a man can do to me, I can do to him. I never had a big brother. I am the big brother of six siblings. So, I never had a big brother to look over me in case something happened. Now, I let my challenge speak for itself. I let my history speak for itself. I let the last five or six fights or 17 years speak for themselves. We're going to fight, and if somebody does something they're not supposed to do, you got checks and balances that will check that.
"It's not my job. I can't be a fighter and the referee. I wouldn't even bring that up to you. That's irrelevant. It's ridiculous, and if he said it or you said it, whoever said it, it's just not the point. The point is that you've got a guy in there, it's the reason he's in there, and the bottom line is I'm going to come across and bring my talent to a level where people are going to be talking about something else, and they're going to be excited and they're going to look forward for what comes next, and that's how I feel, and that's how I'm training and that's how I live."
Hopkins also added that he thinks Shumenov is a "perfect" style matchup for him at this stage. "I see a lot of opportunities with Shumenov, believe it or not, that I didn't see with Karo Murat, and the styles always make fights," he said. "I know that's an ancient quote, but it's legit and it's real, and I see his style perfect. I couldn't ask for a better style in a match up and I don't know what he thinks. It doesn't matter, but he might think the same thing."
And for the boxing-ancient Hopkins, defying time and all known logic, he says it's still about long-term goals, and not just the next fight on the schedule.
"I can't take it fight by fight because that's boring. That's like going to work and not knowing if you're going to get fired each day," he said.
"My thing is I always have long-term goals just to stay alive, but they are realistic goals, and I believe the realistic goals compared to the goals you just had, is nothing but a dream. It's nothing but something just to fool yourself, and then reality comes in when those times go by and you looking at that date that you have to have things done that aren't done, you get to now looking at reality and then you just die.
"So, my thing is yes, as long as I live and breathe this air called life in my lungs. So, yes, that's how I operate. That's how I function."