By Kieran Mulvaney
“I seen a lot of stuff I didn’t think was true,” said Bernard Hopkins. “Like a two-headed cow. It was freaky stuff.”
Hopkins was speaking of a recent visit to the headquarters of Ripley’s Believe it or Not, the famous purveyors of the bizarre and improbable, where he underwent a full body cast last year to create a life size likeness. It is testament to the implausible nature of the Philadelphian’s career that the proprietors of Ripley’s determined that it merited his being included among their exhibits, alongside the likes of The Mexican Vampire Woman and the aforementioned bi-headed bovine.
If that seems a slightly extreme evaluation, then certainly Hopkins’ career has by any measure been a remarkable one. A record twenty defenses of the middleweight crown and two spells as light heavyweight champ is by itself an impressive résumé, but the stats tell only a small part of the story. It can be plausibly argued that Hopkins has not clearly lost a fight since falling short in his first title shot, against Roy Jones, Jr., in 1993; of those who have officially defeated him since that time, Jones is a shell of a fighter whose win Hopkins has avenged; Jermain Taylor, who ended Hopkins’ middleweight reign, crashed and burned and has not fought in over two years; and Joe Calzaghe has retired.
Yet Hopkins keeps on ticking, and while there is so much more to his career than its longevity, that – and, inseparably, his age – are the twin themes to which it is so easy to return, and with good reason. As Hopkins prepares to meet the challenge of yet another young buck, Chad Dawson, in Los Angeles on Saturday, it is the element that he himself emphasizes.
“I want to look like his father,” Hopkins said of Dawson recently, referring to the gray flecks that now populate his hair and beard. “I could be his father. It’s appropriate for me to look gray and have gray. If you do the math, he could be my son. I’m 46, he’s 29, I had him early, it all fits into the scheme of the professor versus the good student who wants to be a great student.”
Ultimately, all good things must come to an end, as even Hopkins acknowledges. Whether it will be this Saturday at the hands of Dawson, or at a later date at the whims of Father Time, Hopkins’ career must eventually conclude. It is unlikely we shall see one quite like it ever again.
“I think everybody should just enjoy me while I’m here,” Hopkins says. “Because nothing lasts forever.”