By Yannis Mihanos: What is his secret of Bernard Hopkins? Staying there and hanging tough with the big guns of boxing, fighting against people much younger. It surely takes something special to do it.
Hopkins might never have had that blinding speed or amazing fist strength but he had things that many others failed to have at a consistent daily basis: self-discipline, and mastery of a mind that could turn anytime and anything into a weapon.
In many sports getting past 35 years of age is considered old, people immediately brand you as veteran. It’s so easy for people to use labels and oftentimes these labels turn into burdens for those who claim them.
In that sense, Hopkins is a veteran for the last 16 years. Time steals youth from those who neglect youth not from those who respect it and really appreciate it.
Experiencing prison time can make someone better or worse. Hopkins after his prison release became better at all levels. His life took a right direction.
As a boxing professional, he has never neglected himself: never went out late, got wasted or do something against his healthy lifestyle. He remained loyal to his craft and never looked back.
When I watched Hopkins fighting at the age of 43 and clobbering Kelly Pavlik, I said to myself, ‘here is a man who’s doing something that others of his age cannot, he is therefore special.’
Come now 8 years later and Hopkins is still well on his feet. For the fight tonight against Smith, I’m sure he will add another solid performance.
It’s too late now for anyone to underestimate him.
Walking in that ring at 51 years of age is a game changer. His presence in boxing has forever changed the perception of what veteran means.
And that alone is his biggest contribution and legacy.
I can sit here and talk more about his marvels through the years against opponents like Tito Trinidad and many others but that’s not my job. Others can do that much better than me.
Hopkins made mockery of those who call athletes veterans, obsolete and old and that’s my biggest satisfaction.
Bernard won’t be easily replaced but he will be easily followed by others who have similar dreams and goals.
Hopkins will be fighting for the final time tonight against light heavyweight contender Joe Smith (22-1, 18 KOs) on HBO Boxing from the Forum in Inglewood, California.