Steve Bunce on Boxing: Still going strong after 62 fights, Bernard Hopkins takes on the world once more at 48
Just when it seemed possible that Bernard Hopkins was close to delivering his final cross-armed salute from the middle of a boxing ring it has emerged that he has no intentions of quitting.
Hopkins is 48, has fought 62 times, first contesting a world title in 1993 and on Saturday night he continues one of boxing's most incredible journeys when he fights Tavoris Cloud for the IBF light-heavyweight title in Brooklyn, New York. Hopkins has had 29 proper world title fights and won his first championship when he was still serving out the prohibitive terms of his parole.
He currently holds the record for becoming the oldest man to win a world title and he will break his own record if he beats Cloud, who is unbeaten in 24 and just 31. Hopkins has, as he is keen to remind his critics, been "too old" for 15 years.
"Some promoters are trying to use my age as a death sentence," claimed Hopkins. "They do everything they can to tell people that I should retire; they only do this because they have young fighters that I would beat.
"I'm not satisfied with what I have done in boxing," continued Hopkins. "There is more to add to my legacy, more world championship belts to take back to Philadelphia. I'm not counting age and I'm not thinking of going away."
Cloud will have to try and ignore the tricks – some dirty, some clean – that Hopkins can use so easily during a fight; the often dubious tactics are hard for experienced fighters to ignore and Cloud is relatively green. "Hopkins is a dirty bastard, but I like him," said Joe Calzaghe, who is one of only five men to have beaten Hopkins.
"People outside boxing, the 40-plus generation are starting to look at me and organising nights watching my fights," added Hopkins. "They have read the stories about my old, old life – the penitentiary stuff, my struggles against boxing politics and I'm still here, still at the top.
"I heard Michael Jordan talking the other day, and he's just had his 50th birthday, and he was saying that he wished he could play again. Well, I'm not far from that and I'm still playing and still playing at the top," said Hopkins. The return of Hopkins coincides with the ongoing struggles of Steve Collins, who is also 48 and has been passed fit to return to boxing, assuming he can get a licence.
Collins wants a fight with Roy Jones, who is still active at 44, and beat Hopkins in their 1993 world title fight. Hopkins beat Jones in their long overdue rematch in 2010. "Hopkins waited nearly 18 year for his rematch and that is how long I have been waiting for Jones," claimed Collins, who will not apply for a British licence but is still hopeful to fight in Britain. "Hey, stranger things have happened."
In theory Hopkins could, later this year when he is closer to 49, fight in Britain against Nathan Cleverly. "I like the way Cleverly talks about boxing. He gives me the respect unlike a lot of the other younger champions. I will fight him when the time comes and that could be in Britain."
Cleverly next defends his WBO light-heavyweight title at Wembley on 20 April when the rescheduled Ricky Burns and Miguel Vazquez double world title fight takes place.
This Saturday, Hopkins just has to carry on doing what he has been doing in style for more than a decade and defy the odds and the clock. He is an acquired taste but he is also, as he said, a hero to men (and some women) over a certain age.
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