On *Saturday night, Bernard Hopkins, the Executioner, headlines Barclays Center's most high-profile night of boxing yet. Hopkins faces IBF Light Heavyweight World Champion Tavoris “Thunder” Cloud, hoping to become the oldest champion in boxing history at the age of 48, beating his own record. (Tickets are still available for the fight, and it's always live on HBO.) Hopkins hasn't won a fight in almost two years, though, and if you didn't know any better, you'd think Hopkins was fighting Don King (Cloud's promoter) rather than Cloud himself. We talked to Hopkins last week about the fight, his hatred of King, and what it'll take, finally, for him to hang up the gloves.
You’ve fought in the Garden many times, but this is the highest-profile boxing event Barclays has hosted yet. Have you been to the facility?
Yeah, I’ve seen a couple of basketball games there, and a Jay-Z concert. I’m thrilled to get to christen it on this level. It needs a little championship sweat. I’m gonna give it some of my sweat. Hopefully none of my blood, though. This was part of the deal [with Golden Boy Promotions, the boxing promotion company Hopkins is a minority owner of]. I was always gonna fight there. I love the idea that people can walk there, just thousands of people just converging.
You’ve said your goal with this fight is to put Don King out of business. Is that really going to happen?
After Cloud, who does Don King have? What boxer does he have that anyone cares about? There’s nobody. Cloud is his only guy. I’ve got a chance to take out Don King. If Cloud loses, who’s gonna sign with Don King? Who, in their right mind, with places like Golden Boy out there, is going to pick Don King? What top five fighter would sign with Don King right now? Nobody, that’s who.
You actually haven’t won a fight in almost two years. Do you train differently when you’re in such a dry spell?
You have to look at every fight differently. For me, it’s all about motivation. I have to want to take this guy out. To me, my motivation to beat Cloud is to take out Don King. I always said there were two guys who I’d never let see me get beaten up. The first was Larry Merchant, and the second was Don King. I’ve outlasted Merchant. Now I’m gonna outlast Don King. Of all the fighters through all the years who said they were gonna end Don King, it’s gonna be Bernard Hopkins who does it. Who would have thought that?
It has to be hard training for a championship fight when you’re 48 years old.
Well, I don’t feel like I’m 25 or 30 anymore, that’s for sure. But I don’t feel like I’m 48 years old, either. Every person I know who’s 48 years old and never threw a punch, man, they’re ready to die. I don’t feel like I’m ready to die. I feel strong.
People want to see what Bernard Hopkins is punching like when he’s 50 years old. There’s a movement of the 40-and-up club, they root for me, they want to see me win for everyone of that age group. I feel like I’m the Jay-Z of boxing. Those young rappers, you see them telling Jay-Z to give it up, he’s in his forties, let the young men do it. I don’t have to box, and he don’t have to rap. We do it to show we still can. He’s still selling records, and I’m still winning belts.
If you lose this fight, will you finally retire?
I want to go until I’m 50. You’re talking to a guy who can fight until he’s 50. The only way I won’t go forward is if I reach a point where I don’t think I can prove anything. Fighting Cloud is fighting Don King. That makes me excited about this fight. HBO says I’m the second biggest draw for them in boxing, still. People are watching to see if I can still do it. When people get tired of watching, I’ll stop.
* Originally this post said the fight was Friday night. The fight is Saturday night. Do not show up 24 hours early because of our mistake. SATURDAY.