Hopkins: 'There is no controversy to me'
Saturday's Jean Pascal-Bernard Hopkins light heavyweight title rematch in Montreal (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) will be the ultimate crossroads fight. Aside from being the biggest fight in Canada's history, the bout will feature a former amateur standout facing a champion who learned his trade in the prison yards, a young and brash self-appointed role model facing a fighter who is vying to become the oldest man to win a boxing championship, and two master trash-talkers trading unusually sharp verbal jabs throughout the promotion. We caught up with Bernard Hopkins, 46, during the last leg of his training camp to hear his thoughts about the matchup:
What kind of adjustments have you made in your strategy for this second Pascal fight?
I haven't really made any adjustments. I won the fight the first time, so if I repeat what I did in December, hopefully it will be different for the judges this time. Other than that, everything is the same. I mean, it's not so much the adjustments that I can make before; you need to make adjustments right there in the ring at the spur of the moment, and that's how the veteran and the professional that I am will emerge.
Do you believe you have a better chance outboxing him or outslugging him?
I am going to approach this fight in the best possible way I know how at this stage of my long career, and that is to approach it as it is presented. If he comes in looking for a shootout, then we'll have a shootout. If he thinks he's smarter than me and that his boxing IQ is higher than mine, then I will prove that I am a Harvard graduate and he's just a community college graduate. So at the end of the day, whatever is presented to me, I will adjust very, very quickly, and then the games will begin.
Pascal claims he got under your skin this time. Has he?
The only way to get under Bernard Hopkins' skin is reaching for my wallet and trying to take it away from me.
What would it take to erase the controversy from your first encounter?
There is no controversy to me. The reason for this rematch is something that I did, not something that I didn't do. That's pretty much self-explanatory. That's why we're here. I won the fight according to most journalists, but they gave it to Jean.
How important is it for you to win the championship and break the record as the oldest fighter to win a title?
Winning this championship is very important. It's extremely important for my legacy and for the standards and the expectations that young fighters will have, to try to break a record like the one that will be broken Saturday. Just as George Foreman reminded me the other day during our conference call, records are made to be broken, and they are meant to be broken. But at the end of the day, I just think that I am raising the bar within my family and within boxing, too, where I will sit back as my golden years approach and have fun listening to people asking 'Who could break Bernard's record?' just as it happens with Babe Ruth or other great baseball players or great basketball players. To be a part of that elite group, to me, is fantastic.
Other than being the oldest champ in boxing, what do you believe your legacy to boxing will be?
I believe I will be respected. How many fighters make 21 defenses [of a world title], in the middleweight or any division? I have always stayed disciplined, mentally and physically. I believe that this could send anybody into the Hall of Fame. I am the only middleweight champ to have ever won a light heavyweight championship. [Editor's note: Roy Jones Jr., Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns also won titles at both middleweight and light heavyweight.] [Sugar] Ray Robinson attempted to do it, but as we know, he couldn't come out for the 15th round [actually the 13th round, against Joey Maxim in New York in 1952], so I made history doing that. I mean, I made history after history after history, and here we are now. Next weekend we're headed to this again. But at the end of the day, I think that the people who look at this and analyze this, I believe they will put me in a respectful place. That's what I am hoping for. Up to now, I am a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I accomplished a lot of things, and I set my own records. There's going to be people trying to break those records as time goes on, and that's legacy. Not too many fighters are able to do this.
What are your plans after this fight?
Right now, after I win this fight, I will be looking to defend this title against Chad Dawson, who will be on the undercard in Montreal. But right now everything is focused on Saturday.
How do you envision the fight unfolding Saturday night?
I see this fight ending with a big victory by Bernard Hopkins after dominating the fight. If the fight goes the distance, I will dominate more rounds than him, and at the end of the day, I think he'll have to reevaluate his career, just like Jermain Taylor or Kelly Pavlik did.
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.
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