Bernard Hopkins has never shied away from hyperbole. He is all about the bold statement, the brash prediction, the unvarnished truth as he sees it. It speaks to his fearlessness and to part of the reason why, at the age of 46, he still makes a living as a boxer.
Hopkins is Hopkins, Philly through and through. The years roll on. He stays the same. He is nothing if not consistent.
So it was on Tuesday. Hopkins was doing what Hopkins does best, being his colorful self while drumming up publicity and perhaps a little interest in the latest fight of his never-ending career. He was crediting Trader Joe's and Whole Foods with providing him a place to shop for healthy food. He was talking about running the hills by Boat House Row, jogging in Valley Green, and training in Philadelphia for his May 21 fight with Jean Pascal.
And Hopkins was talking about one of his favorite subjects - sports in his hometown - when it hit him. The Flyers are done. The 76ers are done. The Eagles are on hiatus.
"I am the franchise of Philadelphia right now," Hopkins said with a straight face. "The Phillies are playing, but it's early in the season, so we've got a while for that to happen. So right now, Bernard Hopkins is the franchise of Philadelphia when it comes to sports because I've delivered more than I've failed. I'm a Philly guy. [Donovan] McNabb's out of town, I don't have to worry about that now, so everything is good. This is another incentive to represent that."
Boy, are Union fans going to be ticked.
Hopkins was being cute. He is not the franchise of Philadelphia, but there is no denying that he has taken care of what he calls the temple that is his body as well, if not better, than any boxer who has come before. When he fights the 28-year-old Pascal in Montreal in a rematch of their majority draw in December, Hopkins will try to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a significant world title, surpassing George Foreman's record. The WBC, IBO, and Ring Magazine light-heavyweight belts will be on the line.
The story will be as it has been for years now: Can the aging boxer use his wits and avoid the big hits and then seduce the younger fighter into playing his style and losing on the judges' cards? Can the experience that comes with age trump the bravado of youth?
In the first fight in Quebec City, Pascal sent Hopkins to the canvas in two of the first three rounds. He was in total control of the fight. But in the final eight rounds, Hopkins made up the difference. Many in attendance thought Hopkins deserved to win, but he had to settle for a tie and a WBC-mandated rematch.
During a promotional event earlier this year, the WBC presented Hopkins with the equivalent of a lifetime achievement belt. Pascal, for whatever reason, then gave Hopkins his WBC and Ring Magazine belts. When the news conference was over, Pascal's people asked Hopkins' people for the belts back. Hopkins said no and brought the belts over the border to his Center City apartment.
"He really officially knew that I was supposed to have those titles," Hopkins said. "So they're at CityView at my apartment, and I look at them every morning. I know I have to make it official, but I already have the belts. . . . After Saturday they will be presented like they are always presented at [the] fight. They will be presented to me."
While Hopkins said he will wear a Bobby Clarke Flyers jersey up to Canada for the fight, Pascal will be fighting in his hometown, in front of his fans. A 2004 Canadian Olympian, Pascal has lost just once in 28 fights, and he has gone 4-0-1 since moving up to the light-heavyweight division.
Since turning 40 in 2005, Hopkins has gone 6-3-1, with wins over Howard Eastman, Antonio Tarver, Ronald Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas, and Roy Jones Jr.
Hopkins also has a three-fight deal with HBO, so he is not looking to end his career any time soon.
"I want to instigate and agitate a little bit," Hopkins said of his 59th career fight. "Broad Street bullies."
Instigate and agitate has not always translated into the most compelling boxing, but it has made Hopkins nice money over the years, which is most likely why he continues to fight even though his body is giving him subtle signs that it is tired. There are some realities you cannot escape, and age is one of them.
"I'm human," Hopkins said. "Every day I'm not feeling as great as I was yesterday. That's what it is. So I needed to see North Philly. I needed to run through Girard Avenue, through the park, train and sleep in my condo . . . and run up the steps of Rocky. I needed to see where I came from . . .
"I wanted to go back and recapture not the glory of the past days but to remind myself that I still have to fight like a hungry and a starving man and a man that wants something."
Hopkins wants to be the franchise, but he will settle for being the oldest boxing champion ever.
Contact columnist Ashley Fox
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