IT'S NOT HARD to figure out what IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud is thinking going into his title defense against Bernard Hopkins on Saturday at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
It's likely the same thing guys such as Chad Dawson, Jean Pascal, Kelly Pavlik, Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor thought before they stepped into the ring with Hopkins:
Put "The Executioner" down. Grow your brand and reputation by being the fighter who finally sent the ageless wonder into retirement. Knock Hopkins out. Deliver the beating that convinces him that time finally has caught up to him.
"[Hopkins] is a good fighter," said Cloud (24-0 with 19 knockouts). "He's earned his keep, but I just don't think he can hit me.
"I think he trains hard and he lives his life right. He's made sacrifices to increase his longevity, but you know it's been too long."
That has been the mantra since 2005 when Hopkins, then 40 years old, lost his unified middleweight championship to a younger Taylor and then lost the rematch.
Since then, Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 knockouts, two draws), now 48, has gone 6-2-1 with a no-contest. Along the way, he became the oldest man to win a boxing championship.
If he hasn't exactly thrived the way he did when he was younger, he's definitely stuck around.
And that might be more than you can say about the guys who fought Hopkins. Win, lose or draw, most of the recent guys who fought Hopkins have seen their careers decline rather than flourish afterward.
It started with Taylor, who was 25-0 and looked like the next big thing after he beat Hopkins twice in the span of about 5 months in 2005.
But after the second fight, Taylor fought to a draw with Winky Wright. He defended his middleweight title two more times before losing it to Kelly Pavlik in 2007. Post-Hopkins, Taylor is 6-4-1.
Wright was 51-3-1 before his loss to Hopkins in 2007. He lost his next two fights and then retired.
Calzaghe won a disputed split decision over Hopkins and then beat equally ancient Roy Jones Jr. before retiring with perfect 46-0 record in 2008.
Hopkins said Calzaghe preferred to quit rather than fight him again in a rematch.
Pavlik defended his middleweight title twice and brought a 34-0 record into a "catch weight" (170 pounds) bout with Hopkins on Oct. 18, 2008.
Hopkins dominated Pavlik, who was 18 years his junior, and won a unanimous decision. Pavlik went 6-1 after Hopkins but had alcohol problems and retired in January at 30.
Pascal was 26-1 before he fought Hopkins to a draw in 2010. Five months later, he lost his light heavyweight championship to the 46-year-old Hopkins in a rematch. He's fought only once since that loss.
Dawson took Hopkins light heavyweight title in 2012 but then lost a Super Middleweight title fight to Andre Ward. Dawson is scheduled to fight Pascal in May.
The post-Hopkins history of other fighters doesn't faze Cloud.
"The word 'snoozefest' comes to mind [when talking about Hopkins' fighting style]. He's a boring fighter," he said. "Fighting a fighter like Bernard Hopkins, who's supposed to be a legend, puts me in a different frame of mind. It puts me on my toes. I know this Saturday I'm going to be victorious, because I'm going to put on a great show."
Cloud, 31, comes from meager beginnings, growing up in house in Tallahassee, Fla., that sometimes had 10 to 15 people living there. By the time he turned professional in 2004, Hopkins had already defended his middleweight title 18 times.
He beat Clinton Woods to win the vacant IBF light heavyweight title in 2009 and has successfully defended it four times - most recently against Gabriel Campillo in February, 2012.
Cloud said that, at this point, Hopkins relies solely on mind games and sneaky, "sometimes dirty" tricks to get by. He said he will not get caught up in Hopkins' gamesmanship, such as on Wednesday, when Hopkins showed up for the final news conference in his executioner's hood and then refused to speak.
"It was childish," Cloud told Ring TV. "I just thought it childish. It was funny to turn around and see a grown man with a ski mask on standing there and saying nothing to nobody.
"I'd be a fool to get caught up in Bernard Hopkins' mind games. That's a fool's game buying into those traps. When the bell rings Saturday night, we're both equals.
"I'm going to give the people their money's worth . . . true sports entertainment for their dollar. I'm the undefeated IBF light heavyweight champion making my fifth defense.
"I've beaten so many odds. I feel kind of invincible. Saturday, we'll see it all come to fruition."
Win, lose or draw, history says that the most interesting thing concerning Cloud and his fight with Hopkins is what will happen after that.