Philly's Bernard Hopkins preparing for another title
If Bernard Hopkins could have extended the fingertips of his outstretched right hand a little bit more, he might have touched the ceiling.
The 48-year-old boxer was demonstrating how steep and high the hills are near Fairmount Park's Valley Green, where he runs at 6:30 each morning in preparation for his March 9 IBF light-heavyweight title bout with champion Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
But what Hopkins could not show with a wave of his hand are the doubts he wards off each morning. It is then, Hopkins said, that his mind and body begin to talk to each other.
Why do I do this? Am I too old? Am I doing enough?
"If you are not true to yourself and do not really mean what you say, only you and those thoughts know the secret," Hopkins said on Tuesday at Joe Hand Gym in Northern Liberties. "And then you get exposed when it comes to the squared circle."
It takes a diabolical mind, Hopkins said, to convince himself he still can do this.
"Only you know the demons within yourself," he said.
It's been 19 years since Hopkins (52-6, 32 KOs) won his first world title, and he has spent just three years since without a world title in his possession. He describes himself as "an old, dusty dude" and plans to fight until he is 50.
Hopkins said his secret is simple: He's different.
"They want to know if it's a secret," Hopkins said. "It's discipline. It's out there. . . . This is something that is really easy for me but not easy for most."
For the fourth straight time, Hopkins will meet an opponent 10 years his junior. Born in 1965, Hopkins has fought an opponent born in the 1960s just once in the last seven years.
And he is not fighting pushovers.
Jean Pascal was a rising name before Hopkins topped him in May 2011. Chad Dawson, who downed Hopkins in April, is a premier light-heavyweight.
Hopkins said that any boxer who defeats him becomes an "instant star."
"I don't have a problem with them reaching their dreams - but not on my dime, not on my watch," said Hopkins.
Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) may not be as dangerous as Dawson or Pascal, but his speed could cause problems. Cloud's promoter, the eccentric and longwinded Don King, described the 31-year-old Cloud as a "mini Mike Tyson."
Hopkins is more than eight years removed from his last win by knockout, but he predicts Cloud will be the 33d of his career.
"What do you do when you fight a guy that's fortysomething, close to 50, and you're younger by almost 18 or 19 years?" Hopkins said. "You jump on him. That's what I would do."
Wednesday afternoon will mark Hopkins' second 12-round sparring session of this training camp, and he plans to treat the day as if he were getting ready for a fight.
Instead of running at Valley Green, Hopkins will take a "relaxing" 10-minute walk around Columbus Boulevard near his high-rise condominium. And if the doubts find their way in, Hopkins will be ready.
"It's like I'm in the service," said Hopkins. "I'm going out and I'm loading my bombs on a plane, because I have a mission."
Contact Matt Breen at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @matt_breen.