Bernard Hopkins is like most other boxers. He just wants you to believe otherwise, which also makes him, well, like most other boxers.
He's a champion who can't let go. A pugilist fueled by dollars more than by his legacy. A man whose word evidently is not as strong as his ego, hunger or business acumen, since he plans to fight long after he promised his mother he would be done.
It works for me.
Hopkins is ending the retirement he began last June, after he dethroned light-heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. He never should have walked away from boxing so early, even at the age of 41. Even after promising his mother that he would be done by age 40. When you're the light-heavyweight champion of the world, fresh off a beat-down of one of the world's best fighters, you get to depart on your terms. Especially when someone you knocked out a few years ago still manages to stick around and collect $20 million for one night's work.
Bernard Hopkins is no Oscar De La Hoya. This much we know.
Hopkins isn't quite as handsome. He doesn't speak Spanish, as far as we know. And since he talks so frequently about himself in the third person, some would say he's a bit challenged grammatically. Yet the only thing we should be challenging today is his selection of an opponent for his next fight, Winky Wright.
A great fighter, for sure. But far from spectacular.
"I'm not ready to retire," Hopkins explained yesterday, hanging out at a news conference in his hometown of Philadelphia, here to promote De La Hoya's mega-match with Floyd Mayweather Jr. "It's the same question with Oscar De La Hoya. It ain't about what we fought for five or 10 years ago. It's about another man saying he's better than you, and you want to prove otherwise by any means necessary. That means you go out there and do what you've got to do."
Forgive Hopkins. Occasionally he verbally ventures into the absurd.
You could scour the globe, march through the streets of both Hopkins and Wright's hometown, and wink at Don King for one of his hyperbolic rants, and you still couldn't find a soul who yearned for a Hopkins vs. Wright encounter.
Neither Hopkins nor Wright is a knockout artist, but they are fabulous boxers. Both can counterpunch. Both are beautiful defensive technicians with solid, if not great, chins. By the time the fifth round rolls around on July 21, fans will be jumping out of their seats for a mere one-two combination, praying it will materialize into something.
They are simply that boring.
Hopkins and Wright don't possess left hooks like De La Hoya's. They aren't as flashy, as gifted, as elusive as Mayweather. Neither leaves any room for suspense, because both lack lightning speed and the one-punch knockout power that pay-per-view subscribers crave.
Eventually, Hopkins vs. Wright will mean nothing, which makes it even more inexplicable why Hopkins would go against his vow of retirement for a fight so insignificant.
"I like hitting people without getting locked up," Hopkins joked. "I've been hitting people for 20 years, and this is therapy for me. A lot of people, I want to hit the hell out of them, so I just take it in the ring. You hit somebody and you get paid for it. Because if I hit somebody and don't get paid for it, that means I get a case. That means I get arrested."
But seriously . . .
"I know I'm not the person I was 20 years ago," Hopkins continued. "My wife tells me that all the time. But in this game of boxing, when it's time to go, your body will tell you. And if you don't listen, people will tell you. But right now people are saying to me, 'Forget what other people say.' Bernard Hopkins is one of those rare athletes that can fight another two or three years if he wants to."
Actually, he probably can fight longer than that.
A sequel with Jermain Taylor would be nice to see. A rematch with Tarver wouldn't hurt, either. Considering the shape Hopkins keeps himself in, no one would've sneezed at the possibility of his moving up to heavyweight to fight Oleg Maskaev, or staying at light heavyweight for another rematch with Roy Jones Jr.
"I have options," Hopkins said weeks ago.
Yeah, so we've heard.
He had the option of staying retired. Of keeping his word to his mother. Of walking away with all his faculties in order, free to live a healthy life.
Then again, he had the option of minimizing his earning capabilities, too.
He chose otherwise.
Here's hoping it's worth it. Not just for him. But for those of us who will watch, too.