Bernard Hopkins, the WBC light-heavyweight champion, talked to the Phillies before last night's game at the invitation of manager Charlie Manuel. But the bigger news might have been afterward, when Hopkins talked to reporters for 23 minutes, 41 seconds and never once mentioned Donovan McNabb.

Manuel met the 46-year-old Philadelphia champion about 3 years ago, but invited him to address the team after hearing Hopkins speak recently during an interview on Comcast SportsNet.

"I enjoyed it, and I think our guys enjoyed it," Manuel said. "He was very good. He's a very positive guy . . . He was talking about winning, what it takes, things like that. He was very good, really. It was basically about how hard it is, and how determined you have to be. Dedication."

Hopkins talked extensively with reporters about how difficult it is to stay motivated when you are no longer fighting for the rent money, which he saw as a universal sports question and a bridge between boxing and a game in which he was admittedly terrible as a kid.

Asked about the highest level of baseball he played, Hopkins said, "I was about 13 years old. I was chasing somebody down the street with a bat."

As for real baseball players, with their long-term guaranteed contracts, Hopkins acknowledged he has no idea how they stay motivated. He said, "If I had a guaranteed contract, you'd be calling me 'Canvasback.' "

What it comes down to, for boxer or ballplayers, is "the will to win," Hopkins said. Of course, seeing as how the Phillies have won four straight National League East titles and appear to be fixing to win a fifth this year, it isn't as if they all didn't understand that message already. *