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Classic: Boxing World Pays Tribute To Bernard Hopkins (2004)

(Note: This article about one of the greatest champions in boxing history Bernard Hopkins was originally posted at this site in 2004.)
For a decade we’ve read what the media portrayed to us about Bernard Hopkins. For many years we’ve listened to what the TV commentators thought of Bernard Hopkins and how he conducted his extraordinary yet sometimes controversial career.

But rarely, if ever, have we gotten to know about Bernard Hopkins from perhaps the most telling perspective of all – his peers. Now, it’s time to let the boxers speak their points of view on the inspiration, the king, the pound-for-pound best, Bernard Hopkins…

Hasim Rahman, former IBF/WBC Heavyweight champion: “Obviously I feel like he’s a man, he did it his way. And at the end, he was smarter than a lot of people. Everybody always talked about what he walked away from, but he held his own, he stood firm, he stood his ground and I think he wound up on top. So I gotta take my hat off to him.”

Wladimir Klitschko, former WBO Heavyweight champ: “I think Bernard Hopkins is something unusual. And he gets so much success, especially after the de la Hoya fight. And he’s really on the top of everything. And he really shows that if you’re focused, focused – and you want to get a goal – you’ll get it. It doesn’t matter how difficult it is. (He’s 39 and the best, what makes him so good?) Yes, that’s unbelievable. He’s ancient. He did it. I think the will to survive – because in boxing you have to survive. You have to keep winning. Otherwise you’re out. But he’s focused on his boxing life. That’s what he wants to do.”

Andrew Golota, heavyweight contender: “Hopkins surprised me (in de la Hoya fight). He didn’t rush, he stayed in his gameplan. He was unbelievable, like a professor. He fought like a professor. I like his way he fought. He stuck with his gameplan. It was easy, step by step. He threw his punches one at a time. He didn’t try to take big steps, just little steps. One step at a time, de la Hoya just gave it up. I didn’t think the punch was involved in the quitting. He just quit. He wasn’t punched out, he just quit. (You met Hopkins ringside at the Trinidad-Mayorga fight?) Yes. He’s a good guy, you know. He gave me advice for the (Ruiz) fight. He told me to, Stay focused.”

Vivian Harris, WBA Junior Welterweight champion: “That’s a fighter with a lot of brains and intelligence, and has respect for his opponents. Bernard Hopkins never underestimates nobody. As
a top fighter, I think you should always be on your game. Bernard Hopkins is always on his game. And you should always be smart when you’re fighting. And you should always try to break a fighter down and you should always try to win the fight with intelligence. Oscar de la Hoya disappointed me (against Felix Sturm). He fought like he didn’t have any brains. Because that stuff Oscar put out there – as a top fighter – that was totally stupid. Throwing a lot of body punches like that – it wasn’t even solid body shots – (Oscar) wasn’t setting no punches up. He just threw punches. And he looked fat. What? You don’t have respect for an opponent? And you call yourself a pound-for-pound fighter? You’re a great fighter? Great fighters never looked bad like that. Bernard Hopkins fought Robert Allen two times already and in the third fight he came out boxing perfectly in the first round. He used his head. Great fighters don’t underestimate nobody. Bernard Hopkins is a great fighter.”

Robbie Peden, number one ranked IBF Junior Lightweight: “He’s a true professional. Beautiful. He changes his style every fight. He looks after his body. He stands on principle. Sometimes he doesn’t make the right decision monetarily but you can’t blame him. He’s the one walkin’ down the street…unless we walk in his shoes, down his street, we can’t determine what he should do. (Did you ever meet him?) I met him a few times. We actually fought on the same card – when he fought Antwun Echols in Miami. We talked. He got WBC Fighter of the Year one year, I got NABF Fighter of the Year in Miami, big convention. That Bernard – he can talk! We talked basically about his upcoming fight. I asked him if he’s ready? He said, I’m always ready [smiles]. Which is the truth.”

Angelo Dundee, Hall of Fame trainer: “I really enjoyed Bernard Hopkins. I met him for the first time last year in Miami when he was training for William Joppy. He sparred with my youngster David Estrada. A guy like Bernard Hopkins is a blessing for a young kid, ’cause he’s like a teacher. Luis Rodriguez (former Welterweight champ) was something like that. He could spar with anybody, he never hurt nobody. And these kids learn. David loved him. Loved the idea of working with him. Bernard works real nice in the gym. I love him. Beautiful smoothness, footwork, heckuva jab. They went four or five rounds. It was terrific. Watching it was like something you watch when you go to school. He’s what you call a perfect fighting machine. In the gym he’s steady, steady, steady. He doesn’t look to take advantage. Because he knows he’s superior. Some of these guys want to be king of the gym. Bernard Hopkins is not like that. It’s good to see that. Boxing needs more people like that. What I like about Bernard Hopkins is he has a smile on his face. It’s nice to be that way. His people around him are nice people too.”\par

Kermit Cintron, welterweight contender who recently sparred 16 rounds with Hopkins: “He treated me great. I mean, he’s a great guy. A lot of people think he might be ignorant, but he’s not, he’s really a great guy. I learned a lot from him. Learned how to, and when not to punch, when to punch. His craftiness, his speed, his reflexes – I was surprised. For the age of 39 he’s a true champion. Afterwards, his trainers would tell me what I did wrong and things I do right. (Did he say anything that really inspired you?) On the last day of sparring he just said that I got it. I mean, that was it, that I ‘got it.’ I have the heart, I’m hungry. I got it, just keep with it.'”

Andrew Council, challenged Hopkins (L12) for IBF title in 1997: “Hopkins is one of the best conditioned guys in the world. He don’t eat no red meat, no junk. His condition – that’s why he’s able to fight at this age. Because a lot of the younger guys really can’t fight, and he knows how to fight. (What was different about fighting Hopkins?) Just his conditioning, he doesn’t get tired, keeps coming and wears you down. (What’s his best punch?) He’s not a big puncher. It’s his conditioning, his mentality of Keep coming forward. Not really a big puncher. He seems to get stronger later in the fight.”

Lou Del Valle, former WBA Light Heavyweight Champion: “That’s one guy you can say he’s always ready to work, he’s clean, he lives a good life, he helps the fighters, he talks up what the promoters do and what the managers do, and he’s been getting robbed and jerked for the money. But he’s a great fighter, a great ambassador for boxing. (Do you know him at all?) Yeah, he’s my boy! He always tells me that he’s gonna take me to Florida, then bring me to Philadelphia to get my act together [smiles]!”

Iran Barkley, former super middleweight and light heavyweight champion: “You gotta respect Bernard Hopkins. He’s doin’ it his way. Technical-wise, he’s a good fighter. He’s rulin’ what he’s doin’. I believe he’s holdin’ his crowns as well as he can do it. I know him as a person. Me and him have a lot of respect for each other. I’m glad he’s accomplished what he’s done. There’s times I wish I could have been able to control my situation. I could control it but at the time my life was in other people’s hands. I had to – at the time – it’s not like now where they callin’ their own shots. I had to – if I didn’t do what the promoter said – which is the powers-that-be like Arum – I wouldn’t have had my titles. I would have just had to be in the back of the line or something.”
As a person, Bernard is a good, nice person. I haven’t spent much time around him. But the time that I have, I respect him as a person. I remember one time, it was in Philly (at the press conference for the Hakkar fight), he said, There’s another champion here, Iran Barkley. I remember the things he was doing and I gotta secure the money for my family. And I can’t let nobody make decisions for me. I have to do it my way, because if I don’t – here’s another example of a great champion that people directed to do what they wanted him to do and he had a bad experience with ’em. So I kinda respected when Bernard did that.”

Monte Barrett, heavyweight contender: “Well, I respect Bernard a great deal. I always see B, he says, Hello, what’s up. One day, when Trinidad fought Mayorga, he pulled me to the side, and he’s like, What’s goin’ on? Where you at? So I said, Well, you know how politcs is. He pulled me to the side, he’s like, I don’t like you even talkin’ like that. And I appreciate him takin’ the time out to express himself to me saying, Listen, you better than that. Politics can only do two things – it can make you or break you. So next time someone asks you how you’re doing, you say you’re focused, you’re ready to go. But you don’t sound motivated. So he’s like, Don’t let politics get to you in this game. He said, Believe me, I’m the king of this controversy thing. So I know. So I took it like that. Everything helps in this world. In this boxing game, everything helps. Sometimes you get sidetracked. We all human. It only takes one word or one sentence from people for you to say, Oh okay, I’m back on track. So I have a great deal of respect for him. And I wish him all the success in his career that he didn’t have already.”

Lamon Brewster, WBO Heavyweight champion: “Bernard Hopkins is a pioneer. When you talk about a fighter taking control of his own career. And he’s a warrior as well. I tend to – this is the only time I tend to get upset with the critics – because this is a man who didn’t duck anybody. He fought everybody. But (some of the media) got something to say negative about this man. And now that he’s finally got to where he feels content, everybody wants to ride on his coattails. I don’t think that’s right. This man is a warrior. Whether he looks good or not, he still won. A win is a win. I just think it’s not fair, people always lookin’ for that knockout. But knockin’ a man out all the time, you don’t learn. In order to grow in any business, you have to go the distance sometime. That’s what I feel like about Bernard Hopkins. He definitely led the way, set a guideline for me and for other fighters who want to take control. Instead of just leavin’ it in the hands of your managers and being at their fate.”

Joe Byrd, father/trainer of IBF Heavyweight champ Chris Byrd: “I got a lot of respect for Hopkins. One reason is he taught us age is just a number. And he’s a helluva nice guy when you meet him, personally in person. He spent that time in prison, he’s still a young man, some guys are younger but they live crazy lives. Bernard lives a clean life. I met him, he’s a nice guy. You meet him in person – you can’t ever meet a better guy. When I first met him we were at the convention out in Phoenix in ’98 or ’99. And he walk up, Mr. Byrd. He just start talkin’, and he just down-to-earth. He ain’t all cocky, like some fighters, I’m the world champion, the top pound-for-pound, the best in the world…he just Hopkins. He just down-to-earth, nice guy.”

Zab Judah, WBO Junior Welterweight champ: “He the king. He the grandfather of boxing right now. You know what I’m sayin’, he’s the big boy, the Big Kahuna right now. He the head honcho. You gotta take your hat off to him. (Do you get along okay with him?) B-Hop – that’s my boy. From Philly to New York baby, we got it on a lot. We got a great deal of respect for each other. And I love him like a brother and all that. I mean, he’s a good dude, that’s all you can really say.”

Kelly Swanson, boxing publicist: “Working with him on the last two shows, I really got to know him and got closer to him. From my perspective, Bernard is a PR person’s dream. Because he’s willing to do almost anything you ask him to do. He loves to talk with the media. If it fits in his schedule, he’ll do it. Even for the biggest fight of his life with Oscar de la Hoya, he never said no…He’s so funny, he’s really funny. I mean, he had me cracking up all the time. Sometimes he’d be really goofy, making facial expressions or mimic somebody. I remember this: In Las Vegas, they were at the press conference. Most fighters are like, I’m out of here, let me go eat. But Bernard stayed and was sitting in a corral-type situation. And they started talking about Oscar’s looks, and how handsome he was and everything. And one of the media guys was like, Oh, does Kelly tell you that? That you look so handsome? And he was like, no, he just reminds me to put in my teeth! So, like that engagement, it was so funny. He is not vain. I think he’s a good-looking guy. It’s just that he’s so matter-of-fact about everything, with this quirkiness. And that’s what makes him so real. He’s so matter-of-fact, there’s no real bull****. What you see is what you get. He’ll tell you honestly how he feels. Which, from a professional standpoint, I love that….Every day we’d leave the MGM, he’d come down the back way and get into the car – to take him to the press conference, or take him to the gym. Just wherever he had to go, he was always going through the back way. And there were always construction workers outside. And they became his regulars. And by the time the week went by, all of them hats were signed. He never once just brushed by them and got in the car. He was just real nice. And I know it wasn’t just this, Hey, how you doin’ guy? But by the end of the week, when the next day – because he stayed till Monday – And so Monday there’s one of the guys was this huuuge boxing fan. He was a Vegas dude, really nice guy, white guy with long hair. He knew boxing really well. But he knew Bernard really well, his background and everything. And he had his money on him, he had his money on him every fight he fought. And he said all his buddies were saying Trinidad was gonna beat Bernard. And this guy’s always – full court press Bernard Hopkins. By Monday you could just tell this guy was – that week probably made his life. And I know it made Bernard’s life, to have this guy out there every day, knowing how much he really believed in him.”

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