I recently sat down with boxer Bernard Hopkins for an episode of "In Depth." The 46-year-old recently surpassed George Foreman as the oldest boxer to win a championship. Hopkins, nicknamed "The Executioner," talks about his physical and mental fight preparation, plus his extremely disciplined diet. Hopkins also reflects back to his childhood growing up in a poor neighborhood in Philadelphia. He explains why he chose to become a criminal, details his 5 years in prison and what happened when he learned his brother was murdered while he was locked up. Hopkins also talks about his longtime trainer Bouie Fisher and his last memory of Fisher before he died.
Hopkins younger brother was killed shortly after Hopkins began serving his prison sentence. The person who killed his brother was sent to the same prison where Hopkins was serving his time. Hopkins says the man chose to take lockup instead of entering into the general population. Hopkins said he is grateful for that decision: "He took lock up. Um, I'm glad he did..... I'd have been forced to get him killed or kill him. I'd have been forced to risk my life and my mother, Shirley Hopkins, would have lost two sons in one year. Cause I would have been in jail for the rest of my life and she would have been burying one."
Bernard Hopkins reflects on what it was like growing up in the ghetto in Philadelphia. He talks about his mother who drank, and his father who did drugs: "My mother was more of a drinker. I have never seen her use drugs, but my father he shot heroin dope, I found needles I found bottle caps that was burnt underneath later I found what it was." Hopkins was, as he described, "the baddest bad guy in the neighborhood."
Bernard Hopkins shares his prediction for his fight against Chad Dawson: "I'll win and I'll win big...... I think it is more impressive for a 46-year-old man to beat a 29-year-old man for 12 rounds easily. That to me is more impressive than getting a knock out in the first or the second round."
Bernard Hopkins talks about being the oldest boxer to ever win a title and when he is going to retire: "... if you get your body right, you get your mind right, whatever you do you have a fighting chance and you have a chance to be victorious. That is the message beyond sports that is the message in everything."
On his strict diet and healthy lifestyle, Hopkins says he treats his body like a temple.
Bensinger: "When was the last time that you had alcohol?"
Hopkins: "23 years ago even longer, it was when I was 18, 17, 16 when I was younger."
Bensinger: "What about soda today?"
Hopkins: "No. Soda is the worst thing. Soda to me is like liquid crack ....my glass of wine is everyday. It is just not red or white .....I'm just not having the fun that you like to have fun."
Bernard Hopkins talks about winning fights against younger boxers like Jean Pascal Jermaine Taylor and Kelly Pavlik: "These guys old enough to be my son if you do the math. And so when you teach them, you teach them and whoop them at the same time. And then if they are humble enough, they will get something out of it. If they don't, then they will be haunted and their careers will be over."
Hopkins was arrested more than 30 times and eventually sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Bensinger: "And you said, you spent many nights in there crying. What were you crying about?"
Hopkins: "You might not never get out of there. And, you always want to camouflage all of the weaknesses that might have come upon you while you're there and you never do that in the open. It was a lot of praying."
Hopkins on spending his last day with his long-time trainer Bouie Fisher. Fisher was dying and Hopkins was called to come see him in the hospital: "And I stepped away from the bed so he can see me and see my legs and my foot. ..... And so I start shadow boxing. And I start moving in the hospital. And he start getting excited... That was the last time I seen Bouie Fisher alive."
Bernard Hopkins' fight against Felix Trinidad on September 29th, 2001 was the first major sporting event in Manhattan following the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001: >"It was packed. Twenty thousand people under one roof in New York City two weeks after 9-11. Um, that will be attached to the biggest night of my career as a fight itself, but also the worst tragedy of, of the history of the United States that I played not a part in, but played a part of not being a hostage and a prisoner in, in our homes across the world, especially in New York City."
The Bernard Hopkins episode (the clips contain bonus content unable to make the full episode due to time constraints):