The morning began early at the Liacouras Center in Philadelphia. Around 9:45am, a casual and confident Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KO) accompanied by his promoter, Kathy Duva, and his translator greeted the room and introduced himself to the crowd of journalists. A few moments later with patience and poise, the soft spoken light heavyweight began fielding questions.
Q: What do you think about Hopkins taking this fight at age 49?
A: I think nothing. I have work to do.
Q: Did you ever dream about having a fight like this?
A: Dreams, of course. I have dreamed about this fight for a long time. This is definitely the most interesting fight of my career so far.
Q: It is pretty remarkable that this fight came about so quickly and is expected to be one of the most anticipated fights of 2014. How did you get to this point?
A: Step by step. Day by day. I work hard. I train. That’s how I got here.
Q: You haven’t had a fight past eight rounds, Bernard is known for taking fights the entire distance and using his endurance with his opponents. Does the type of fighter Bernard is make you a bit hesitant?
A: This is boxing. It doesn’t matter how many rounds are fought. When you’re in the ring, every punch is dangerous.
Q: Can you fathom that he’s 49?
A: If he’s fighting he must be feeling young.
Q: This fight was one that was unlikely, between the relationships with Showtime, HBO, and the promoters. It came together quickly, were you surprised this fight was scheduled?
A: It is not my job to do any of that. I’m ready for anyone at anytime. I’m a fighter. Fighting is my job.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk with Bernard since the fight was made? Did you shake hands?
A: I talked with him in Atlantic City after my last fight. You’ve seen the interview. Other than that, no.
Q: How have you felt about a fight with Golden Boy? Is this your first experience with Oscar?
A: You know, I met Oscar about four or five, four and a half, years ago. He was a big legend, when I had arrived here from Russia. He’s up there with Mike Tyson and a lot of other legendary fighters. I actually asked him to sign me when I met him. He didn’t. He really didn’t have time for me then. I remember thinking ‘Ok, see you someday,’ and here we are. We are on different sides.
Q: Have you wanted to fight Hopkins before now?
A: I named Hopkins as my favorite opponent a while ago. I was told it was not possible. We were always told it was not possible. He may have been the only person less possible than Stevenson to get a fight with. Here we are though, it is happening.
Q: How do you think you are different from the other opponents that have faced Hopkins?
A: I’m not different. I am the same. This is boxing. Anything can happen.
Q: How does it feel knowing that you are the favorite in this fight? Do you feel more pressured to get the knock out?
A: I am the favorite? Oh. How do you know I am the favorite?
C: I took a look at the odds, and the odds are favoring you to win.
A: Oh. I didn’t know that. This is my job. Boxing is my life. I’m just going to work.
Q: If the fight goes to or past the eighth round, what is your strategy?
A: I’m hoping to show everyone how I box with a legend. This is about what I have come to do as a professional.
Q: If you are victorious, what’s next? Will you be taking other big fights?
A: I don’t plan on stopping my career here. I will continue to fight anyone at anytime. I will continue to go after big fights and take on big opponents. This fight is what’s next. I don’t know what is after that.
Q: It is a not secret that Bernard Hopkins has a very colorful past. His life and the way that he grew up were tough. He spent some time in prison. Are there any similarities in your life? Do you think anything in your life has prepared you for this?
A: No. He had a life full of stress, very rough. He has had a difficult life. I did not have any of that. I’m a nice guy. When I was younger I went to school, I did my homework, then I went to bed. My life has been good. He and I grew up very differently.
Q: How are you liking Atlantic City? You’ve been there a few times. What makes you chose to keep this fight there?
A: I love Atlantic City. There’s more fans there, more Russian fans. It feels like home in Atlantic City. I’m excited to fight at Boardwalk Hall. I’m happy with the choice.
After some photographs, the clicking of cameras began as Bernard Hopkins entered the room with his trainer Naazim Richardson and promoter Oscar De La Hoya. Hopkins and De La Hoya shared a friendly smile and laughter before entering the conference room, and before Hopkins began answering questions, De La Hoya and Duva both addressed the room. De La Hoya thanked everyone for coming, announcing, “We are delighted to be promoting this fight. This is one of the best match-ups we’ve made and are looking forward to the progress we will be able to make during and after this fight. This type of fight that Golden Boy and Main Events were able to put together does not happen often.” Following De La Hoya, Kathy Duva of Main Events addressed the crowd. “We would like to thank Golden Boy for making this fight possible. This is exactly what the sport of boxing needs. We are happy to be working with Oscar and this looks like it will be the fight of the year. The sport is calling for matchups like these, the fans are delighted and we could not be more pleased to have been a part of making this possible.”
Without a moment’s hesitation, Bernard Hopkins, the 49 year old, self proclaimed, “Alien” began addressing the round table of journalists.
Q: Bernard, at age 49, how did you decide to take on this particular fight?
A: Every single fight I am proving people wrong. Here we are again. I’m proving people wrong. I’m here, I’m ready and I’m proving myself, yet again. I’ve been doing this for 26 years and I’m still answering questions like that. There’s really no telling what we’ll see. This is the biggest fight of the year. This fight will have the most press. This fight will be the biggest deal. We’re here. I’m glad I have the chance to be here, in this ring at this time. At this stage in the game, and at my age, I’m glad I can be in the ring.
Q: How do you feel about the fight taking place in Atlantic City?
A: Listen for the veterans in boxing, we can fight anywhere. Each ring is my ring. I’m in my comfort zone no matter where you put the ring. I can make anything on earth my home, and that is what I’m going to do. I love Atlantic City. I’m happy the fight is at Boardwalk Hall. It is going to attract a lot of fans. I will fight anywhere. I’m happy it is in Atlantic City this time around.
Q: Sergey Kovalev is one of the most avoided fighters in the sport at this time, does his style concern you at all?
A: No, he doesn’t concern me. I’m looking forward to seeing what he can do. What can he do other than punch? Can he do other things? I don’t know. This is a guy who has knocked out 93%-95% of his opponenets, I believe. They’re devastating punches. They can end careers. I’m eager to see what he’s going to bring to the gun fight other than bullets. Boxing is a sweet science. They call it the sweet science for a reason. The student is only as bright as the teacher in the new school of boxing. I’m from the old school of boxing. Things are not the way they used to be, but I have been doing this a long time. I have more tools in my belt and I am prepared to fight. Is he? I don’t know. I am.
In the midst of his answering, Bernard Hopkins was approached by an event assistant. She had suggested that Hopkins break during the questions so the staged photos take place, in order for Kovalev and the Main Events team to proceed to the Press Conference in New York City that was scheduled to take place at 2:30pm. It was brought to everyone’s attention that Bernard had his own game plan for the day, and for the duration of this camp. He responded to her, simultaneously addressing the media in the room with:
“No. This is a perfect example of what happens when you don’t stick to the game plan. Look, we’re answering questions now. I don’t care what he needs to do. I’m sitting down. I’m answering the questions now. When I’m finished answering questions, then we will do the photos and all of that. I do not deviate from my plan. This is the plan. We have a flow here. I’m not going to interrupt what I am doing or lose my focus. Next question.”
Q: Are you doing anything different while you train to get the job done against Kovalev?
A: This is his job to do. I’m just here to do what I’ve already done. I don’t need to be cocky about it. I’ve already proven myself. He has never been past a couple a rounds. He doesn’t fight very long. I’m here to be one of the greatest. I do push-ups in my corner while guys half my age need to sit down. I’m in the ring to be one of the greatest, beating me is his job. I’m here to do what I came to do. I’m writing my own legacy against the best of the best. He is a serious opponent, a serious boxer. He’s got, what, a 90-95% success rate at knocking guys out? He’s a great boxer. We’ll see. I’m nobody’s gatekeeper. I’m not a gatekeeper for nobody. I’ve been in my position for 26 years. I take history seriously. I know what I’m doing.
Q: Have you considered the timing of taking this fight? What is the timeline of your boxing career now?
A: Of course I have. Again, I take history seriously. Time line? I don’t have a timeline. They started calling me old at age 35. I will never forget it. All you guys said I was old when I was 35 years old. This is boxing. You get punished every time you get in the ring. I’m patient enough to wait for my punishment to pay off.
Q: You’re calling yourself an alien, how are you doing with all of that?
A: I’m an alien. I’m ageless. I’m timeless. I’m still the best. I’m consistently seeking out the best competition because to be the best, I need to beat the best. I’m an alien. With all due respect, don’t be putting me on anyone’s pound for pound list. I don’t belong on anyone’s pound for pound list. I need a different list. I’m in another category. I have a history of taking away 0’s on a record. I can give fighters a devastating loss. This is a sweet science. Boxing is more than conditioning or fights or wins or losses. Boxing is a sweet science and I am a master of my craft.
Without too much interaction, with the exception of Kovalev lingering amidst the crowd of reporters and listening into the mind of Hopkins’ Q & A, the fighters posed for their face-off photographs and exited the building, traveling onward to the press conference that took place at 2:30pm in New York City. The most interesting dynamic to watch, wasn’t the anticipated chattering of Hopkins or the stoic answers from Kovalev, but the cohesive nature of the event promotion by both GoldenBoy and Main Events. It appears as though not only is Hopkins vs. Kovalev a phenomenal match up and fan-fueled affair, but that it will be one of many to come as the big names in boxing are taking all the right steps in all the right directions.
Tickets are on sale September 5, 2014 at the Boardwalk Hall box office in Atlantic City, or at www.ticketmaster.com