Bernard ‘The Alien’ Hopkins will end his 27-year career as a professional boxer by challenging newly crowned IBF super-middleweight champion James DeGale in an HBO-televised bout in London. That’s the plan at least according to Hopkins.
In an exclusive interview with Philadelphia Daily News, the legendary fighter shocked the world again with his announcement that he would be interested in vying for one last world title.
“I’m interested in beating a guy up – the same guy that beat up [Andre] Dirrell.”
DeGale (21-1) picked up the vacant IBF super-middleweight title with a unanimous decision victory over Dirrell on May 23 in Boston.
Hopkins (55-7), a former two-division world champion, last fought on Nov. 8, when he fought Russian slugger Sergey Kovalev, a fight that he lost by unanimous decision, losing his IBF and WBA light-heavyweight titles in the process in a one-sided fight.
At the post-fight news conference, Hopkins was asked to elaborate his future plans, and he was candid as usual.
“Asking me to fight right now is like asking a woman that just was in nine-hour labor if she was going to have another baby,” Hopkins said.
Naazim Richardson, Hopkins’s trainer for the past 10 years, added at the time that Hopkins would be smart to wait before deciding whether to return to competition.
“You don’t make decisions like that on a night like tonight,” Richardson said. You go home with your family and see how it goes. Nobody told him when to start. Nobody can tell him when to finish.”
Hopkins, who turned 50 on Jan. 15, appears to have made his decision.
Earlier this year, Hopkins mentioned former super-middleweight champion Carl Froch (33-2) or Kazakh lean, mean, fighting machine Gennady ‘GGG’ Golovkin (33-0), who has knocked out 20 opponents consecutively.
Froch is on the brink of retirement and only interested in a fight with Golovkin. And, with all due respect, a fight with Golovkin at this stage in his career, would be suicidal for Hopkins to consider.
Hopkins turned his attention to DeGale, 29, who became the first British boxer to capture Olympic gold and go on to snag a world title in the professional ranks.
If DeGale is interested in participating in Hopkins’s swan song, the fight will not be difficult to make.
DeGale’s promoter, Eddie Hearn, has maintained a healthy relationship with Golden Boy Promotions, where Hopkins is a minority partner. But, Hopkins adds that he has to make his decision by the end of the month because of a deadline put forth by HBO.
“I have to make my decision before the end of June,” Hopkins said. “I’m glad that HBO wants to exercise that option, and, of course, I would want to do if the right opponent is there and it makes sense to both sides.
If the fight doesn’t happen, it’s not the end of the world for Hopkins, who debuted as an expert commentator for HBO, commencing with Sergey Kovalev’s eighth-round TKO of former titlist Jean Pascal on March 14 in Montreal.
“I’m passionate about it,” Hopkins added. “It keeps me relevant in a way that goes beyond throwing a punch.”
With a victory over Jean Pascal in a May 2011 rematch, Hopkins became the oldest man in the history of the sport to win a world title, supplanting George Foreman’s record, which had been in place since 1994. Also, Hopkins would go on to break that record four more times leading up to the loss to Kovalev.
Jim Lampley, who has been the blow-by-blow commentator for HBO for the past 27 years, commended Hopkins for showing as much dedication to broadcasting as he did for extending his career past a point where most elite fighters can’t even prepare, let alone compete at the level they were once accustomed to.
“In spending time with him, I know Bernard wakes up every morning with a curious mind,” Lampley said. “He’s energized by his own natural drive. That’s not easily going to go away in him. He’s never going to be finished learning about the horizons that he can conquer. It’s just that we’re getting to the point where those horizons no longer will be carved out in the ring, but at ringside.
“But a fight with DeGale, if it comes to fruition, makes sense for him. He’d be matching his skills against another technician with a legitimate pedigree. It’d be youth against antiquity. There’s a lot of appeal there.”
Although Hopkins has fought as high 175 pounds, he has never fought at the super-middleweight division limit of 168.
After two controversial defeats to Jermain Taylor following a record 20 middleweight title defenses, Hopkins jumped to the light-heavyweight division.
“There’s a few things that would need to fall into place,” IBF President Darryl Peoples said. “But, given what he’s accomplished, we would give Bernard due consideration if he petitioned to be reclassified as a super-middleweight. To date, nothing formal has been presented to us.”