Bernard Hopkins’ reputation as one of the most intelligent fighters in the ring can be attributed to his near three decades of experience in the sport. Along his journey, he’s developed stratagems to defeat his opponents, not only from a physical standpoint, but also from a psychological aspect as well.
A method Hopkins utilizes in the ring falls under the category of “rough housing.” Hopkins tends to lead in with his head at times, throw illegal blows from an angle where the referee is unable to see, and challenge the mental fortitude of his opponents.
This can cause his opponent to become flustered and make uncharacteristic moves, thus giving Hopkins a psychological advantage in the fight.
Sergey Kovalev understands that Hopkins may choose to utilize his veteran dirty tactics inside the ring. These unconventional techniques that Hopkins implements do not sit well with Kovalev.
“Sometimes he is like a clown. He is punching [with] open hands. Punching from the head like a deer. He [fights] like a street fighter. He can cut you from the head, from the elbow, everything, from any part of his body. He looks like a very dirty fighter,” Kovalev said.
Kovalev understands this is part of Hopkins’ game and has no problem returning the favor if things get out of hand.
“I want this fight to be fair. I try to be polite, I try to be nice, but if my opponent don’t respect me then I don’t respect him.”
Oscar De La Hoya, who has been in the ring with Hopkins, knows firsthand how difficult it is to compete against Hopkins’ signature dirty tactics inside the ring.
“I believe that Hopkins focuses not on what’s he’s going to do physically, but on what he can do to get his opponent out of their comfort zone and what combinations does he not expect from me. I wouldn’t say he’s awkward, but he knows how to offset his opponents. Everything he does is calculated,” De La Hoya said.