2001 was a phenomenal year for entertainment. It was the year that saw the world introduced to a young Alicia Keys whose heartfelt ballad, ‘Fallin,’ shot to the number 2 slot on the Billboard Top 100 singles for the year.
In sports entertainment, Super Bowl XXXV crowned the Baltimore Ravens champions by a blowout 34-7 over the New York Giants. Although, a Super Bowl win usually is the hallmark of any American sports year, this year was challenged by an equally impressive benchmark. Bernard Hopkins unified the titles of the middleweight division from all three of boxing’s major sanctioning bodies: the World Boxing Council, the World Boxing Association and the International Boxing Federation.
This impressive feat would have been fine on its own but what solidifies it as legendary is that it was accomplished over Felix “Tito” Trinidad, who at the time was the reigning WBA (Super) Middleweight champ. Along with the vacant The Ring Middleweight title, Hopkins was on a high that that can only be matched by a repeat, and now at 49 years old against Beibut Shumenov, Hopkins will start his attempt towards the seemingly impossible. The ageless champion sat down with The Shadow League to reflect on his career, his upcoming fight and his legacy in the sport of boxing.
“It starts off what I believe is going to be a historic ending and that is to become for the second time in my career the undisputed champion of the world,” said Hopkins, “and the big prize at the end of the day is based on status and based on the man that beats the man become the man is Adonis Stevenson. As you know he is fighting on Showtime in May. That’s pretty huge when you look at the Light Heavyweight division and all of a sudden in the last 12 months or less, has all of a sudden has a big pulse that’s pumping strong. That’s why it’s important.”
When Hopkins faces off against Kazakhstan’s Beibut Shumenov this Saturday, April 19th he will be facing a champion holding the WBA (Super) and IBA Light Heavyweight titles. At 49 years old, Hopkins has defied the odds constantly and never let’s you forget it. At 46 years old he broke George Foreman’s record, becoming the oldest champion in boxing history with his unanimous decision victory over Jean Paschal in his opponent’s territory of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Since then he has beaten Tavoris Cloud, winning the IBF Light Heavyweight title and Karo Murat, beating his own record yet again for being the oldest champion in boxing history.
“One thing that keeps me motivated is pushing myself to the limits of reality, that’s a strong important word of this conversation; it’s the question and the answer,” said Hopkins. “That is part of Bernard Hopkins whole make-up, whole life story, not going to bore you with it but you’ve been following this game and been around. When you capture those things to answer this question it’s a great question to answer. I never want to put limitations on what I can realistically do and can not and my thing is how can I separate myself so far from the pack of the previous, the present and the past and this is one way of doing it. This is one strong way of doing it because I look at myself and say wait a minute, I have attempted to be, for the second time in my career with over a 15 or 13 year span of the undisputed in the division, that’s been well respected in the longevity of the boxing history and that’s big, man. I don’t know how many professional fighters from the past, and it definitely can’t be the present, that either was in that position or accomplished that goal.”
Regardless of whether he beats the spry Shumenov and then goes on to attain more titles and his dream of an undisputed repeat, Hopkins is a legend that has nothing to prove in the eyes of all true boxing fans. However, for Hopkins, it’s not resting on his past laurels.
“I really don’t believe that a person can tell themselves that they have nothing to prove when there’s always things to prove,” said Hopkins. “I mean even if it’s just the small big thing is proving that you can do it. I mean there’s always something you can prove I mean that’s they way I believe that the Creator set it up, until you die you’re going to always have something you can prove in sports, to yourself, to your family, to your spouse. Seriously, I don’t want to get too deep but I’m just saying man that when a person believes that they have done so much that they don’t have nothing to do that is a boring way to end any career; there’s always something to do. It’s how you do it, respectfully. When a person does things for the wrong reason that’s when it becomes a sideshow and a joke. I can honestly say, and I’m not naïve about anything, that they are not looking at me as a joke (laughs) and that’s the difference and that defines my story amongst any story you might have ever done, knew about other than now or are going to see later on in life, hopefully you will.”