Nothing to indicate Bernard Hopkins' next fight will be his last

Posted: January 16, 2013

DEEP DOWN, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins wants, or rather needs, a doctor to tell him he is risking serious damage to his 48-year-old body if he continues boxing.

Short of that, the end for Hopkins will have to come in a defeat so devastating, he will look in the mirror and say about himself what he said about boxing legends Manny Pacquiao and Erik Morales after they were brutally disposed of in their most recent fights.

"That's the type of punch that takes more than one fight out of you," Hopkins said after Pacquiao was knocked out cold by Juan Antonio Marquez in December. "It's one of those knockouts that you can recover from in life, but I don't think you can recover fully in the sport.

"I know when you see a guy get knocked out and hit that way, they are considered damaged goods, and they live up to that title."

Hopkins said something similar in October after he watched Philadelphia native Danny Garcia destroy Morales with a vicious knockout.

"Morales is over," Hopkins said that night at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. "How can he go to some promoter 6 months from now and say, 'Put me on your card'? They would literally be indicted for assassination."

In the early hours of that Sunday morning, I realized that a similar ending is probably the only thing that would convince Hopkins - who celebrated his birthday on Tuesday by having a news conference for his March 9 fight against 31-year-old IBF lightweight champion Tavoris "Thunder" Cloud (24-0, 19 K0s) at the Barclays Center - to hang up his gloves on his own.

"I'm 47 years old," Hopkins said in October. "If some young guy would have slayed me a decade ago the way [Garcia] slayed Morales, maybe I wouldn't still be out there in the mix."

I don't believe that Hopkins, who has never been knocked out in 60 professional fights, has some masochistic desire to find out what it feels like to be stretched out on a canvas or be sent stumbling down goofy street.

But he's a fighter.

Boxing took Hopkins (52-6-2) from a life of crime to one of fame and respect, gained from becoming one of the greatest champions of all time.

He and his family are set for life, because he earned and kept the fortune he amassed from prizefighting for a quarter century.

It's easier for those who haven't pushed themselves the way Hopkins has to say he should just walk away.

"Today is my 48th birthday, and I feel half my age, so Cloud had better be ready," said Hopkins, who will be in his 29th world championship fight. "I have broken records, quieted doubters and solidified my legacy. Now, I'm going to do all of that again."

There is no "do all of that again."

The records he could break are his own. Quieted doubters don't speak again. A solidified legacy can't be made stronger.

There is nothing left on Hopkins' bucket list of boxing to accomplish.

The only thing not written is the proper ending. Walking away with lingering doubts doesn't seem to be in Hopkins' DNA.

Hopkins calls himself a lion, and a lion, no matter how old, doesn't walk away from his kingdom. He has to be driven from it.

Hopkins has lost, but he's never been beaten up and never come out of a fight feeling as if his time was up.

So many younger guys have stepped into ring under the banner that they would be the one to finish Hopkins - guys such as Felix Trinidad (8 years younger), Antonio Tarver (4 years), Winky Wright (7), Kelly Pavlik (18), Jean Pascal (18.)

Hopkins turned the table on all of them.

Even those who managed to defeat him - Jermain Taylor (14 years younger), Joe Calzaghe (8) and Chad Dawson (18) - did so only by decisions.

Ultimately, Hopkins knows that Father Time will win the war. Still, for more than a decade, he's battled the unbeatable foe to a series of draws. Hopkins knows he can't win, but he needs a clean loss, one that leaves no doubts in his mind.

"[Cloud is] also trying to make history by doing something no one has ever done, which is to knock me out," Hopkins recently told the Daily News. "He's young and he's strong, and he probably thinks he can knock everybody out.

"He's going to find out it's not that easy to do when I'm the guy in the other corner. For the last 10 years and, probably, longer, everybody I fight wants to beat Bernard Hopkins the way no one has ever beaten him."

The truth is Hopkins doesn't want to be beaten that way. He's seen all of the legends who went on one fight too long and got starched out, like Morales and Pacquiao.

It's not the last impression he wants to leave, but there would be no shame in that. It's how almost all of the great ones go out.

And in the end, that might be the only thing that convinces "The Executioner" that Bernard Hopkins should stop fighting.



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