'Alien' Hopkins getting ready for next fight

Bernard Hopkins wears an alien mask, emblematic of an otherwordly boxing career, as he prepares for his Oct. 26 bout against Karo Murat in Atlantic City. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Bernard Hopkins wears an alien mask, emblematic of an otherwordly boxing career, as he prepares for his Oct. 26 bout against Karo Murat in Atlantic City. YONG KIM / Staff Photographer
Posted: October 18, 2013

Bernard Hopkins, boxing's oldest world champion, wanted to show off his new purchase.

But his black boxing gloves created a challenge for the 48-year-old to grasp the alien mask he had bought last month at a Columbus Boulevard costume store.

His strength trainer, Danny Davis, put down the purple Styrofoam noodles he was swinging at Hopkins and helped the fighter pull the mask over his face.

"They're really going to be checking my blood after this fight. This guy's the alien," said Hopkins, who will defend his IBF heavyweight title on Oct. 26 against 30-year-old Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 knockouts).

Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) is no longer "The Executioner" - instead, he is "The Alien." And he plans to wear the gray mask with purple, bulging eyes into the ring at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall.

Hopkins raised his right arm and paraded around the ring as he wore the mask at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Northern Liberties. He was in the midst of what he termed "the car wash," as he moved swiftly through different workout stations.

"Too sharp," said his trainer, Naazim Richardson. "Give them an old-man workout."

Hopkins grabbed the black heavy bag and punched it slowly. This is the normal speed of a person his age, Hopkins said.

"And this is how I'm going to fight," Hopkins said, and he began to duck around the bag and batter it with hooks and jabs.

Angel Garcia, the father and trainer of Philadelphia boxer Danny Garcia, had coined Hopkins' new nickname at an April news conference.

Calling Hopkins "an alien" was the only way Garcia could explain how Hopkins is still able to win at a championship level.

"Maybe I'm not human," Hopkins said. "Maybe there is something wrong with me. Maybe I'm part of this world but not of this world."

Hopkins debuted in 1988, but he always knew his nickname, "B.J.," was not going to cut it. It needed to resonate. And in his fifth professional fight, a second-round technical knockout of Jouvin Mercado, Hopkins found a nickname.

He took the fight in Rochester, N.Y., on five hours' notice, hopped a 40-minute flight, and weighed in before walking toward the ring. The ESPN announcer said the 25-year-old from Germantown was like an executioner.

Hopkins fully embraced it, as he wore an executioner hood to the ring and paid the biggest guys at area gyms $1,000 to walk with him. They wore Spandex pants and hoods and carried wooden swords.

"They didn't know if they had to fight me or the two executioners at the same time," Hopkins said of his opponents.

Hopkins calls himself a history addict. If he wore something to a fight, odds are he still has it.

His executioner hoods. His gloves. His trunks. His hand wraps. Even his underwear.

His lawyer, looking at his vast collection, urged the champion to find storage space. And when Hopkins soon boxes up his memories, he also will pack away his old nickname.

The Executioner legacy is finished, Hopkins said. It's time to start anew.


mbreen@phillynews.com

@matt_breen

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