It was the last one, allegedly, supposedly, of Bernard Hopkins’ long and illustrious career.
The final press conference ever for the Executioner, who will glove up for a finale on Saturday in LA, and on HBO, against everyman Joe Smith Jr.
“The Final One” is the name of the promotion, and since Hopkins is 51, this is no surprise.
But there is no shortage of people thinking that if he looks good, he will want to fight on. Because it’s in his heart, soul, his brain…really, every fiber of him is fighter, and it will be hard for him to really and truly take off that fighter cap and transition to the business side and his work as an analyst, where he is not the A side ace that he was in the ring, it still being a work in progress.
Hopkins took to the mic, and said that he didn’t want to waste time on excessive thank yous, because people have thigs to do.
He riffed on a concept, bringing up that Smith has been described as “common” by his promoter and not “special” like him. “Common” or “special”…which one you want?” This had to be spur of the moment riffing, because he didn’t know what Joe DeGuardia was going to saw, not unless he had some Russian hackers working on his behalf.
Hopkins turned to Smith and addressed him halfway. He noted that Smith predicted that he’d stop Hopkins. He said he would wreck Smith, “I’m a career stopper that most people that talk like that.”
He jabbed the kid, saying that nobody was paying attention to him. He keeps his prison ID card in his pocket to remind him where he came from, he said.
The 55-7-1 hitter then somewhat cruelly told Smith “you will stay common,” showing that sharp side of him which helps keep him masterfully motivated. “You can always wanna be common, it’s so easy to be common,” he said, dismissing the man Smith whacked out, calling him “Fagarella,” pretending he didn’t know Andrzej Fonfara’s name.
Once his power isn’t working, he said, Smith will be reduced to nothing.
On a conference call weeks ago, Hopkins had said he’d not be employing any mind games on the kid, didn’t need to, that he’d be using legendary ring generalship Dec. 17, and no pre-fight mind fuckery was needed. Guess he had a change of heart and mind.
I caught Smith (22-1) after the presser, asked him what he thought of Hopkins’ topics and tone. The 27 year old hitter, who owns a real good jab and some concrete in the hands, was watching some TV, “The Biggest Loser,” and cracked that Hopkins would be just that, the biggest loser, on Saturday night.
I noted that he didn’t look the tiniest bit flustered when he stared down with the Philly psy ops specialist. “I’m feeling good, Mike. Confident. He got me a little pissed, pointing his fingers in my face. But I’m still going to be calm and relaxed. I’m just more determined to give Hopkins a beating. That “common man” stuff, it pissed everybody off. I don’t mind it. I am a common man, proud to be a common man. I think he says all the stuff to get in is own head, that he’s the best. I just didn’t like him pointing in my face, his fingers in my face. It just motivates me. I talked during the stare down, told him that the common man is gonna win this one. He was just giving me a dirty look,” said the Long Island boxer with some hellacious Manson Lamps. “Looking into his eyes, I know it’s time. It wakes me up to go to work. I believ after I catch him, he’ll come at me, try to rough me up. I don’t think he’ll last trying to do that. He can play that old man slow shit but I’ll stay busy, and I’ll fight at my pace. I’m going to put on a great show, I hope everyone enjoys it. This is going to my coming out party! It’s got to be about me. I said it during the earlier conference call, he wants to go out to ‘My Way,’ no, I’m going to do it my way! You will see stitched on my trunks, on Saturday, “The Future.” That’s what I am!”
Golden Boy Promotions, at which Hopkins is an exec, is promoting, with an assist from Star Boxing.
Hopkins said, in his time at the mic, we should remember Smith’s prediction and then recall it, when he does his thing. “Common man,” he repeated, dismissively. “Common,” he said, as he sat down.
It was a strange and uncomfortable, elitist sort of theme for his last event, but maybe not strange, because who can say what is appropriate to use as a motivator for such a freak of nature.
Trainer John David Jackson is working with Hopkins for this one after longtime trainer Naazim Richardson wasn’t asked to participate. He said he’s pleased to be able to corner the legend for his last fling.
Smith went to the mic and said that he knows he’s in with a legend but has worked so hard, made so many sacrifices, so he’s “looking to get him out of there, and stop him, be the first person to stop him in his career.” Short, semi sweet, semi snarly, and then Hopkins’ crew got their say.
Smith’s promoter Joe DeGuardia took to the mic, and said that boxing is a family affair. He said Smith’s trainers and managers were fighters, and their family fought. He brought Jerry Capobianco, from Long Island, to say a few words. Cap said he thinks this will be “Joe Smith’s coming out party,” and knows that his dad is looking down on him, happy for him. “All you guys, two to one odds, you can double your money,” he said.
“It’s almost like the passing of the guard,” said DeGuardia, noting this will be the last time for Hopkins. “This is probably the most dangerous fight for Bernard to take,” he said. “We believe this country is going to see the common rise up..Joe has the heart of a lion, from New York, and the kind of guy, like so many other people in this country, gets up early to play his craft,” he said, noting that Smith work as a laborer, and belongs to a union which will back him heavily Saturday. “He will surprise everybody and come out victorious,” he said.
SPEEDBAG: Marlen Esparza “is the first woman fighter signed to Golden Boy Promotions,” Oscar said, to close the presser. Esparza said no one should let her aesthetics should fool them, that she can crack. Oscar said that more female signings would be occurring, signaling that female fighting is on the ascent, with Claressa Shields, Amanda Serrano and Heather Hardy leading the way in the US. Esparza, a Texan, is using Victor Contes’ services as an advisor on supplements and conditioning. “She will debut early February,” he told me. “She is guaranteed a minimum of five fights per year, and all televised. She is going to the UK for the holidays and starts training at the SNAC facility in the Bay Area right after the first of the year. She will campaign at 112.