Bernard Hopkins is less than 10 months from reaching the landmark opportunity of throwing a punch in a world-title boxing match at age 50.
So why risk losing the belt before then by meeting the threat of World Boxing Assn. light-heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov on April 19 in Washington, D.C.?
“Just because of that reason,” Hopkins told The Times in a telephone interview from Philadelphia. “He’s a threat and has a title. That’s the only way I’m going to be motivated at this stage.
“I need these threats. I hope this proves who I am.”
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts), who’ll turn 50 on Jan. 15, owns the International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight belt after previously wearing a world middleweight belt from 1995 to 2005.
In the 30-year-old Shumenov (14-1, nine KOs), Hopkins faces an ever-punching, smart boxer from Kazakhstan who resides in Las Vegas.
“Dangerous opponent,” Hopkins said.
But there Hopkins was, ringside in December when Shumenov scored a third-round technical knockout of Tamas Kovacs at the Alamodome in San Antonio, holding up a picture of Shumenov, calling him out.
“Unless I’m going to sit my butt down, I need to push the envelope and be honest with myself, just like I did eight years ago when I moved up two weight classes to beat Antonio Tarver,” Hopkins said. “It’s not easy to keep doing this over a period of time. I’m well aware of where I’m at … my age.
“That’s part of my promotion. People gravitate to me. I represent an era that still exists and is popular, an era that matters.”
Since emerging from jail in 1988, Hopkins has maintained a clean existence of no alcohol, no smoking and fierce dedication to exercise. He said his doctor tells him he has the blood of a 25-year-old.
“Blood is the ultimate test of your lifestyle, it can tell if you have signs of diabetes, high cholesterol, anything bad,” he said. “I’ve been on my extreme discipline for more than 25 years, and I feel they gave me that belt the day I walked out of jail and vowed to live my life the right way. Now, I’m collecting interest on that good investment.”
He’s so committed to his way of life he refused sips of champagne at his own wedding and that of one of his publicists last year, and capped two days of a press tour to Washington and New York on Wednesday by working out for more than an hour with his trainer Naazim Richardson.
“These are the little things I do that are big,” Hopkins said. “How easy would it be for me after two days of press, when all I did was get in some jogging, to leave it at that? How do you fight like you're starving when your refrigerator is full? That’s why I’m going to the gym now.”
Showtime will show the Hopkins-Shumenov fight along with a World Boxing Organization title defense by middleweight champion Peter Quillin (30-0, 22 KOs) against Lukas Konecny (50-4, 23 KOs).