Press conference brawling, loquacious threats, steroid accusations, national pride. Sounds like a lot for a fighter to take in when building up a fight.
Such grandstanding is commonplace for Bernard Hopkins.
There is no doubt that Bernard Hopkins is a fight technician in the ring. As age has had an impact on his physicality, Hopkin’s ring savvy has helped him dominate heavily favored, younger opposition for years.
Outside of the ring though, Hopkins has an uncanny ability to sell a fight.
The sound bites Hopkins floats to the media to sell a fight are reminiscent of a more disciplined, cognizant, Mike Tyson.
Take Hopkin’s upcoming rematch against light-heavyweight champion Jean Pascal. Hopkins is playing the disrespected veteran, questioned by Pascal about taking performance enhancers and not getting fights or contracts deserving of him from HBO.
“This isn’t hyping up a fight,” Hopkins said at a press conference at Planet Hollywood, Times Square. “This is not for any f—ing press conference. Don’t be surprised if I kill him”
This was “The Executioner” in one of his many forms, of which he has taken many.
In 2004, leading up to his middleweight bout with Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins played up his jailhouse past, attempting to touch on De La Hoya’s fears. Hopkins cast himself as the bully and De La Hoya as the mild-mannered pushover.
” I need him to stand up to the bully,” Hopkins said at a press conference at the MGM Grand. ”Nobody likes the bully. Be a superhero, Oscar. Put your cape on. And then you’ll have $30 million for your makeover.”
In 2007, building up to his fight against Ronald “Winky” Wright, Hopkins was jovial and affable, a sort of jester leading up to the fight. Hopkins brought a milk carton along for the press tour. When Hopkins brandished the carton during press conferences there was a picture of Wright pasted to the side of it, letting everyone know that in a short amount of time Winky would go missing.
In 2008, HBO hyped Hopkins light-heavyweight championship fight against Undefeated Joe “Pride of Wales” Calzaghe as the “Battle of the Planet.”
Hopkins quickly flipped the script and cleverly used the race card and the Ricky Hatton-Floyd Mayweather card to sell the fight.
Prior to the Hatton-Mayweather weigh-in at the MGM Grand on December, 7 2007, Hopkins confronted Calzaghe with the repeat mantra, “I would never let a white boy beat me,” and the two came close to blows.
Hopkins later admitted to Bernard Fernadez of the Philadelphia Daily News that the slur was simply a ploy used to sell the fight.
As much Hopkins has delved into selling the fight in past, there has been no need to sell the fighter.
Time and time again, Hopkins has been counted as the underdog and time and again he has come out on top, disarming an opponent, pulling them out of their element and making them fight Hopkin’s fight.
For Jean Pascal the mind-games, pre-fight banter and rhetoric that goes into the Hopkins pre-fight hype machine might be expected, having seen it the first time around.
But Pascal now knows that as much as Hopkins can talk, he can back up in the ring, that as much as Hopkins words don’t hurt, his fists do.
It might not be the words of Hopkin’s, an 18-year senior of Pascal, but more the memory of a Hopkins that grew more active and lively as their first fight went on. Conversely, Pascal became slower, more lethargic.
It might be the grit and determination that Hopkin’s showed in the ring that night.
For prefight Bernard Hopkins is just doing what he always does, selling the fight to fans.
For prefight Jean Pascal, the fight might already be sold.