I went to Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, NY to snatch a couple of minutes with Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins who was having an open workout for media in anticipation of his light heavyweight title unification championship fight against undefeated Russian mauler Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev.
I wasn’t expecting much more than a couple of minutes of his time and a dope sound bite or two for TSL’s fight preview. Instead I got a life lesson. I got schooled—or so Hopkins thinks—like Vince Carter infiltrating a junior high school slam dunk contest.
It was a rare moment of genuine engagement that reporters barely get to have with the celebrity subjects they interview. But something I said struck a nerve with the 27-year boxing icon and he felt a need to not only check me but enhance me with more knowledge than a college degree ever could.
Hopkins entered Gleason’s gym only after Team Kovalev left. So he had the media waiting for a hot minute. He conducted his initial interview with HBO and quickly began denouncing all non-believers.
When I got my shot I asked him, “What would make him take this fight? They say this could be your toughest opponent in the last decade?”
B Hop emphatically, but politely responded:
“Because I always fought the best and I always want to prove myself to the best, but you can talk about it. But we all know a lot of us don’t want to be about it...right? So that’s why people are looked upon as Gods by those who don’t have that godly spirit in them. If you understand that deep conversation. So I can’t expect...I’m not going to say weak people, but people who don’t have the spirit and the light that makes them be worshipped by the people who don’t have it. So that’s why I not only pushed the envelope in my career but I always had an itch for going against the grain.”
Then I asked him is that his main motivating factor at this point because most boxers do it for the money and he doesn’t need the money or the glory for that matter. It seems he’s more driven by a self-created belief that people don’t respect him to the fullest.
He went at me like he was tossing that left hook body shot he ended Oscar De La Hoya with in the 9th round of their 2004 championship fight.
“I explained to you about 10 seconds ago about not understanding me and my spirit, “ Hopkins warned. “Do you really think I’m still fighting and all of this media is here sticking their cameras in my face because I’m chasing as you said? Your words were, ‘chasing a ghost.’ Chasing what man? Don’t you understand I have two titles and I’m a World Champion? Don’t you understand that I’m the oldest athlete? Not just boxing. Athlete period.“
At this point, Hopkins’s voice was raised and all of the other reporters were staring at me like I was missing an eye, wearing a woman’s thong and sporting a broken nose.
“I’m just going by what you say, “he continued, looking up at me. “What I’m chasing. Am I chasing a high...you know some people like to chase that crack high for the rest of their life because they can never get the feeling of that first hit again. I can never chase the first time I won the title that was in 1995. You’ll never get that feeling again. You’ll never get that same feeling as when you lose your virginity. Same thing. What are you even talking about?”
I was wondering the same thing about his rant, but then Hopkins asked me if I went to college and I said, “Yes.”
“See. That’s what I’m talking about“ he said, highlighting my ignorance for the on-looking reporters. “ “You see what I’m talking about. You see how I just broke that down. Now I’m not trying to embarrass this brother but he just asked me a question after explaining to him and he went to college and I didn’t finish the ninth grade. Now what’s the problem here? For me to be able to break that down and explain to him like I’m his professor, but he’s the one that got a degree.”
Hopkins turns back to look at me at this point. I’m flanking him on his right with a recorder and IPhone camera in his grill, smiling from ear to ear as he blasts on me.
“Now the point I’m trying to make,” he summarized, “is a degree is good to have, but if you don’t use it. It’s not shit. He ain't use it. Guys like me. Guys like Jay-Z. Guys like 50 Cent. People that the industry and businesses in corporate America and Wall Street, whatever...they look and say, 'how did he become that powerful and rich.' Because guys that they call "bookworms" lack the common sense. After they get all that knowledge they forget the basic fundamentals of enjoying why you can see me now. So stop complaining.”
“I bet we’d all love to see the great Michael Jordan and Julius Erving perform today, but they’re gone. You’ll never see them in that form so look at me in that form. Look at me as something you can be inspired by in life and say, “Damn man. I’m 45. I’m 42. I’m 39. I’m 25. And I want to live right and eat right and learn the master craft so I can take punches and not be talking punch drunk and looking stupid and face all cut up. Why y'all humans don’t take none of that Ill (knowledge) from what you see in front of you in your presence.Knowledge I’m not talking boxing. So I just schooled you. Now you have your degree.“
And I got mine from a living legend, not some rinky dink university like Harvard. Don’t hate.
Here’s a look at the entire interview live: