Reigning IBF light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins is no stranger to unification fights, as in 2001 he unified the three major middleweight titles by defeating Felix Trinidad. Now almost 13 years later, Bernard is looking to unify the light heavyweight crown as he takes on WBA and IBA champ, Beibut Shumenov.
In a recent media press call, I had a chance to speak to both Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov ahead of their April 19th bout and talk to them about the significance of this fight. Shumenov spoke about the fight potentially going the distance and if he thinks he will get a fair decision. Hopkins spoke about being a favorite going in to this match and if that affects his mentality. Hopkins also touched on his plans for unification before he retires. Here is what they had to say.
Jenna J: Beibut, not enough can be said about Bernard’s accomplishments, he’s 49 years old. When you look at him, why do you think he’s been able to have success as long as he’s had?
Beibut Shumenov: It’s truly amazing, it’s unbelievable. I don’t think in the past or in the future that anybody could do what Bernard does.
Jenna J: When you fight someone like him who has the accolades that he does, do you have any fear that if this fight goes to the cards that the decision will go in his favor and not yours?
Beibut Shumenov: Since my December fight, a lot of people started asking me about a potential fight between us and right after the fight, Bernard got in the ring and I got the feeling that the fight would happen in the near future. Right after the fight I started watching his fights, studying him. I developed a style against Bernard Hopkins. I’m preparing to win each round clearly to give no doubt to the judges.
Jenna J: Bernard, you mentioned that the last time you had a unifying title bout was in 2001. Why has it been so long?
Bernard Hopkins: Well you gotta ask boxing. You’re asking me a question, if I had a crystal ball, every division would be unified to one champion, pass through the politics. I’m glad I’m the one that continues to make history, that continues to give something to scratch your head about, that’s my main objective.
I have my own agenda and trust me, that agenda is to one day be a long conversation about, “Where do they put Bernard Hopkins, because we can’t just put him with all of the other historic legend boxers?”
I want to make you all have a really hard time, whether you’re here or not in the future, have a real hard time where to put this alien at. I gotta do the work now for them to be able to do that later. That’s the thing, you work now, you enjoy it later. That’s how it’s supposed to be.
Jenna J: For the third straight fight you’re listed again as the betting favorite. Does that change your views going into a fight, since you always like being the underdog?
Bernard Hopkins: That’s shocking. Listen, I was born in 1965 in this great country. If anybody knows the history of 1965, I was the underdog when I was born in this country compared to my ancestors. When you say underdog, I got the mentality that I’m always gonna be the underdog.
I don’t look for no favors or no help; I go and do what I gotta do. That’s one of the reasons I’m here so long, it’s not because of one specific thing that keeps me motivated. I’d have been long gone if it was that, why don’t you just get a house and have some money in the bank, I’d been gone 15 years ago. Do the math, it’s 2014.
Do you know how many great fights I’ve had in the last 15+ years? I’m glad you said it, it doesn’t move me one way or the other, I don’t care. I was hoping that Shumenov was the underdog because I know how he feels when people don’t give a person a chance. Trust me, I’ve been through that, I understand that, but I accepted that.
I’d rather have it that way so I flip it in my mind that he’s the favorite. I’m a 10-1 favorite come April 19 in DC, he’s a 10-1 favorite over me in DC on April 19th, that’s how I train, that’s how I think. I don’t look for no favors from nobody because I never got none, I never received none. Look at my career, you’ve been around for a couple of years, it’s not hard.
Jenna J: I recently talked to your trainer Naazim Richardson, he said, “Ultimately when it comes down to it, Bernard is gonna get tired of playing with all these titles, he’s gonna collect them all and he’s gonna give them back to the rest of the guys.” Do you see it that way, that the only way you will leave is by giving up those titles, not having them taken from you?
Bernard Hopkins: Absolutely, Naazim has been around me for twenty-some years. He’s been a second trainer at one time with ‘Bouie’ Fisher, the first trainer. He understands how I think, and he understands what I let him understand on what kind of mission that I feel that I’m on, we communicate.
My whole thing is — as Beibut said, he wanted to unify the titles; I’m answering that call because I want to do the same damn thing. Now we got pieces in line that have the same mentality.
It gives you something to write about, it gives the fans and anybody that’s listening and coming on after you, it gives them a chance now to say we’re unifying a title in a division. Maybe become a good disease, a good virus that might spread to other weight divisions, and that would be good for boxing. That’s my opinion, I could be wrong.