Bernard Hopkins sat straight ahead for an hour-plus press conference at Barclays Center on Wednesday, without moving even the slightest bit. Was he trying to psych himself up, or psych his opponent Tavoris Cloud, out?
There was no opportunity to ask Hopkins that, or anything else, as the 48-year-old blew off a chance to speak at the podium and instead strode right out of the press conference for his Saturday-night fight in Brooklyn, still staring straight ahead.
Hopkins, who looks to break his own mark as the oldest man to win a title in any sport, usually can filibuster with the best of them. That includes the fight’s co-promoter, Don King, who handles the IBF light-heavyweight champion Cloud, and as usual charmed the media and attendees with his trademark bluster and hype.
But on this day, with his eyes covered by sunglasses, his head covered with a sweatshirt hood, and a balaclava-type mask covering his mouth, Hopkins’ silence spoke loudest.
After he left, co-promoter Richard Schaefer, of Golden Boy, which has an exclusive deal with Barclays to stage pro bouts, said he's never seen Hopkins like this.
"I've never seen him in this mode for a press conference," Schaefer said. "You could feel his intensity coming off of him. I've never seen that."
Trainer Nazim Richardson gave a hint of what was to come when, during his turn at the mike, he said, "Bernard Hopkins has already left the building, but ‘The Executioner’ is still here." Schaefer then invited Hopkins to share, but Hopkins gestured to Richardson to speak in his place.
Hopkins (52-6-2) has for many years labeled himself "The Executioner" and strolled to the ring wearing executioner-style headgear, but this time it appears he's slipped into that mindset earlier than usual. That mental prep might be necessary, as the 31-year-old Cloud, with a 24-0 record, is the favorite entering the bout. "I feel different this time," the Florida-born Cloud said, "like I can't be beat. I feel kinda invincible."
King drew chuckles when he gave a shout-out to Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who died on Tuesday from cancer. "My brother passed away yesterday," said King, who backed Chavez’s mortal enemies, George W. Bush in 2004 and Barack Obama in 2008 and 2012. He then asked for all in attendance to pray for Chavez.
The presser got a lift from actress/boxing fan Rosie Perez. The Brooklyn-born star was brought in to do a coin flip, with the winner getting to enter the ring last. The winner of the flip? Hopkins. But the order of the ringwalk didn't seem to matter to the ageless wonder: he had already left the building by the time Rosie did her thing.
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