As the oldest man to win a title in boxing history and one of the most accomplished fighters of his generation, light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins, 46, has seen his share of challenges during a career that is entering its 23rd year (and showing no signs of nearing its end). On Saturday, the latest will arrive in the form of once-beaten former titlist Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs) in what shapes up as one of the great matchups of the last quarter of 2011. Adding another landmark to his personal record every time he enters the ring, Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs) looks forward to extending his legacy against a talented and uncomfortable-to-face fighter who is eager to recapture the title he lost to Jean Pascal in a controversial points defeat in August 2010. ESPN.com Deportes caught up with "The Executioner" during the closing stages of training camp to get his thoughts on aging, his limitations and Saturday's defense.
How was your training for this fight?
Everything went as scheduled. We're coming towards the home stretch and everything is right on time, where it is supposed to be, and we're all looking forward to a great performance.
At your age, what aspect of your game is the most difficult to maintain?
At this age right now, and even five years ago, I always make sure that all the mechanics, the reflexes and the response [time] is taken up another notch. Every year you live, you lose something, they say. So if you don't replace it, you have to adjust. And I am good at that.
As you grow older, is there anything on your body that you watch more closely?
Not really. The thing is that I spar with guys that are 15 years younger than me. I am always around a lot of energy and a lot of youth, so I am not feeling like the average 46-year-old who hangs out with a bunch of 50- and 60-year-old people. So in my mind and in my spirit and everything that goes with that, I am at least 10 years younger. This is what keeps me going. I am not looking for any particular thing. It's just something that I have to work on. It is simply technique and strategy. But when you start looking for signs or get paranoid and start searching for something that's not there, any little thing that is not normal, you will make a big thing out of it. So I don't need any little thing from my body to have me worried or to make me wait for something to happen there. I just try to go out and feel the energy that I have around me.
What is your take on Dawson? How do you approach this fight, style-wise, against a very mobile southpaw?
I approach him as a guy with a respectable skill level, but also a guy that I feel that, with the fights that I've fought, I believe my IQ and I also believe my résumé can really speak for themselves. People expect to see Bernard Hopkins ready to come to fight. Whether I come out like this is up to me, but I think I have mastered the way to fight any southpaw, from the old days to the new days. I am 12-1 with southpaws, and the one I lost with [Joe Calzaghe], it was a split decision. To me, I'd rather fight southpaws than orthodox fighters because every southpaw that I fought, I dominated. Someone in my corner once told me that I am so orthodox that I am not the typical orthodox fighter, so I give southpaws a different thing to look for. I never knew that. I never knew that until they told me that. So imagine what guys like Chad Dawson -- who has not been in front of me yet -- can expect. He is in for a big surprise when he sees that the advantages that he normally has aren't there no more.
Dawson has looked uninspired and unmotivated at times. Do you think your level of motivation and intensity can be a factor in this fight?
Yes. My motivation is that I want to continue to keep doing what I want to do until I cannot do it no more. And so at this age, the question is "When, when, when?" -- that's the only question on my side. So I believe I have a cut-and-dried strategy, and I know what I want to do as far as [moving] forward in my career at this age. Chad Dawson, I believe, will be better than he ever was because he is facing his first legend, if not the first-ever person that he ever fought at this level, and that's me. Because if you look at Antonio Tarver, Glen Johnson -- I am not saying these guys are not Hall of Famers, and he beat them. But I beat those guys, and I beat them quite easily. So when you add up the motivation [factors], I am pretty sure that he is going to come with his A-game, he is going to come trying to establish his superiority that he had early on in his career when he fought for the first time on the cable networks, like HBO or Showtime, with all the hoopla that was behind him as the next up-and-coming young gun. And he gets a chance to redeem himself on [Saturday].
Dawson is perceived as being more of a boxer than a slugger. Do you believe you have a better chance outboxing him or outslugging him?
I agree with you; he is probably a B-minus type of boxer. But again, there are many weapons that Bernard Hopkins has shown over the decades. Chad Dawson can do a lot of things that I can do, but I can do those things better. Everything that he does, I can do better. And that's the separation that will be displayed on [Saturday] on HBO pay-per-view -- that he can do all the things that you need to do to win, but then you got that Ferrari going up against that Mercedes, and you will see the difference on a runway track with the gas pedal to the floor. You will see the difference between this class and that class.
Is the light heavyweight division your limit, or is there a chance we might see you fighting above this weight?
I think that the cruiserweight division has a great chance, if the right fighters are there and the right matches are made, to be the next heavyweight division until the real heavyweight division wakes out of the coma. There are big light heavyweights who are caught between both worlds, who can't get a fight. As far as myself fighting at that weight or moving up, we have to wait until [Saturday to find out], because it will be a brutal fight, because of what I am bringing to the game. There is a chance that either of us can hit the canvas, because I know I want it. I said this before the Jean Pascal fight, when people said, "Bernard, you are going to fight the way you normally do, like a technician." I can be that, too, but I can also be a lot of other things, and I feel that this is a fight to me that is going to be more competitive than the last two or three fights I had in my career -- even though I know they were exciting -- because he believes he is bigger, he is stronger, he is taller and all that. I will come out and do what I do, and definitely be victorious. But I know one thing: The light heavyweight division is going to be rescued fully, 100 percent, by Bernard Hopkins. I left the middleweight division to bring heat to the light heavyweight division. So let me clean up this division the way I want it cleaned up, and then I will sit back and look to see if anything else motivates me. But for now, I look forward to taking care of business next week.
How many fights do you think you have left?
I wish I could answer that, because when I win on [Saturday] I might see that nothing else motivates me, and I might see that I have satisfied you and a lot of other people, but probably I am still not satisfied because I didn't feel the way I was supposed to feel. You never know, man. You never know until you come out and fight with your heart and all your capabilities. But at the end of the day, I want to sit back and concentrate on taking care of business and then analyze everything. Because even with a knockout or whatever comes in my favor, you cannot anticipate the future in boxing. You might want to go on, but for me, I am a little bit different than the average guy in boxing because I don't want to go and fight somebody just to fight.
How do you see the fight playing out, round by round?
How do I see it? I hit him more than he hits me. That's it!
Diego Morilla is a contributor to ESPNdeportes.com.