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Hopkins has answer to age-old question

LOS ANGELES -- It has become the age-old boxing question: Just when will Bernard Hopkins finally get old?

Before Hopkins knocked out overwhelming favorite Felix Trinidad to become the undisputed middleweight champion in 2001, many thought he was too old to beat the young gun. Hopkins was 36 at the time.

Hopkins found himself in the same situation in 2006 when, at 41, he moved up two weight classes after losing the title (and back-to-back close decisions to Jermain Taylor) to challenge then-light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver. What did Hopkins, the underdog, do? He routed the younger Tarver to win that title.

In 2008, Hopkins was coming off a controversial split-decision loss to Joe Calzaghe when the then-43-year-old met the much younger and heavily favored Kelly Pavlik. Once again, Hopkins did his thing: He dominated and beat down Pavlik over 12 lopsided rounds for another stunner.

And in May, Hopkins defied the calendar yet again. This time the 46-year-old with flecks of gray hair went to 28-year-old Jean Pascal's Montreal turf for a rematch of their controversial draw and outpointed Pascal to regain the light heavyweight championship. With the victory, Hopkins broke the record of heavyweight great George Foreman to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world championship.

Here we are now, 10 years and two weeks after Hopkins crushed Trinidad, and Hopkins is amazingly still going strong -- closer to 50 than to 40.

It is against that backdrop that he attempts to defy Father Time once again when he defends his light heavyweight crown against slick 29-year-old southpaw and former two-time titleholder Chad Dawson on Saturday night (9 ET, HBO PPV, $49.95) at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, the same building where Hopkins made history in 2005 by outpointing Howard Eastman for his division-record 20th middleweight title defense.

"I am excited to be back making history," Hopkins said at Wednesday's final prefight news conference.

Hopkins, who has always enjoyed playing up his age, was at it again, playfully referring to himself as "Grandpop" and "Pop-Pop."

"I want my gray to be in the ring. I want Chad Dawson to see I have gray hair," Hopkins said. "I want to look like his father. Well, I could be his father. I'm not, but I could be. That age difference is appropriate for me to look like I'm gray. And I have gray because, realistically, if you do the math, he could be my son."

Although Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs), a pro fighter for 23 years, has already made so much history, there are still a couple of things he would like to accomplish before calling it a career.

He would like to win his second fighter-of-the-year award. He won it in 2001, when he beat Keith Holmes and Trinidad to unify the middleweight division, and he has an excellent chance to do it again this year based on the record-breaking win against Pascal and a possible victory against Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs).

"My goal is to be fighter of the year. My goal is to make history again," Hopkins said. "There aren't athletes in any sport four years from 50 that can do this.

"I am knocking on the door of being the oldest fighter of the year ever. I have a chance to seal that deal this Saturday night on pay-per-view. I always have a motivation, something to push me to win, and that motivation is to become the oldest fighter of the year. It puts pressure on the writers, 90 percent of whom are 40 and up. I want to put a bug in their ear that I am trying to make history on that front."

And although Hopkins, of Philadelphia, said he doesn't plan to still be fighting when he is 50, he knows his boxing history. He reveres the late, great former light heavyweight champion Archie Moore -- "The Old Mongoose."

Moore was 39 (depending on which of his varying birthdates you believe) when he won the 175-pound championship, and he was 47 when he made his final defense in 1961. Hopkins, already the oldest man to win a title, would like to also be the oldest to defend it.

"I am looking forward to eventually breaking Archie Moore's record of defending a title at the age of 47 or 48," Hopkins said. "I want that title. I want that record. I want that history."

Said Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer: "Some people don't realize they're witnessing history until after the fact. Bernard Hopkins is making history."

But Hopkins said he has no plans to keep making history at 50.

"I'm not looking and I'm not going to be fighting 'til I'm 50 years old," Hopkins said. "I don't have to and it won't be a good health risk for me to. But I'm going to enjoy while I can. I'll be 47 in [January]. Right now, I'm just going to let the world know that 46 is a great number for Bernard Hopkins and I've gotta show that Saturday."

Even with all of his age-defying acts, Hopkins knows the clock is ticking, louder and louder.

"The clock is not my friend, but it's not my enemy," he said. "Me and the clock, we got a relationship. The clock is Father Time. So me and Father Time have a relationship. What relationship do we have? I take care of myself in my 20s, I take care of myself in my 30s, so I invested in myself like a government municipal bond that gives little interest, but no risk. So now when I become older, I go back to that investment I put in 15 years ago.

"The clock and Father Time and I have an agreement. And the agreement is, when he comes, I gotta go. He's been coming at the door. But when he comes, you have to have a respectful, not a BS, conversation with him. And the conversation is basically, 'I need some more time. I just need some more time, OK? I earned it. I trained, I put the time in.' I earned it by putting in my time and taking care of this temple, my body."

Hopkins' body had better be up to the challenge Saturday. Dawson has been one of the top light heavyweights for several years. He whipped Tarver twice, defeated former champion Glen Johnson twice and took a title from Tomasz Adamek, who went on to win the cruiserweight title and become a top heavyweight contender.

"I want [Dawson] to bring the best out of me," Hopkins said. "I am challenging Chad Dawson to try to knock me out. I want to see the best Chad Dawson. I just need Chad Dawson to bring his half. I am going to bring my half. Then you have a party. You have a fight."

Dawson, of New Haven, Conn., easily outpointed former titleholder Adrian Diaconu on the undercard of Hopkins' victory against Pascal, who had handed Dawson his lone defeat -- an 11th-round technical decision -- in August 2010.

Yet Hopkins finds himself in a familiar role, the underdog, going into the fight against his mandatory challenger.

"I am fighting Chad Dawson, who has plenty of credentials. He believes he is the guy to beat me," Hopkins said. "I have to win to prove him wrong. I never operate well when I am the favorite in a fight. I like being the underdog. I think that is the reason a lot of people want to watch. I am not surprised I am the underdog. Am I the underdog because of my age or because of my résumé? It must be my age, because I know it can't be the résumé.

"When you look at my résumé and then you look at Chad's résumé, it is like looking at Harvard and community college. No disrespect to community college."

It's probably the age. Of course, we've heard that before.

"The past is the past and tomorrow is unknown," Hopkins said. "On Saturday night, I want to put another page in the history book of my career. If I am still going to compete and be the best in the division and part of the conversation of the best in boxing, then this fight is the next step."

Hopkins knows, however, that sometime soon it will be over.

He said he will go on "as long as I have the desire to continue to win and not embarrass myself and embarrass the sport."

But, he added, "I think at the end, when it's time to go, it's time to go. I can't think about winning and think about retiring at the same time. That's very counterproductive. So I figure that instead of worrying about what-ifs, worry about where I'm at now.

"I think everybody should just enjoy me while I'm here, because nothing lasts forever."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter @danrafaelespn.