WASHINGTON, D.C. — Their 175-pound unification bout is not until April 19, but IBF beltholder Bernard Hopkins already claims to have begun to control WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov as if having placed him under a spell.
Speaking to a cluster of reporters during Tuesday's press conference at the W Hotel in downtown Washington, DC., where the two light heavyweights will fight at The D.C. Amory, Hopkins described how moments earlier he had both directed and positioned Shumenov as they posed for photos on the dais.
"I said, 'Get over here, and, stand right here,' and he came over. So I said, 'You've gotta back up a little bit,' and he backed up a little bit. I've done this to many fighters, even the veterans. Now, it's how you transfer that into any ring where you put someone under a trance like a hypnotist without them even knowing that they're under that spell," said Hopkins, who turned 49 in January.
"It doesn't speak on the outcome, but it does speak on his respect for me. Now, I have to transfer that into the ring, like 'Move right there, get right here, get over there so that I can hit you with this' or 'I can hit you with that.' You can't say it verbally, but it's a way of having a guy being somewhere where he really don't know that he's playing into your dictatorship. The foundation is made."
Hopkins said he has worked his tricks consistently on rivals as far back as September 2001, the month during which he knocked out previously undefeated Felix Trinidad in the 12th-round.
"We were up on stage and we were doing this flexing against each other and I grabbed Trinidad at a press conference. I grabbed him," said Hopkins of Trinidad, who represented the 14th title defense during his record run of 20 consecutive defenses of his undisputed middleweight championship before losing to Jermain Taylor by a split decision in July 2005.
"I put my hands on him, and pinched him, and I had about three inches of skin in my hands. His reaction? There was none. He didn't smack my hand down, he did look in my face, he just, let me do it. So, again, you give me an inch, I'll take more, and I'll take more. These are the things that might seem simple but when you're in a battle where a lot of things come into play in the fight, those little things mean a lot."
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) also believes that he may already be in the head of RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson.
"We were in Los Angeles, and we were on a podium, and Stevenson had come out to one of Golden Boy's fights. What happened is I said, 'Let's have some fun with the media. Come on up on the stage,' and he came up. I said, 'Let's do a stare down to get everybody ready, for s–ts and giggles.' So he had his sunglasses on, and I said, 'Take your sunglasses off,' and he took them off," recalled Hopkins.
"He took them off like I was his parent. Where I come from, that gives you a blueprint on how far I can go. You're waiting for him to say 'That's too far,' but he didn't. That gave me a starting point that I should never have gotten. If that was me, you're supposed to kill that at the door…You have to stop it right there, because, otherwise, it can turn into something that is a habit. You become the bully in the neighborhood…You've got them doing what you want them to do already."
Hopkins was ringside in December for Shumenov's victory at the Alamodome in San Antonio, when the 30-year-old 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian ended an 18-month absence with a third-round stoppage of Tamas Kovacs for the fifth defense of his belt
Although he applauds Hopkins' accomplishments, Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) said he will not become another puppet in the Bernard Hopkins Show.
"You have to respect him, because he's a legend. Everybody has to respect him. He's dangerous if you do not respect him. He's a legendary fighter," said Shumenov of Hopkins, the oldest man to win a significant crown.
"None of what he does matters to me. The most important thing is to get into the ring. That's the most important thing. Those other things, I just don't care. I'm very focused because I know what is at stake. This is the most important fight of my life. Hardest fight in my life."