Monday, March 27, 2023  |



Bernard Hopkins puts Joe Smith Jr. on blast at final presser

Photo by Tom Hogan-Hoganphotos-Golden Boy Promotions

INGLEWOOD, California – At the closing press conference of his final fight Wednesday afternoon, Bernard Hopkins conducted a speech that had advice for young boxers on the surface, but laced within was perhaps one of his best mind games.

“A lot of things have been said from everyone involved, so I don’t feel like I have to repeat all the thank yous because they know where my heart is at,” were the opening remarks from Hopkins in a long press conference approaching its 55th minute.

After pointing out a young Philadelphia prospect in the crowd – Todd “2Gunz” Unthank-May – Hopkins commanded the attention of all fighters both young and old regardless of the banner they fight under. He also acknowledged the many promoters on the stage within the halls of The Forum. A pin drop could be heard while he paused to think about what he was going to say.

“I listen to what people say. I listen to words, because words give you some kind of blueprint on what a person is thinking. What he’s about. How articulate, or whatever. It’s not fully judging, but it gives you some type of platform to work with, and Joe DeGuardia said ‘common.’”

DeGuardia, who promotes Hopkins’ opponent Saturday night, Joe Smith Jr., told everyone there was going to be the changing of the guard on Saturday night before saying, “Actually, we believe this country is gonna see the common man rise up, and Joe Smith is the perfect example of the common man,” DeGuardia proclaimed before introducing his fighter.

“We’re not gonna preach, but we’re gonna talk about common,” Hopkins continued. Another pause. “SPECIAL!” Bernard said with passion while pointing to himself. “COMMON!” he then bellowed and pointed in the direction of Smith, who was sitting to his right.

“So all the fighters out there that wan’t to be special, claim it before you become special among the eyes of the people. Because even though you might make it and surpass what Oscar and I did when your career blossoms, there’s always gonna be someone that you’re gonna have to prove that you were special. No matter how many titles you win, no matter how much money you got, no matter what you do, you always gonna have that, but if you use that for motivation. If you use that to stay in the game respectfully, then you become special, and an icon surpasses legend.

“Common man,” said Hopkins while acknowledging Smith again. “Special MAN!” again pointing himself out. “Which one you want?” he rhetorically asked the room.

“I want the special,” he continued. “You are that before you become that. Claim it! And if you want to work your way back down to common man, there’s a lot of people down there, but very few think the way I think.

“Now remember he gave you all a prediction,” reminded Bernard about the few words Smith spoke earlier. The 27-year-old Long Island native predicted he will knockout the 51-year-old legend. “See I’m not gonna predict that I will end his career mentally, emotionally, physically – I’m not gonna wish the Kelly Pavlik on him, but what I’m gonna do is spank him, teach him is ABC’s, and then send him back to Long Island up the road from Philadelphia. And then, one day, if he recovers mentally, then he might have something to salvage, and go forward. See that’s what I’m about. I’m a career stopper to most of my opponents that talk like him.”

Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 knockouts) was at the center of everyone’s attention as he spoke at the podium, and quite frankly, the living – and fighting – legend could’ve made the press conference an extra hour, and no one would’ve stopped him.

“I’m honored to be respected, as Joe mentioned too. I listen to words,” Hopkins mentioned to recognize. He brought up the fact Smith was a Union worker back home, and that he knows the mentality of Joe. “He’s from the Union 35, I’m from the Union of the State Correctional Facility of Gratersford,” Hopkins said now turned, and talking directly to Smith. “Even though I never bought silk underwear, but let me tell you what I did keep in my pocket. It’s called a Y-4145 prison I.D. card with my picture on it. And you know who that reminds me of when I got that first big check? That I’m always fighting – for a lot of reasons here in America. We ain’t gonna get into the politics, but… common, common! You won’t be special come Saturday – you will stay common.

“I want him to have a career. I wouldn’t wish nothing on nobody that I wouldn’t want to wish on myself. I’ve grown to understand the importance of that. So, young fighters – believe you are special. Women, men. You don’t need anybody to tell you – you gotta believe that. You could also choose second – which is common. You can always be common. It’s so easy to be common.”

Smith (22-1, 18 KOs) sat quietly while getting verbally jabbed for his one-dimensional style, and the quality of his past opponents questioned. He compared Smith’s lone known asset – his power – as being like a gun with one bullet, while he possesses the uzi in a gun fight.

Hopkins still showed that he had his fast ball when it came to shaming an opponent in the build-up of a fight. Whether or not the 51 year old can break this one in the ring remains to be seen, but there was one last reminder in his final press conference – Bernard Hopkins is an exceptional prizefighter all the way around.

“Since I gave you some food for thought. Enjoy the ‘Final 1.’ Enjoy the textbook of the sweet science. The sweet science has nothing to do with power. Remember what he said, and then witness, and pay attention to what you see.”

Hopkins-Smith is the main event of an HBO Championship Boxing tripleheader telecast Saturday night (10:00 p.m. ET / 7:00 p.m. PT). In the co-feature Joseph “Jo Jo” Diaz Jr. will take on Horacio Garcia in a 10-round featherweight contest. The United States debut of WBO cruiserweight titleholder Oleksandr Usyk opens the show with the 2012 Olympic gold medalist making his first defense against Thabiso Mchunu.