Bernard Hopkins goes from Y4145 to the Hall of Fame
Bernard Hopkins plane had just landed in Los Angeles Wednesday morning when he noticed his phone blowing up. That’s how the all-time great found out he was on Tuesday’s 2019 ballot for the International Boxing Hall of Fame.
The world knew before “B-Hop.”
Hopkins and Juan Manuel Marquez top a list of 12 newcomers to this year’s ballot, which has 41 fighters in the modern category to be voted on by full members of the Boxing Writers Association of America and it includes an international panel of boxing historians and writers. Voters are allowed to select five fighters and those with 80-percent of the vote or better will be inducted. The IBHOF will announce its 2020 class in the first week of December and the enshrinement ceremonies will take place June 11-14, in Canastota, New York.
Because the IBHOF recently reduced the waiting period for eligibility from five years to three, Hopkins (55-8-2, 32 knockouts) won’t have to wait until 2022 for induction—which is a foregone conclusion.
“Good, because I might be dead by then,” Hopkins said laughing. “I started to get some text messages, and I didn’t bother looking. My phone started acting up again when I landed in LA Wednesday morning and I got a lot congratulations. I didn’t even know what it was about. I hope I get in.”
Yes, Hopkins actually said that.
He wouldn’t be Bernard Hopkins if there weren’t any questions.
Then Hopkins relayed a message from James Fisher, the son of the late Bouie Fisher, the renowned trainer who worked with “The Executioner” for much of his career.
“It said, ‘Hey little bro, this is James, I heard you got nominated for the Hall of Fame. I hope you get in, because you know political it is. I heard Duane Ford is the judge,’” Hopkins said, bellowing out another huge laugh. “When I heard the boxing writers and historians vote on it, I know I can breathe. I heard Juan Manuel Marquez is nominated, and he’s definitely getting in.
“I’m happy they changed the rules from five years to three years. I should still be on this side of the dirt by next June. And I also heard my man Bernie Fernandez is on the ballot. He’s going in with me. That would be great the two of us going in at the same time. Bernie covered my entire career.
“I have to thank guys like Bernie, and Nigel Collins, and a lot of guys in the media who respected me, even though a lot of times they might not have always agreed with me during my career, for this honor. This is the main course. I was inducted in Atlantic City and in Las Vegas. No disrespect meant to them, those were great honors, but this is the main course.
“This is a little surreal. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in hard work and commitment. I believed in myself, when the world didn’t believe in me. I’m not surprised by this. I’m a little subdued by it. In life, as I get older, I’m learning to have a lot of gratitude for all of the things that I’ve gotten in my life—and boxing is the reason why.
“I was in prison. Everyone knows my story. It is a book. It is a movie. They’re working on a documentary about my life. This is a great honor. This is something that I owe to my past. If I didn’t go through the things that I went through, if I didn’t learn from the mistakes that I made, I wouldn’t be where I am now.
“When you’re in prison, you have two choices: Keep on going in that direction and stay in prison—or die—or change. I changed. Boxing changed me. This is my page in a book that will now have a legacy. But I was serious earlier, because there were some bridges I burned, and I know there are people that I pissed off.”
Hopkins has evolved into a beloved figure in boxing. Many that spurned him through the years have become ardent fans. He’s still getting used to the fact that he has fans. That people actually like him, and those things are still hard for him to hear. Even for the years he was on top, Hopkins had a tendency to contrive something in his mind that was negative, create his own chip on his shoulder to barrel through. If there wasn’t an obstacle there, B-Hop would produce one.
People see the good in Hopkins—and there is a lot of good. He doesn’t want to hear that. He once helped pay for the funeral of someone that he wants to remain anonymous about. So he refuses to talk about it. He once helped a lost sportswriter in Louisville, Kentucky, one sweltering Friday afternoon, June 10, 2016, at the Muhammad Ali funeral. He won’t acknowledge that—even to the very person who he served as their guide.
In December, Hopkins will undoubtedly receive a call from International Boxing Hall of Fame executive director Ed Brophy telling him that he’s a Hall of Famer.
In June of next year, Hopkins’ stone face may crack a little from emotion during his induction speech.
He doesn’t want to hear that, either.
“I see the way people react to me today,” Hopkins said. “I get called a grumpy old man a lot of times, and that’s because I act like one. I want to make sure I do something special in downtown Philadelphia before I go to (Canastota) next June. I’ve had a lot of good things happen in my life. And I’m grateful for that and the people who helped me get there. Yeah, you can say I’ve been on the top of the mountain for a long time.
“But in my mind, I’m still the guy at the bottom of the mountain digging ditches. There’s still a fight out there. I still have a lot of things to do. When I heard about the Hall of Fame ballot, I actually thought some people would look for ways to keep me out. I guess that’s my personality and chip on my shoulders that I always carry. I believe I’ll be voted into the Hall of Fame by split-decision. I’ll get in by the skin of my chinny, chin chin.
“They better make me last when I am inducted. Ed Brophy is going to tell me to keep it to five minutes. I’m going to tell half the people there I dislike them (he laughs). Everyone better bring their pillows when I talk. They can take a nap and I’ll still be talking. They better make me last.
“It just reminds me that I came from J Block. I know my prison number backwards and frontwards, but I don’t know my social security number.
“I’m always going to be Y4145.”
Bernard Hopkins wouldn’t be Bernard Hopkins if he thought otherwise.
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