Bernard Hopkins, already boxing’s oldest-ever world champion at 49, is looking to keep rewriting the record books when he faces Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan next month.
First, he wants to become the oldest unified champion, then the oldest undisputed champion and finally the first-ever 50-year-old world champion.
The age-defying light-heavyweight IBF champion faces a unification title fight against WBA laureate Shumenov in Washington on April 19.
“I’ve got a chance to do something very special,” Hopkins said on Tuesday. “I’m not done yet. That’s where I draw my motivation, my inspiration. I’m trying to make history write another book on me.”
The American, who defended the IBF middleweight crown 20 times from 1995 to 2005, was overlooking US President Barack Obama’s residence at the White House as he pondered his ring legacy.
“It makes me feel just as important as Obama,” Hopkins said. “I understand the significance of this. I want to defend the title at 50. I believe I’m the most feared fighter in the world, despite my age. People know how dangerous I can be to a career.”
Hopkins, 54-6 with two drawn and 32 knockouts, wants to own two titles to force a showdown for an undisputed crown with Haitian-born Canadian southpaw Adonis Stevenson, the WBC champion, who is 23-1 with 20 knockouts.
“Stevenson is the motivation to beat Shumenov, not just to win, but to perform well,” Hopkins said. “I can’t win and look old.”
That’s why Hopkins, who turns 50 in January next year, says he wants his first knockout win since he stopped Oscar de la Hoya in 2004 to be against Shumenov, 14-1 with nine knockouts.
“I’m not looking past him. I’m looking through him,” Hopkins said. “He has something I need to be the undisputed champion of the world. He’s in my way. I’m not selling him cheap. I’m not selling him short.”
However, Hopkins is already playing mind games, positioning Shumenov for photographs and a staredown at a news conference as he might lead a child.
“There is a way of not knowing they are playing into your dictatorship,” Hopkins said. “I’ve got to translate that into the ring, to hypnotize them into not knowing they are under the spell.”
Shumenov dismissed any idea of mind-game trickery.
“Not going to affect me for sure,” Shumenov said. “We were just posing for cameras. I didn’t see anything, didn’t try to show him anything.”
Then he answered Hopkins’ talk of unifying the crowns at 50.
“A lot of people underestimate me,” Shumenov said. “Soon, they’ll find out I’m the best light-heavyweight in the world.”
Shumenov, 30, makes his sixth defense of the title he took from Spain’s Gabriel Campillo in 2010, but admits he has never faced a rival like Hopkins.
“I know I have never faced anyone at Bernard’s level. It will be the hardest fight of my life, but I’ll do everything possible and impossible to get this victory,” Shumenov said.
And the Kazakh marvels at Hopkins, who won and defended the IBF crown last year at age 48.
“It’s unbelievable. He’s a super-human,” Shumenov said. “He is extraordinary, the best in the division. He has the best boxing IQ and skills.”
Hopkins says that, except for iconic heavyweight Muhammad Ali, he knows best how to play on a foe’s insecurities.
“I think I’m the king, behind Ali, at knowing how to work a guy’s mind and lack of belief in himself,” Hopkins said. “That’s a fight itself, of nerves, anxiety, attitudes. All kinds of stuff plays in your mind. I must use these things as an advantage. Age-wise, I’m at a disadvantage.”