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Nearing end in ring, Hopkins diversifies

He presented a new playground at his elementary school.

Bernard Hopkins is not sure how many more fights are left in him, but yesterday, the Philadelphia boxer said his life as a humanitarian was just getting started.

At the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the playground Hopkins installed at Charles Henry Elementary School in Mount Airy, the 42-year-old spoke about all of the things that have been keeping him busy: what could be his last fight in July, the disturbing homicide rate in Philadelphia, and his plans to help the city's children.

Hopkins, whose booming voice rose above a playground of boisterous kids yesterday afternoon, retired after defeating Antonio Tarver for the IBO light-heavyweight title in June. But the laid-back life did not seem to suit Hopkins, who will fight Ronald "Winky" Wright on July 21 in Las Vegas.

Hopkins knows that at his age, even winning can hurt. That is something he will consider before he steps into the ring again after the Wright fight.

"At 42 years old, no matter how great I might look or how great I might talk or how great my career has been, you don't plan as time goes, you go as time comes," said Hopkins, who held the middleweight title from 1995 to 2005. ". . . You can win the fight and look in the mirror and really pay the big price for winning."

Aside from boxing, Hopkins is busy in other arenas of life.

He is a partner with Oscar De La Hoya in Golden Boy Promotions. Floyd Mayweather Jr. will fight De La Hoya on May 5 in Las Vegas.

"I think I was the best self-promoter," Hopkins said. "So it's an easy transition. It's just a matter of wearing more suits than I'm accustomed to wearing."

Another suit fitting "The Executioner" these days is that of a humanitarian.

Hopkins unveiled the first project he has completed as part of the Bernard and Shirley Hopkins Make a Way Foundation - named in part after his deceased mother - at the school he once attended.

Hopkins had some sweet moments as children clamored around him on the new, brightly colored playground, squeezing his trim waist and asking for his autograph. He refused to sign their T-shirts, concerned that he would anger their parents.

He also shot some baskets into the new hoop.

"All these years and they still don't have anything to do at recess," he said. "We used to run around and get in fights. . . . I wanted to change that."

Hopkins plans to install 50 computers in the school. He would like to upgrade other schools in the area.

Mayor Street recently named Hopkins the city's ambassador of peace. The city's homicide rate is unsettling to Hopkins.

"I just try to show it's senseless and it needs to stop," said Hopkins, who served time in Graterford Prison for armed robbery as a young man. "We need to bring [things] to light other than the negative. . . . The only way to deal with it is to save the ones who can be saved. It's not to give up on the ones who made a mistake once or twice."