Why is it that Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins can continue to be an elite boxer at an age (46) when virtually every fighter who was active when he turned pro, in 1988, is retired or wishing he were? Let us count the ways:

* He is somehow less prone to the aging process than most people. Face it, not all human beings have the same physiology, metabolism or internal plumbing. Some double-jointed individuals can twist themselves into pretzels, others can swallow swords.

* He never gets his just desserts. Except for the occasional slice of cheesecake, his diet almost exclusively consists of veggies, broiled fish, skinless chicken . . . healthy stuff. If first lady Michelle Obama is looking for a front man for her campaign against childhood obesity, B-Hop has to be a candidate for the gig.

* He's a gym dandy. If staying in superb shape day after day, week after week, month after month and year after year were the only requisite for boxing greatness, even Sugar Ray Robinson, Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis might have to move over to make room for this guy.

* His style does not expose him to undue punishment. The first rule of boxing is hit and not get hit. About to enter the ring for the 60th time in a professional career dating back to 1988, Hopkins fights sparingly enough to allow his body to recover before he gloves up again, and is the sort of defensive master who never gets hit that solidly or that often. Hopkins has lost fights, but he's never, ever been beaten up.

* He has a perpetually fresh mental outlook. Oh, sure, he pokes fun at himself about needing a walker and a barrel of liniment, but this is a middle-aged man with a kid's enthusiam who always seems ready for a teeter-totter, not a rocking chair.