WASHINGTON - Bernard Hopkins sat behind a dais yesterday, his shiny, red IBF championship belt resting in front of him. By the time his turn came to speak at the final news conference before tomorrow's fight, Hopkins had been presented with a portrait, and a plaque and a trophy from Joe Frazier's family.
So when Hopkins finally stepped behind the podium, the North-Philadelphia-raised boxing legend decided to add to his growing collection. The 49-year-old reached to his left and grabbed two more belts, those sanctioned by the WBA and IBA, those belonging to his opponent, Beibut Shumenov.
"Since I'm getting all this good stuff and awards, trophies and belts," the future Hall of Famer said, "I might as well put these over here."
"A little better now," he quipped seconds later, Shumenov's belts now on his side of the podium.
Hopkins then addressed the media for 10 minutes, the duration of which Shumenov remained seated. Once Hopkins sat down, only then did Shumenov speak up. "You have to be patient about taking my belts," said Shumenov, 30, as he took back his belts and placed them back in front of him. "On Saturday night, we're going to see who's taking whose belts."
It was great entertainment for those in attendance yesterday at The Hamilton hotel, just a few blocks from the White House. Hopkins is known for playing mind games with his opponents, the lead-up to this fight proving no exception. Tomorrow night at the DC Armory, "The Alien" is looking to become the oldest boxer to unify the light heavyweight world titles.
"The damage is done," Hopkins said after the news conference.
Hopkins is fighting for his legacy at a time when any bout could mark his swan song. This will be his 65th professional fight, 13th since moving up to light heavyweight from middleweight in 2006. Shumenov, who has all of 15 matches of professional experience, is fighting to put himself on the map. When Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts, 2 no-contests) made his pro debut in 1988 - believe it or not, with a loss - Shumenov (14-1, 9 knockouts) was less than 2 months removed from his fifth birthday.
"Get ready for school, student," Hopkins said. "This is no disrespect. This is logic. I am the professor with a Ph.D. IQ. And I'm going to take him from having his GED - because he has some experience - to teach him that you need more than just that to make a good living in America."
Shumenov, a Kazakhstan native who has trained out of Las Vegas since 2007 and turned pro November of that year, comes from a successful family and has a law degree. According to Hopkins, fighting is merely a hobby for his opponent. And that, he said, will come into play tomorrow in the ring.
"It's sort of like a hobby to certain sets of people that want to fight and can do enough to get certain levels but don't have to fight," Hopkins said. "See, I have to fight. I had to fight. Ninety-nine percent of fighters who become fighters, they really, genuinely have to fight. When you don't have to fight because the blessings that you inherit or that you actually were born in, that percentage plays a really important role when it gets down to the trenches.
"That small percentage, when it gets down to a dogfight, when it gets down to, 'Why the hell am I in here?' you're going to be thinking about your daddy's money," Hopkins added. "My daddy never had money. My daddy ain't have money, you know my mother didn't have none. I ain't got nothing to think about."
For Shumenov, this is the biggest fight of his life. A fast riser in the pro boxing ranks, he said he prepared for it like it were his last and is "ready to die to get the victory."
"He wants to prove something to himself," Hopkins said. "That's enough drive to be successful to a point. Until you run into me."
Marvis Frazier, son of the late Joe Frazier, his cousin, Joe, and family friend Renee Allen, attended yesterday's news conference to present Bernard Hopkins with a plaque and to thank him and Golden Boy Promotions for funding the completion of the Joe Frazier statue.
"When my father had passed away, they were in the midst of putting together a statue for him and no one would come to the table," Marvis Frazier said. "Golden Boy and Bernard Hopkins said they would build the statue for our father. For that, I'm here. I love this guy."
Projected for unveiling between Thanksgiving and Jan. 12, Smokin' Joe's birthday, the statue will stand on the corner of Pattison Avenue and 11th Street, outside XFINITY Live! Nine feet tall, it will depict Frazier's 15th-round knockdown of Muhammad Ali in the 1971 "Fight of the Century" at Madison Square Garden.
Frazier died of liver cancer Nov. 7, 2011, at the age of 67.
"[Hopkins] carries that Joe Frazier spirit," said Naazim Richardson, Hopkins' longtime trainer. "It's a different style of boxing, but it's the same mentality of boxing. He never says die. He never surrenders."
Hopkins also was presented with a duplicate of a portrait of himself that will hang in the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery in Washington. Golden Boy Promotions donated the portrait, taken in 2003 by sports photographer Holger Keifel.