QUEBEC CITY -  One of these years, Bernard "The Executioner" will finally get around to acting his age. He'll throw a punch and find his slowing reflexes are such that he'll miss a target he previously would have found. He'll try to slip a shot squeezed off by an opponent who no doubt will be at least a decade younger, and that punch will land where once it hit nothing but air. Every aging athlete who tries to hang on too long learns what it's like to have his skills ebb, his pride wounded, his stature diminished.

For Hopkins, who turns 46 on Jan. 15, that time is not now, or at least it shouldn't be. Physically, he is closer to his peak than any fighter born this deep into his career has any right to expect. But there are other ways for an old warrior to have what remains of his vitality sapped. There are people with pencils who can inflict wounds more painful than any delivered by a gloved fist. There are administrators with the power to advance what remains of a remarkable career, or to help it recede.