Boxing legend George Foreman, left, will be rooting for Bernard Hopkins… (Nicholas Kamm / AFP / Getty…)
One old guy was talking to another old guy the other day, and there were no hearing aids needed. It was amazing.
More amazing was the topic of their conversation, boxer Bernard Hopkins.
"I've only spoken to Hopkins two or three times," George Foreman said, "but I like him. He's not afraid."
Foreman being asked to speak about Hopkins was only natural because, on May 21, Hopkins beat Jean Pascal in Montreal to become a world light heavyweight champion. He was 46 years, 4 months and 6 days old, the oldest ever to hold a pro boxing title. When Foreman won his last heavyweight title, beating Michael Moorer in Las Vegas in 1994, he had become the oldest, at 45 years and 10 months.
"I was rooting for him," Foreman said. "I'm happy the bar has been raised. I always said I'll fight till I get enough money, not till I get enough whupping."
Foreman said he is rooting for Hopkins to keep fighting.
"You might as well," Foreman said. "There's not gonna be any Social Security left."
Hopkins is neither resting on his laurels, nor in a big easy chair in some rest home. He will defend his title Saturday night at Staples Center against Chad Dawson. You can pack up the kids and come on down, tune in on HBO pay-per-view, or ignore the entire thing based on the reasonable premise that a 46-year-old man with 59 pro fights (52-5-2) ought to know better.
Hopkins is nothing if not confident. Some might say he is full of himself.
"I love being 46 and sexy, with the body of a 25-year-old," he said during some of the promotional claptrap that took place for this fight the last several weeks. "My engine is always running."
He also said, "They call me The Executioner for a reason."
Yes they do. For selling tickets and pay-per-views.
Still, as noisy as Hopkins is, and always has been on his own behalf, his achievement is no small deal. Nor is there anyone better suited to speak to that achievement than Foreman, now a doddering 62, who could still knock your block off.
He had won the heavyweight title in his prime, and beat the likes of Joe Frazier (twice), Ken Norton and Ron Lyle, while losing one of the most famous boxing matches in history to Muhammad Ali, the "Rumble in the Jungle" in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of the Congo). When he quit in 1977, he was 28. When he decided to come back, in 1987, his wife was horrified.
"She said, 'They're gonna kill you,'" Foreman said. "She was used to the guy who helped get the kids off to school and who didn't want anybody messin' with his rose bushes in the backyard."
Foreman said the difference between him and Hopkins is that Hopkins has never stopped.
"He's just gone on with the training, the sparring. He's stayed in condition," Foreman said. "The thing that drives a boxer is that basic fear. It wakes you up in the middle of the night, just thinking that there is somebody out there who can beat you. Boxers never sleep well. You stay desperate. You see that Cadillac in the window and you want it.
"Then you quit, and in two or three years, you find that normal sleep. When I went back to boxing, my wife was afraid to sleep with me. I was edgy and up in the middle of the night and growling."
Foreman said that you can't get the edge back right away and that, before he made his comeback, he studied all those who had tried one before him.
"I read all the books," he said. "Joe Louis, Frazier, Ali. The only reservation I had was guys who tried to come back where they had stopped. They wanted to fight all the big fights right away. But time doesn't stop. The timing of the jab isn't quite there. The reach is different, the defense. And all the old trainers who used to help you are gone."
Foreman started back slowly. He didn't take a title shot until 24 fights, and four years, into his comeback. He lost that one by decision to Evander Holyfield in 1991 and didn't get another world title chance until 1994, when he beat Moorer. That made it 21 years between winning titles. When he beat Moorer, he defended his title successfully three times before Shannon Briggs finally put a stop to the nonsense in 1997.
Hopkins is defending his title just five months after winning it, and Foreman likes that.
"I think he can box till he's 60," Foreman said.
Foreman lives in Houston now, is an ordained minister with his own church, and pays the bills quite easily with the couple hundred million dollars he made as spokesman for the George Foreman Grill.
Hopkins remains the pride of Philadelphia, has an equity stake in Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, and pays the bills quite easily by enticing younger men into the ring with him and then punching their lights out.
Foreman and Hopkins are quite a pair. Think of them as the fine wine of a sport that has always been mostly a shot and a beer.
Bernard Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 knockouts), Philadelphia, vs. Chad Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs), New Haven, Conn.
Title: Hopkins' World Boxing Council light-heavyweight belt.
Ages: Hopkins, 46; Dawson, 29.
Weights: Hopkins, 173.4 pounds; Dawson, 174.2 pounds.
Site: Staples Center.
Time: 6 p.m.
Television: Pay-per-view, $49.95.
Tickets: $25, $75, $150, $300.
Undercard: Antonio deMarco (25-2-1, 18 KOs) vs. Jorge Linares (31-1, 20 KOs) for vacant WBC lightweight title; Kendall Holt (27-4, 15 KOs) vs. Danny Garcia (21-0, 14 KOs), junior welterweights; Paulie Malignaggi (29-4, 6 KOs) vs. Orlando Lora (28-1-1, 19 KOs), welterweights; Dewey Bozella (0-0) vs. Larry Hopkins (0-3), cruiserweights.