Don King rope-a-dopes Bernard Hopkins

The Wednesday conference call to hype the March 9 Barclays Center showdown between 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins and the young-enough-to-be-his son Tavoris Cloud lasted over an hour, and co-promoter Don King was present for the second half of the call.

King, from his residence in Florida, came on after Golden Boy Promotions' Hopkins talked about licking his chops at the thought of landing the final blow on on King's career, who at 81 has limited his promotional efforts in recent years to a relative trickle.

As Hopkins talked about having zero remorse at possibly finishing off Don King Promotions, seeing as how Cloud, the IBF 175 pound champ, is his biggest name client, I found myself wondering how King would fire back.

And when his turn came to speak, The Don didn't counter.

He rope-a-doped.

He called Hokins a master, a legend, and almost made it sound like it would be a pleasure to have the elder craftsman whup his 31-year-old guy, Cloud.

I briefly noted to myself that King had gone soft, that age had worn his flinty side to a dull blade ... but I quickly smartened up. No, the old man still has it. To thunder back at Hopkins would be playing into the Philly boxer's hands, and his psyche. Hopkins uses negativity as fuel. He loves it when we underestimate him, write that -- finally -- this will be the time when the whippersnapper sends him to the hammock. As far back as 2001, we've been doing that.

'Felix Trinidad will blast out the old man,' we said, when the "old man" was just 35. 'Oscar De La Hoya will be too much for the faded Hopkins,' some wrote in 2004. And we know he won those contests ...

'Surely Jermain Taylor will be too strong, too active, too young, for the old guy,' we said in 2005, before Hopkins dropped two controversial decisions to the kid, and showed himself to be unlike the average boxer for whom time becomes the enemy after turning 32 or so. Similar estimations were made -- that he was too old, and his foe too fresh -- before fights against Joe Calzaghe, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson. And every time, Hopkins pre-fight railed against our temerity and ignorance ... and likely subconsciously thanked us, for helping him get motivated for the grind.

On Wednesday, OG Don King used kindness instead. He complimented and chuckled, reminded all that he and Hopkins share the bond of an incarceration stint, and wouldn't be lured into the deep waters with one of the handful of players in the pugilism pool who can hang with him in the arena of psychological operations.

Both men still have it, and have forgotten more about the art and science of using one's mouth to sell and win a fight than we'll ever learn. I promised after Hopkins schooled young Pavlik that I'd never again publicly pick against him, and I stand by that. As for King, I think Don will exit on his own terms, when he's damn well ready, not before.