Boxing's ageless wonder, Bernard Hopkins, can add a new tag to his collection.
Hopkins, the 48½-year-old light heavyweight champion who holds the mark for being the oldest human to win a world title, has been named "goodwill ambassador" of the boxing program at Barclays Center.
The IBF champion, a Philadelphia native, has a story which transcends sports. He is perhaps the best-known success story coming out of Graterford State Correctional Facility in Pennsylvania, where he served 56 months for armed robbery. After his release in 1988, Hopkins turned pro and has made good on his vow to never return to lockup.
Now an executive with Golden Boy Promotions, Hopkins (53-6-2) will serve as a spokesperson at Barclays Center fight cards and appear at news conferences and boxing community clinics in the city. The fighter will also do meet-and-greets with Barclays Center customers and business development meetings.
"I'm honored to represent Barclays Center," Hopkins told NYFightblog after he finished presiding over Golden Boys' Manhattan presser to announce an Aug. 19 card in NYC. "At this stage of my career, I have more time to do things such as this assignment than physically fight. I'm excited."
He understands the potential influence he could have with some at-risk kids who have been written off by authority figures. "I was labeled unfixable," said the boxer, who will soon begin to prep for an Oct. 19 title defense against Karo Murat in Atlantic City. "I will be able to reach kids that are difficult. You are going to lose some, but you have to give the message, and you hope they listen."
Barclays CEO Brett Yormark told NYFightblog that he believes Hopkins can be integral in continuing to build a base of boxing fans in Brooklyn and beyond. "We've introduced boxing to the community and wanted to take that a step further," he said. "It's important to have Bernard as an ambassador, as a face for the program. I think he's a wonderful spokesperson and I'm honored to have him with us."
My take: Barclays is on a roll; it is the top-grossing U.S. venue in the last six months for concerts and family shows, according to Billboard, and is No. 2 worldwide in gross ticket sales revenue ($46.9 million), behind The O2 in the UK. The Barclays crew is optimistic it will get the nod to re-develop the Nassau Coliseum, and see Hopkins as a building block to reinvigorate boxing on Long Island if that comes to fruition.
The Hopkins-as-ambassador-role was by no means a no-brainer. Hopkins is unafraid to speak truth to power, and sends the occasional shot-across-the-bow to people he thinks lack wisdom or integrity, and doesn't flinch on taking on nuclear issues, like race in America. Some could see his flashes of candor as a turnoff, but the Barclays bunch apparently sees it as an asset, which reflects a certain admirable boldness on their part.