Bernard Hopkins out to quiet critics

Updated: January 18, 2013, 4:32 PM ET
By Michael Woods | ESPN New York

NEW YORK -- Bernard Hopkins has earned a cushy retirement after 24 years as a professional fighter and 62 bouts. But the man is nothing if not supremely determined to prove to the world that a man in his 40s still can compete at a world-class level in the ring.

Celebrating his 48th birthday Tuesday, Hopkins officially announced that on March 9, he will meet Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), a 31-year-old from Florida, at Barclays Center in Brooklyn.

When Hopkins takes on Cloud for the light heavyweight belt, he will attempt to break his own record and become the oldest man to win a world title.

At a news conference held at Barclays, a cheesecake from Junior's was wheeled out, presented to the master pugilist, and Hopkins blew out the candles. He cut a slice, and instead of gobbling a morsel, brought it over to Cloud. It was symbolic of the willpower that has served him so well, and of the mind games he has mastered.

"Age is not an enemy to me," Hopkins told the media, after turning his nose up at the cake.

[+] EnlargeBernard Hopkins
Gabriel Bouys/AFP/Getty ImagesFormer world champion Bernard Hopkins, who celebrated his 48th birthday Tuesday, will take on Tavoris Cloud on March 9 in Brooklyn.

He indulged in some of those mind games, telling Cloud that he is the last hope for promoter Don King, and promising to retire King after beating Cloud. "You're the last horse, brother," he told Cloud. "There's no stable."

King, who turns 82 in August and mostly oversees smaller shows in Florida, his home base, chuckled good-naturedly, and shouted that he's "Secretariat."

Cloud told NYFightblog: "I'll beat him by throwing punches. I'm not going to complicate it. It's the same way I win all my fights."

Hopkins became the oldest boxer to win a world title, at age 46, when he beat Jean Pascal in May 2011, and captured the WBC light heavyweight crown. George Foreman had been the record holder; he was 45 when he beat heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in November 1994. Hopkins dropped the WBC title to 29-year-old Chad Dawson, via majority decision, in his previous outing, on April 28.

A former middleweight champion, Hopkins defended his 160-pound belt a record 20 times.

Apart from his standing as a superlative athlete at an age when most professionals have retired, the fighter serves as a role model to people who ran afoul of the law but were able to get back on track.

At age 17, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison for strong-armed robbery and assault. He served five years at a state correctional institution and was released in 1988. Hopkins turned pro on Oct. 11, 1988, and hasn't been back to prison. He earned a subtle compliment from King, who served time on a manslaughter charge (and was later pardoned), when the promoter referred to the fighter as "my alumni."

While King seems to be playing out the string, Hopkins clearly relishes every minute of his time on the stage.

"I represent the 40-and-up club," he said as the news conference emptied out, 20 minutes after King had left the building.

Michael Woods, a member of the board of the Boxing Writers Association of America, has been covering boxing since 1991. He writes about boxing for ESPN The Magazine and is the news editor for TheSweetScience.com.

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