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June 17, 2011

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From street fighter to boxing legend

AMERICAN Boxing Legend Bernard Hopkins attends charity White Collar Boxing Event: "Brawl on the Bund" in Shanghai and tells Ni Yinbin he'd like to defend his world Championship Title in China.

A former street thug in Philadelphia and convict, American boxer Bernard "The Executioner' Hopkins today is a legend and a role model, and he's still in the ring.

Hopkins, who recently made a charity visit to Shanghai, became the oldest boxer to ever win a world title when, at age 46, he defeated Jean Pascal on May 21 this year by unanimous decision. With that win, the light heavyweight surpassed the record previously held by George Foreman.

"I'm blessed and I wanted to share what I have and inspire others," says Hopkins who is the oldest owner of the Ring, WBC, Diamond and IBO light heavyweight titles.

Contrary to his "Executioner" ring persona, Hopkins is low-key and humble.

Last week he visited Fudan University Children's Hospital to see the ward that Leo's Foundation supports. The Foundation provides health care for premature babies with respiratory failure. The Champs visit to Shanghai was arranged by Visual Orients Limited to support an event call Brawl On The Bund and sponsored by Bar Rouge, where local expatriates box to raise money for Leo's Foundation.

The secret of his long career is his discipline and healthy living, he tells Shanghai Daily in an interview in his hotel lobby. While everyone around orders coffee, he orders tea.

He doesn't drink alcohol or eat fried food; he eats mostly egg whites, vegetables, fish and sometimes buffalo meat. That's been his diet for more than 20 years.

"I learned discipline right away in boxing and brought discipline to my personal life," he says.

"My philosophy that if your lifestyle is the opposite of staying healthy, being healthy and feeling healthy, then you're going in the opposite direction."

Hopkins was born into a low-income family in Philadelphia and when he was 9 years old, he became a street fighter. He smoked marijuana and drank liquor when he was age 11, he carried out a robbery when he was 13 and had suffered a stab wound by age 14. At age 17 he was convicted of strong-arm robbery and assault and sent to jail.

It was behind bars that he started to find his way and get healthy.

"I got into boxing because I wanted to get off the streets and I wanted to be a person that had a hobby and not just stand around doing nothing," Hopkins told Shanghai Daily. "I feel I have to do things to prepare myself early in my career to last as long as I've been lasting. It comes with time. It comes with some fortune. But you create your own luck ... You work with what you have and make the best out of it."

Hopkins has enjoyed a notable career, 52 wins (34 knockouts, 18 decisions), 5 losses and 2 draws. In his latest bout in May, Pascal was 18 years his junior. Hopkins keeps on learning.

"There's always something that somebody knows more than you ... Everybody has something that others don't have," Hopkins says. "I'm always humble and that keeps me hungry to learn."

Hopkins also has been involved with charities for the past five years.

"What I do is try to help other people and the charities that have the same ideas that I have," he says.

"I visited the hospital (in Shanghai) like I visit hospitals in Philadelphia in the States," he says. "This is something I'm passionate about and something that I do at home," says Hopkins who is also the father of a 2-month-old baby girl.

"When it comes to an infant who's innocent and looks to us for help, (we) can help the child who doesn't have a chance unless we give it. It's like we're in a position not to be God but in a way to play God."

He said the trip to support this boxing event in China inspired him to host a world championship event in Shanghai for the first time.

"Shanghai is perfect for something like this, you have so many high profile international events, why not boxing? I'd love to fight here and together with Shane Benis and VOL I'm sure we can make it happen.''

In October Hopkins is slated to fight American Chad Dawson.

"Retire? Maybe when I'm tired," he says, "but I don't feel tired yet."


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