'Genius' Bernard Hopkins lauded by Oscar de la Hoya ahead of retirement

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Hopkins set to hang up gloves at 51

Bernard Hopkins has been hailed as a "genius" by fellow great Oscar de la Hoya, before the 51-year-old's final bout in Los Angeles on Saturday.

Former two-weight world champion Hopkins takes on fellow American Joe Smith Jr in his 65th pro contest.

Hopkins defended his world middleweight title 20 times and is the oldest man to hold a world title, aged 49.

"We won't see a fighter like Bernard any time soon," De la Hoya, Hopkins' promoter, told BBC World Service.

Hopkins, who made his pro debut before the 27-year-old Joe Smith Jr was born, has a record of 55 wins (32 KOs), seven defeats, and two draws. He has never been beaten inside the distance.

De la Hoya added: "He's dedicated his whole life to the sport, that why he's been able to last this long. The longevity has been incredible.

"He's also a master of psychosocial warfare, a master at getting under your skin.

"Bernard Hopkins is a genius. Not only does he beat you inside the ring but he beats you even before you step inside of the ring."

Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe
Hopkins was beaten by Welsh legend Joe Calzaghe in 2008, after a fractious build-up

Hopkins discovered boxing in prison having been locked up in 1982 at the age of 17, for a string of crimes.

In 1988 he was released and lost his first pro fight. He spent 16 months contemplating his next move before resuming his career as a middleweight.

Hopkins spent the early 1990s in the shadows of fellow American greats Roy Jones Jr [whom he lost to in 1993] and James Toney, before winning the IBF middleweight title at the age of 30 in 1995.

He made a record 20 defences, including stopping previously unbeaten Puerto Rican legend Felix Trinidad in 2001, but lost twice to Jermain Taylor in 2005.

Hopkins subsequently moved up to light-heavyweight, losing to Welshman Joe Calzaghe in 2008 before wresting the WBC belt from Canada's Jean Pascal in 2011.

This made Hopkins the oldest boxer in history to win a world title, at the age of 46, breaking George Foreman's record set in 1994.

Hopkins lost the belt against Chad Dawson in 2012 but secured the IBF version the following year, at the age of 48, when he outpointed Tavoris Cloud.

Aged 49, Hopkins added the WBA belt by beating Beibut Shumenov before he was comprehensively outpointed in a unification bout by Russia's Sergey Kovalev.

"I want to give a performance where you beg me to stay, and it's a challenge that Joe Smith will have to take on," said the man known as 'The Executioner', who is a month shy of his 52nd birthday.

"Joe Smith is a hard puncher, he won't run, he won't lay back and he won't try not to execute me.

"However, he has to be trained to work out four, five, six different styles that I will utilise in the ring. He is going to have to be smart.

"The sweet science is something that I've always been addicted to. My fight will be like watching the last game of [NBA greats] Michael Jordan or Kobe Bryant."

De la Hoya, who lost to Hopkins in 2004, said there was a clause in Hopkins' fight contract that it would be his final fight, at least for Golden Boy Promotions.

"Bernard has been doing this for most of his life, and when you have to divorce yourself from the sport you love dearly it's heartbreaking," said De la Hoya.

"So you have to prepare yourself months in advance, sometimes years. And being a fighter myself, I don't really believe what boxers say."

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