"I can't really add a lot of details to where we are with Cloud, but Bernard Hopkins refuses to embarrass his legacy and refuses to embarrass himself. I'm confident that he won't do that Saturday night. I don't think he will embarrass his legacy, but he will enhance it and add on to it," stated world-class trainer Naazim Richardson, who talked about his fighter, future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins, and their upcoming clash this Saturday with light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud. Check it out!
PC: Brother Naaz, how do you feel camp has gone for this fight Saturday night against Tavoris Cloud?
NR: I felt comfortable with camp. Sometimes X shows you things in bits and pieces because he's been around awhile. So it's like you don't have to see him turn on the pivot and drop the hook because I know he can turn on the pivot and drop the hook. I know in the fight, he's gonna turn on the pivot and drop the hook. A lot of things you just roll with in camp and he will do it when it's time to do it. With the younger fighters, you can push to see it and you wanna see it because you want to see if it's right before the performance is on. It's like, you don't question if Denzel [Washington] knows his lines. You know when you get on the set, Denzel is gonna deliver his lines. With some of the younger guys, it's like, "Hey, did you read the script and go over it?" This cat put the work in back in the day and he made everybody confident by letting us see it. A lot of people say, "get old overnight." I don't believe in that. I don't think that's a true thing. Fighters don't get old overnight. I think they get old when nobody is paying attention in the gym. Me having the benefit of working with older fighters before, I've seen fighters that were getting old, but there were so many people around them cheering them on and telling them they are still great, then when you get to the performance, you're actually arguing with them trying to tell 'em, "Hey man," without being disrespectful, but what you're trying to say in a way, you're trying to say, "You really aren't that great right now. You are not quite doing this the way it needs to be done." But how can you argue with a guy who's done it so many times. People don't realize that, but this is something I learned from the older guys that's been around for a long time. You really can't argue with them because they say, "Hey, this is the way I do it." How do you tell a guy who is already gonna be a Hall of Famer that he shouldn't be doing it that way no more? But fortunately with X, and especially in this camp, he showed us everything. So the issue is no longer, from a camp standpoint, we're not worried about if he still has it. We know he still has it. But the last part of the puzzle is, like anything, when we train a young guy, can he pull the trigger when the lights are on? So that's the last part that we will find out on Saturday. But there is not an issue on whether or not he still has it. We definitely see he still has it. It's whether or not he is gonna pull the trigger when the lights are on and small gloves start bouncing off of the side of your head.
PC: We spoke briefly the other night and you said you prefer Bernard fighting guys like Cloud, who come in with bad intention as opposed to the safer or slicker fighters. Can you elaborate on that some?
NR: Well, my thing is, one not in any kind of bitterness or anything, but I don't consider someone like Dawson to be a slicker kind of guy, but I don't care much to fight the reluctant guys.
PC: That is what you said; you're right.
NR: That's what I compare Dawson to be; the guys that aren't as tenacious that aren't looking to win a certain kind of way. I told y'all before that Dawson can win 7 out of 12 rounds and that's all you need to do to be a champion. He can do that. That's why he's not gonna set nothing on fire or have you guys running back to see the next fight. Nobody is saying I can't wait to see the next Chad Dawson fight. But I do prefer the gorillas. Bernard is a cat that has never allowed anybody to bully him. I prefer the bullies and the tough guys. I prefer the guys that are gonna walk into the cell block and say they are gonna take something from this fucking guy. I prefer those guys because we are dealing with a guy that ain't never let nobody walk in and take nothing from him.
PC: I posed this to Bernard and he agreed, so I will see what you think. Does Tavoris Cloud remind you of a more refined Antwun Echols?
NR: I haven't seen that Tavoris Cloud can punch like Echols. Years ago, Echols could pop. A lot of people didn't want to fight Echols. I would have loved to see Echols matched up with Joppy, Keith Holmes, and all of those guys; him and the kid Joe Lipsey, but Bernard got to 'em before they could get there. Tavoris Cloud shows me he might be more seasoned from his amateur background; he's more seasoned athletically than Pascal. He is better conditioned and more seasoned boxing wise than a Jean Pascal. Pascal might be a better athlete, but Cloud is a better fighter.
PC: When you are training such an experienced fighter, is it a situation where it makes your job easier, or like you said, is it tougher at times because you can't really tell them to change some of their ways?
NR: It's a double-edge sword. It makes it easier in the sense of he knows he needs to get in shape, he knows he shouldn't be eating this, he knows he should be in bed at a certain time, and he knows his body. That makes your job easier because you don't have to be on top of that. It makes it harder because if they are set in their ways of something, they want to hold their experience up for the argument. Like I said, I've had this situation, not so much with Bernard, but I had it with other fighters. I had a fighter who was determined to argue with me the way he wanted to fight a guy, and it was the wrong way to fight the guy, but he wanted to base it on other guys he had fought. He had fought nobody close to the magnitude of who we were preparing for. It's like you telling me I have driven cars, and I'm standing out here with a Ferrari that is suited for racing, and you are saying to me, "I have driven cars all my life." Yeah, but you haven't drove a car like this. This is a different type of car, so all of your experience driving cars can't help you here because you are not trained to drive this type of car.
PC: You always have that moment in a fight where you say, "He's ready to go," or, "We got him right where we want him." What would you have to see going on during the course of the fight to say, "Now we got him?"
NR: Bernard's execution. And what I mean in that sense is Bernard doing what Bernard does. When Bernard is moving his hands and he finds his rhythm, I don't think there is anything in Cloud's IQ that can negate that. I think Abel Sanchez has enough experience to make an adjustment, but I'm not sure Cloud will be able to. And I'm not sure their relationship is seasoned enough for Abel to be able to communicate that to Cloud and get Cloud to be able to adjust that and then act on it.
PC: People have to understand you have a very young stable of fighters, so the good thing for Bernard is he's preparing with young guys on a daily basis. You don't have him sparring other 40-plus-year-old fighters.
NR: Let's put it like this, if y'all put out a 30 and above belt, y'all could just hand it to him. Maybe him and Glen Johnson could square off for it, but if we are on points, then you can give it to him because he already has a win over Glen and still the only stoppage. But he's responding to the young guys and something that we got back to in this camp that we did in the Pascal camp was it was a different kind of energy that we needed him to show and respond to, and he showed us that kind of energy. We are just prepared to move forward. I can't really add a lot of details to where we are with Cloud, but Bernard Hopkins refuses to embarrass his legacy and refuses to embarrass himself. I'm confident that he won't do that Saturday night. I don't think he will embarrass his legacy, but he will enhance it and add on to it. And Cloud, who I consider to be a cold killer, and everybody is writing him off because of the Campillo fight, but everybody underestimates Campillo. This last kid didn't. This Russian kid didn't. That's what you have to do. Campillo is one of those fighters and I just had a fight like that with one of my young fighters, Karl Dargan. I told him, I said, "The kid that you are fighting, anybody that underestimates him, he beats." Now you can beat the kid, but anybody that underestimates him, the kid will beat you.
PC: They got them out there like that. I always felt that's how Freddie Pendleton was. If you put a young fighter in with him who looked at his wins and losses and underestimated him, he would beat them and beat them good.
NR: Yeah! This kid Darnell Boone is like that.
PC: You right.
NR: If you focus on him, you will be him because he just don't have the talent pool and attributes to get past those who have more talent than him. But the first guy who sleeps on him, he gonna cut 'em down to size.
PC: Being in Bernard's corner and camps for so long, to see this man at 48 years of age come to the gym day in and day out and see what he does, how remarkable is that to fight at this high of a level and train as hard as he does at this age?
NR: This is the headline to this conversation we having as far as I'm concerned. What you just asked then was a great question. And to me, it's the headline and the reason why I wanted to talk to you. When we have a 48 year old man that is performing at a level of excellence that is clean, he will take any test that you offer him he says. See, Lance Armstrong bamboozled everybody and got like $30 million and he was lying to the people. Here is a man that is 48 years old and clean and in a sport where your body is attacked by your opponent. We have the only sport where the goal is to break you down physically. No other sport's goal is to break you down physically other than MMA. And even in MMA, the actual goal is to make you surrender. That's not our goal. Our goal is to keep touching you and keep touching you for as long as the bell sounds. So you have a guy in a sport like this that is clean and still performing at a championship level, and he's not embarrassing himself; he's performing well at a championship level. He is considered a legitimate threat by any young guy in the weight class and there is nowhere on the universe where you can mention top 3 light heavyweights and he not be one of them; no way you can talk about the top 5 light heavyweights or so and he not be one of them. And in some regards, he is considered one of the top fighters in boxing history and the guy is clean. Where is the US Postal service with us in a robe or a patch on the trunks? Where is Coca Cola and all of these guys? He is willing to prove they can come check him first and then offer him. Where is Nike and Adidas and Puma at? This guy is historic shit. A lot of people ask me where does Mayweather and Pacquiao compare to Bernard Hopkins. I tell them you have to tell me about Mayweather and Pacquiao comparing to Bernard Hopkins when we see Michael Hunter and Rau'Shee Warren in their 5th and 6th title defense. If Mayweather and Pacquiao are still beating people at a championship level when Rau'Shee Warren is in his 5th and 6th title defense, then we can start comparing. If these guys can stick around and perform that well for that long, then we can see what we are dealing with.
PC: It's hard to believe Subway or a company like that wouldn't be interested in the likes of a Bernard Hopkins.
NR: Exactly, Perc. I mean, Gatorade or Powerade not interested in this dude?
PC: I agree 100%. Brother Naaz, I look forward to Saturday night; best of luck to you guys. I will catch up with you after the fight for sure. Is there anything you want to add before I let you go?
NR: I appreciate the interview and I appreciate your patience. I look forward to some of these challenges we are facing, and like I say, we have fights that can put you in position to contend, we have fights that can win you titles, and then you have fights that can declare whether or not you are special. Then you have fights like this with Bernard that can say exactly how special you are because we already know you can contend, we already know you were a champion, we already knew you were special, but these types of fights will show how special this guy really is. These fights will show you it's a whole different level that's beyond championships when you are in these kinds of fights and these kind of circumstances.