Dedicated to Discipline


Dear President Obama,

You know how Arnold Schwarzenegger was once the chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness? Well, I think boxer Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins could be your man for that position.

He's 45 years old, and he's still one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the sport.

He's in such good shape, he has a fight with Roy Jones Jr. this weekend at Mandalay Bay, and everyone is worried he'll hurt Jones, a younger man.

So please read my interview with Hopkins, Mr. President, and consider:

Hopkins, a married father, doesn't drink, smoke, gamble or "run around with women," as he says.

Yet, the boxing world hasn't catapulted him to TV commercials or role model status.

He thinks he could have been held up as a role model for "health and awareness," by now, if he were instead a 40-year-old top football quarterback such as Brett Favre, or a 40-something top soccer player in Europe.

"Any other sport in this country would be embracing me now. They'd be kissing my hand right now. I'd be doing some kind of running commercial with Nike. I'd be endorsing some kind of Viagra pill."

Sometimes, he thinks maybe he'd get more health endorsements if he were of a more unique heritage for his sport.

"If I was Italian, Jewish or any other ethnic or color -- and I was Bernard Hopkins Rosenberg and I was 45 years old -- you'd have to go through 20 publicists to even get close to Bernard Hopkins.

"I would be the poster boy of health and awareness. They would show me to every high school kid across America."

He'd tell those kids:

"If you watch your lifestyle, if you watch your weight, if you eat the right things and not the processed food that poison this country like crack cocaine, then you have the chance to be the next Bernard Hopkins."

He's a certain kind of American Dream -- the kind that messed up early in life while living in the projects but found redemption through hard work. In Hopkins' own words, he "did wrong in young life" and went to prison.

But he then gave back "by not repeating the same ignorance," and by becoming a good businessman and "one of the three best fighters" of his generation.

He did this through discipline and accountability.

"It takes discipline to get up every day to do right," he says.

"Everybody can't be a leader. Everybody don't want to risk the responsibility of being in charge, because guess what," he says. "When it all falls down, I lost the fight, not my corner."

He says history tells us only the most disciplined, responsible people of all colors and heritages have the vision to lead.

"Mohammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell, Marcus Garvey, Ghandi, Martin Luther King -- don't you know it takes discipline to get spit on, and bit, and thrown in jail, marching all day down the street?"

With this weekend's boxing match, he's going to display how healthy a 45-year-old man can be.

"We're gonna show everybody: He was born Jan. 15, 1965. Look at his body. Now, he ain't just lifting weights. He ain't just doing something to make a shortcut to success. He started investing in his life and his body in his 20s, in his 30s, and now he's reproducing."

His body's like a strong bank account he's been shoring up, he says.

"If you eat the right foods and you exercise, isn't that an investment you are putting into your own life, that you are able to withdraw later on? Ain't that what I'm doing now?"

He values the worth of his hard work.

"I don't say this to stick my chest out. I'm just giving you the facts: There are very few fighters that have survived the wrath of 'The Executioner,' " he says.

"We don't know the next time we're gonna see somebody that's gonna last this long in boxing, let alone be competitive."

He doesn't think he has all of life's answers.

"Nobody knows everything, and some people don't learn nothing," he says.

But he agrees with me that he would make a good choice for chairman of the President's Council on Physical Fitness.

"Our kids," he says, "are obese. They don't exercise enough. They got sodas, Kool-Aid, junk machines in the hallway.

"Go somewhere and look at these young people's stomachs. It's hanging over their pants, man!"

Contact Doug Elfman at delfman@reviewjournal.com. He blogs at reviewjournal.com/elfman.

 

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