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If he beats Jean Pascal on Dec. 28,
Bernard Hopkins will become the oldest boxer
ever to win a significant title.
Here are some of the secrets
to "The Executioner's" longevity.


The secrets to improving your speed
By Gordon Marino
The Boxing Amusement Park


Last week, I chatted with the professor of boxing technique, Bernard Hopkins. At 45, the Philadelphia fighter is getting ready for another title shot on December 18th when he challenges 28- year-old Jean Pascal for the WBC and IBO light-heavyweight world championship. If Hopkins proves victorious, he will be the oldest boxer to win a significant title.

I asked the maestro how his boxing preparation currently differs from 10 or 20 years ago. After a short preamble, Hopkins confided that he was working on his speed. Now, I, for one, have never thought that beyond being in condition and keeping your weight at a healthy place, there is little that a mature fighter can do in the way of increasing his or her speed. And at 45! Come on! But Hopkins insisted that speed is almost entirely a matter of seeing punches develop and not telegraphing your own shots. For instance, it does not matter how fast your opponent is, if his elbow goes out when he jabs, you are going to see the punch coming and get out of there. At a certain point, speed in boxing is really about deception--- or so that is how I understood Bernard.

Hopkins made an interesting observation. “There is a different energy with young fighters," he said. "It is not a matter of being in condition, but of a different kind of energy.” According to Hopkins, there is a more frenetic flow from a young tiger. Turning Pascal, he noted, “I need to break him down psychologically, to make him pause and think, What am I doing in here? I didn’t know what I was in for.” This was, of course, a classic Hopkins riff but then Bernard made a more nuanced point, saying that, in the course of a fight he often has to decide between speed and power. He said, “If I want speed, I stop sitting down on my punches. If I want power, I plant my feet.” 

I watched Hopkins derail Kelly Pavlik in the fall of 2008. That was, of course, an object lesson in how to tangle with a fighter who has thunder in his right hand- but not much else. You move to his left and make him either reset or throw the right across his front leg. When he does that he won’t be able to open up his hips and he won’t get the usual torque.



I pressed Hopkins for another tip. He lectured, “Anyone who is attentive in boxing-in the gym - can achieve success.” It is true that a lot of boxers leave their brains aside when they wrap up their hands. Attentiveness is crucial and that also means making yourself calm enough to think and take in lessons. But I jabbed Hopkins, “I didn’t ask for boxing philosophy. Give me a tip on technique to pass along.”

Hopkins chuckled, “All right. I gotcha. When you are fighting an orthodox guy with his hands held high, throw your usual one- two, jab-straight right a few times. But then as you get in close, jab down the middle, take a little slide-step to the right and throw a right hook to the temple, around and over the guy’s, left hand. A shot to them temple really messes up your balance.” Like a great pitcher, Hopkins’s fistic genius is all about changing the speed, force, and angle of his punches. 

Many thanks to Bernard Hopkins for his generosity.

Gordon Marino

Other articles by Gordon Marino

Vitali Klitschko pounds out an argument for boxing reform

The elemental feelings of anger and fear

Training tips from Angelo Dundee: Everything works off the jab


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Send an e-mail to Gordon Marino


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Gordon Marino | The Ringside Boxing Show

A former boxer, Gordon Marino
was head boxing coach
at Virginia Military Institute
and now runs a boxing program
in Northfield, Minn.,
where he teaches philosophy
at St. Olaf College.
He also writes about boxing
for the Wall Street Journal.

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