Light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins is 49. As he likes to put it, "I'm damn near 50." He usually says that just before he jokes about taking out his teeth and relaxing in his rocking chair.
Forty-nine is an age when most athletes are retired. Long retired. Yet Hopkins remains one of the best fighters in the world, even if he isn't what he was during his dominant days as the middleweight champion of the world on his way to a division-record 20 title defenses back in the 1990s and early 2000s.
"I'm from the old school but I'm stuck in the new era," Hopkins said.
"I want people to acknowledge that we're dealing with a special athlete in Bernard," said his longtime trainer, Naazim Richardson. "Thirty is old in boxing. Guys still perform at 30, but it's old. So what he's doing is ridiculous."
The three-time light heavyweight titleholder, who calls himself "The Alien" because he believes he can't possibly be of this Earth, has set various age-related records: oldest boxer to hold a world title (49), oldest to win a world title -- he did that twice, at age 46 and 48 -- and oldest to successfully defend a world title (48).
"To be 49 years old, approaching 50, and knocking on the door of being a senior citizen, it's a profound statement of my dedication," Hopkins said.
Now Hopkins, who would like to defend his title at least once past age 50, is going for yet another record -- oldest fighter to unify world titles -- when he meets fellow titleholder Beibut Shumenov on Saturday night (Showtime, 9:30 ET, immediately following the debut of "All Access: Mayweather vs. Maidana," with preliminary bout on Showtime Extreme beginning at 7 p.m. ET) at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C.
Not only is Hopkins preparing for another slice of history, but he also has the audacity to look ahead. His plan doesn't end with Shumenov. Hopkins' goal is to challenge lineal champion Adonis Stevenson and further unify the belts early next year, after his 50th birthday on Jan. 15.
"Fifty is a milestone. I want to defend the title at 50," Hopkins said. "When I turn 50 years old, providing everything goes the way I planned, I want to do one of those big celebrations with a big megafight at 50, like you'd do a big 50-year-old [birthday] party. Can you imagine?"
Hopkins is keenly aware of his age and how it has defined a large portion of his career. He talks about it often and is asked about it often. For years, there has often been a sense before each of his fights that, because of his age, this could be his last fight. He knows it.
"When you watch Saturday, you're going to watch something you've seen over and over," Hopkins said, referring to what he believes will be a methodical victory. "I can't help if you all get bored. You're going to have to write the story. Enjoy and understand that this is history. I'm defending something bigger than a title. My legendary 20-plus-year legacy is more important than anything around my waist."
That history is not lost on Hopkins or those around him.