By Joseph Santoliquito

Brooklyn, NY (CBS)—Bernard Hopkins wants you to still believe. The future Hall of Famer is still around, believe it or not. He still can beat most of the top light heavyweights in the world.

But is he still a world-champion caliber fighter?

That remains to be seen. Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 knockouts) will get his chance to show what he can still do this Saturday against IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

He is also 3-1-1, with 1 no-decision, in his last six fights. Hopkins hasn’t stopped a viable opponent since he downed his Golden Boy Promotions boss, Oscar De La Hoya, back on September 18, 2004. Since then, “The Executioner” has gone a rather tarnished 7-4-1, with 1 no-decision.

To the educated, informed fight fan, they wish Hopkins would just go away. To those that still cling to the version of “The Executioner,” vintage 2001, when he shocked the world and demolished Felix Trinidad, Hopkins is still a contender.

Hopkins certainly thinks he can still beat anyone.

Hopkins railed against the doubters. He railed against those who don’t think he has a chance, at 48 years old, to beat the 31-year-old Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs). He railed for the “forty-and-up club, for “his generation of fighters.” But mostly, he just railed.

“Any athlete who goes in there and knows they are 100-percent ready physically has an advantage,” Hopkins said during his final press conference on Wednesday promoting the fight. “Athletes deal with aches and pains, but I was able to rest for the whole summer of 2012 and I had a chance to heal my body 100 percent.

“Tavoris Cloud might actually be hungrier than me. How often do you hear a fighter say that his opponent is hungrier than he is? I don’t need hunger. I’m motivated by my desire to prove that I’m different and that I can still silence the critics. You will have reason to be surprised on March 9. You’re not going to see a new Bernard Hopkins. I’m too old for that crap. I think what you will see is something different that I know I am capable of doing.”

Cloud just smirked.

“I’d be a fool to get caught up in Bernard Hopkins’ mind games,” Cloud said. “That’s a fool’s game buying into those traps. When the bell rings on Saturday night, we’re both equals.  I’ve got to go in there and hit him to show his tactics will not work against me.

“I switched to my new trainer, Abel Sanchez, to add versatility to my game. I’m coming to fight a serious fight. If I knock [Hopkins] out, it will just put another feather in my cap. I’m predicting a win, but I never look for the knockout because that’s not my game plan. If my punches result in a knockout, so be it.”

Hopkins has never been knocked out in his career.

Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.


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