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Bernard Hopkins: Daily Routine

On Daily Routines, we profile successful leaders, entrepreneurs, artists, executives and athletes to explore their routines, schedules, habits and day in the life.

The last sweet treat Bernard Hopkins allowed himself, during his active years as a boxer, was a piece of cheesecake in 2011. It was a celebratory meal to toast his victory over Haitian-Canadian boxer, Jean Pascal, who Hopkins had defeated to win the WBC and The Ring light heavyweight titles.

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More importantly, however, the win cemented him as the oldest boxer, at 46 years old, to win a world title, breaking George Foreman’s record — the latter was 45 when he reclaimed the heavyweight title in 1994. Hopkins went on to break his own record when he defeated Tavoris Cloud in 2013, at the age of 49.

The 1969 Frank Sinatra song, “My Way” plays a special role in the former champion’s life. It’s his favourite song and he believes it helps explain his unlikely journey in the boxing world. “Do you understand what ‘my way’ means? Not your way,” he told The New York Times. “Never been your way. Never will be. I’ll compromise, I’ll listen, but my way means just that.”

Hopkins’ path to becoming the oldest boxing world champion started at the State Correctional Institution in Graterford, Pennsylvania, where he was sentenced at 17-years old to an 18-year bid for strong-armed robbery and assault. He was released after five years, but not before he kickstarted a lifestyle revolution.

“You become a farmer’s market, an entrepreneur,” Hopkins said about his time in prison. “I learned a lot from being in hell. I learned discipline. I learned that I choose what to put in my body.”

He stopped drinking, stopping smoking, stopped doing drugs, but more importantly, he found boxing. Under the tutelage of Smokey Wilson, a Graterford inmate and former boxer who knew Hopkins’ uncle, Art “Moose” McCloud, he discovered his passion for the sweet science.

“Once Smokey found out I was Artie’s nephew, we sort of got attached,” Hopkins told Ring Magazine. “He started training me. We had tournaments against other prisons. Two times a year, we had box-offs. I was middleweight champion for 4¾ years.” After he was released from prison, Hopkins dedicated his entire life to the craft of boxing.

Before jail I never thought about the repercussions. I just went ‘Boom!’ and spent the next five years in jail. It was the best five years in terms of understanding life and death.

Bernard Hopkins still bending time decades on | The Irish Times
Bernard Hopkins defeated Tavoris Cloud in 2013, breaking his own record as the oldest man to ever win a world title in boxing. Credit: USA Today Sports.

The foundation of Bernard Hopkins longevity inside, as well as outside, the boxing ring is his routine; a set of daily habits that includes physical (and mental) training, diet and recovery. During a training camp for an upcoming fight, Hopkins woke up at 5.30-6am every day for his morning run and stretch.

“I might chew on some kind of bar to keep something burning in my system. I don’t run on a full stomach,” Hopkins said in a Sports Illustrated interview. “If I have a gym workout, that will be in the afternoon. It’s extremely disciplined. I’ll get in two, sometimes three workouts per day. I’ll do some yoga and lot of little things here and there.”

Working out of Joe Hand Boxing in North Philadelphia, Hopkins’ training routine was centred around mobility, flexibility and speed in the ring. He stuck to bodyweight exercises and avoided lifting weights for that very reason, “Muscles are heavy. Muscles will wear you down. Having a lot of muscle is good for lifting cars or pulling tractor trailers.”

Instead, he focused mainly on improving his craft; working through a circuit that included the heavy bag, speed bag and mitt work, with sparring thrown in a few times a week. He also did a lot of crunches, push-ups and stretching to stay limber.

In addition to his physical training, Hopkins routinely trained his mind to stay sharp and improve reflexes — not at all a surprise if you consider the fact that he was one of the most savvy boxing technicians who enjoyed playing mind games with his opponents.

“I do a lot of puzzles. I play chess. I have to use muscles that don’t ordinarily get used a lot,” he told Sports Illustrated. “I have to be smarter than my opponents. I have to figure out their styles in the ring. I have to be three or four steps ahead of them. So my mind has to be sharp.”

I’m not the most talented fighter of the last 20 years. Roy Jones was talented. But my work ethic overrided all the super talent. I’m confident that they would agree with that 100%.

Bernard Hopkins: Boxing’s Ageless Wonder Pulls No Punches | Sports Illustrated

When it comes to his diet; Hopkins avoids processed and fried food. He cooks his own meals, with organic ingredients shopped from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods. “I buy fresh and I eat it within a day or two. I eat a lot of salads, a lot of fresh vegetables. I eat a lot of whole wheat pasta. I’m not a meat eater, per se, but I do like venison.” Other staples in his diet include: oatmeal, boiled beets, egg whites, fish, and chicken.

Unlike most boxers who take time off between fights and gain 20-30 pounds, Hopkins preferred to stay in fighting shape all year round to reduce the strain on his body that came from weight cutting. “I’m in shape, so when I’m getting ready for a fight, I don’t have to lose 20 pounds,” he told Ask Men. “Why put that strain on my body? People who let their weight yo-yo like that — it kills you. It wears you out. That’s called stress, and stress kills.”

I’m in love with it. That’s the problem. I’m a boxing addict. I train when I don’t even have no fight. Not like every day, maybe three or four days a week. I do different things. It’s my lifestyle. I’ve been doing it for 28 years. If I stop, I believe I will fall apart. I would feel so miserable.

Hopkins: ‘I am defending my legacy’ | ESPN

Before you go…

Check out more daily routines from Barack Obama, Joe Rogan, Jeff Bezos, Michelle Obama, Sheryl Sandberg, Richard Branson, Warren Buffet and plenty others.

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