(Reuters) - Bernard Hopkins will return to the ring despite suffering a crushing defeat over the weekend to Russian Sergey Kovalev, the 49-year-old former champion told Reuters on Tuesday.
Hopkins, who failed to win a round on any of the three judges’ scorecards in the light-heavyweight title unification bout, ended speculation of his retirement by saying he will fight “one more time.”
“Who will I fight? I don’t know,” Hopkins said during a telephone interview from his Delaware home. “But it will be somebody I will be an underdog against because I want to be the underdog.
“If this is the last time I’m going into the ring, I will not cheat myself. It will not be a freak show. I will never shortchange myself and my dignity.”
Hopkins, who defended the middleweight title a record 20 times from 1995 to 2005 and has never been knocked out, was floored Saturday in the first round by Kovalev, a fighter 18 years his junior.
But the fighter known as The Executioner was back in the gym on Monday.
“Physically, if you see me today, you’d think I didn’t have a fight (on Saturday),” he said. “But inside, trust me, my arms and the back of my head and the top of my head, oh yeah, I was in a fight. I’ve been in the hot tub for the last 48 hours.”
Kovalev, who now lives in Los Angeles, retained his World Boxing Organization championship and captured Hopkins’ International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association belts. He boosted his record to 26-0-1 with 23 knockouts.
“I had the most underrated chin in boxing but I think that changed Saturday,” said Hopkins. “I’ve never been in this business to prove I can take a punch. That’s why I’ve been around so long.
“People said I was crazy to fight him. Whether it’s in boxing, sport or even in life, you just have to man up. And you know what I’ve been hearing? People who started off rooting for the young guy ended up rooting for the old guy.”
Hopkins, who turns 50 in January and has a 55-7-2 record with 32 knockouts over his 26-year pro career, insisted he won’t “cherry pick” his final opponent.
“It will be somebody that’s a champion,” he said. “It will be from a division beneath me but where they’re comfortable and I’m comfortable. It will be someone that’s dominating today.
“I’m going to do it the way I’ve done it my whole career. People respect you for fighting fights that others run away from. I want to fight the best no matter how it pans out.”
Reporting by Steve Ginsburg in Washington; Editing by Frank Pingue