Philadelphia honored boxer Bernard Hopkins Wednesday for being the oldest champion ever. At 46 years old, Hopkins recently won the light heavyweight championship belt.
The native son takes inspiration from Philadelphia’s most famous fictional fighter.
The statue of Rocky Balboa planted in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art may be controversial in some circles, but Hopkins said the character embodied by actor Sylvester Stallone helped him imagine what it would take to be a champion.
“No matter where you grew up–Kensington, Chestnut Hill, Germantown, North Philly, West Philly, or South Philly–Philadelphia and the movie and the story about Rocky was about a guy who didn’t have a gold medal,” Hopkins told the crowd gathered at the feet of the statue. “About a guy that didn’t have the articulate speech or vocabulary, but used what he had and made the best of what he had. I did the same thing.”
Hopkins, also known as “the Executioner,” grew up in North Philadelphia and quickly turned to crime. After serving five years at Graterford maximum-security prison, he started boxing for money.
Mayor Michael Nutter, a longtime boxing fan, said Hopkins is a role model because he turned his life around. “He’s a survivor–a real-life example of what it means to be given a second chance.”
To prepare for the fight that made him the oldest boxing champion ever, Hopkins said he ran up the steps of the art museum. Just like in the movie.