PHILADELPHIA—Bernard Hopkins changed his tune after his swan song. He turned back the clock on Father Time.
And he has aged gracefully if grace is defined by pummeling fighters 15-plus years younger than boxing's grayest graybeard.
Long the master of pre-fight head games, Hopkins has turned to cheek-and-chin games for his latest bout, and first since winning the WBC light heavyweight championship, becoming the oldest fighter to win a major world championship.
At 46, Hopkins won't duck from the changing hair color on his face.
Tinged with more than a touch of gray, he intends to beat Chad Dawson by a whisker. Well, many whiskers.
So long, "Executioner." Hello, "Silver Fox."
"I want to look like his father," Hopkins said. "I could be his father. It's appropriate for me to look gray and have gray. If you do the math, he could be my son. I'm 46, he's 29, I had him early, it all fits into the scheme of the professor versus the good student who wants to be a great student."
Hopkins has fought off contenders and kids for most of his career while becoming one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his generation.
For most of the last decade, Hopkins has been defined by his age. How does he still do it? Why? The oldest fighter to box there, achieve that. Age has been more than a number for Hopkins, the Philadelphia native, it's been the one constant that drives the curiosity factor in all of his bouts.
For now, forget 46.
Hopkins (52-5-2) should be defined as a champion.
Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship, taking the WBC light heavyweight title May 21 from Jean Pascal at the age of 46.
He dethroned George Foreman as the oldest boxer to win a world title when he beat Pascal. Foreman was 45 years, 10 months when he knocked out heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994. Hopkins was 46 years, four months and six days in his bout with Pascal.
Boxing's ageless wonder will try to defy history again when he defends the title against Dawson (30-1) Saturday at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
"It's going to stay here in Philadelphia," Hopkins said, "around my waist where it belongs."
Dawson lost the light heavyweight championship to Pascal before beating Adrian Diaconu in May to earn another title shot.
Win or lose, Dawson has years of fighting ahead of him.
Time might finally be running out on the glib Hopkins. Each workout for his next big bout at his regular Philadelphia gym seems like it could be the last before retirement. Yes, his hair has changed, but his devotion to a straightedge lifestyle that bans alcohol and late nights; regular training; and a singular focus on his next fight has remained as steel-willed as ever.
Hopkins has stopped predicting when he'll call it a career, though he vowed he won't be boxing at 50.
"I can't think about winning and think about retiring at the same time," he said. "That's very counterproductive. So I figure that instead of worrying about 'what if's,' worry about where I'm at now."
His trainer, Nazim Richardson, believes Hopkins has already built a Hall of Fame career as the sports greatest middleweight. Beat Dawson, and Hopkins could go down as the greatest lightest heavyweight.
"I just hope these jokers appreciate this dude and I don't think they do," Richardson said.
Hopkins-Dawson headlines a card ripped straight from the headlines of Ripley's Believe It or Not! The franchise that cashes in on the oddities and the bizarre from all walks of life signed up as a sponsor for the bout. Ripley's Believe It or Not! created a Hopkins figure that will soon be displayed at a Ripley Odditorium. Hopkins posed twice for the figure, which will be unveiled this week in Los Angeles, and was created in honor of him becoming boxing's oldest champ.
"I've seen a lot of things I didn't think was true," said Hopkins of his Ripley's visit, "like a two-headed cow. It was freaky stuff."
On the undercard, ex-con and Arthur Ashe Courage award for strength and conviction Dewey Bozella fights Larry Hopkins.
Bozella served 26 years for a murder he did not commit before the conviction was overturned in 2009. He boxed in prison and dreamed of turning pro for one fight if he ever got out. Hopkins, who served five years in Pennsylvania state prison, heard the story and arranged a spot for Bozella on the card.
"You can't laugh at that type of spirit," Hopkins said.
Hopkins has plenty of spirit of his own.
Less than four months from turning 47, Hopkins boasts he feels like he did at 36. That was 10 years ago and around the time he beat Felix Trinidad in what was the fight of his career.
His native city could use the morale boost from a Hopkins victory. The Philadelphia Phillies lost in the NL division series and the Philadelphia Eagles are off to a 1-4 start. Both teams had championship expectations only a month ago.
Hopkins expects to hold on to his championship well past Saturday.
If not, then this time, it might really be it for Hopkins.
"I think everybody should just enjoy me while I'm here," he said. "because nothing lasts forever."