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The discussion veered to boxing, with Bernard making a few colorful statements (“They should have prepared for me like the Italians should have prepared for Hannibal.”) He was referring to the boxing establishment, insinuating that they gave many other less educated fighters money, jewels, and cars when they are young, because they knew that such things were going to come back to them when the fighters screw up later, like with Mike Tyson and Sweetpea Whitaker. He was saying that the establishment didn’t give him those things, that he had to earn them over an extended period of time, and by the time he had accumulated them, he was smart enough to hold onto them. He works as his own agent, by the way, and is one of the few boxers that own their own rights. So if he appears in an endorsement, or if he appears on tv, the money goes to him, not to an agent.
Johnny: So you think the system in boxing is set up to give them those things when they are young, before they are mature because they know that money is going to come back to them. Are we talking about Don King here?
Bernard: Don is not the inventor of the situation. He’s a participant in the situation. See, Don King didn’t invent the game. They’ve been doing this in the 50s and 60s, before Don even came around. Don went from jail to boxing. (Famous boxing promoter) Bob Arum went from (working at) the Attorney General’s office. Started doing the boxers taxes, saw the money there, put in his pink slip and became a promoter. Is Bob Arum bad for boxing? Well, Bob Arum said that he was lying yesterday and he’s telling the truth today. When you look at the pool it’s not about color, it’s about character. Don King is not my friend, and I’m not his friend. Neither is Arum. To me, if I’m getting screwed by a particular guy, and I accept it because he’s my color, then I’m a fool. To me, getting screwed is getting screwed. I don’t care what color or religion. I’m not gonna accept that because we share the same history through our ancestors makes it right. In fact, it’s the opposite of that. You should look out for me.
Johnny: Let’s switch gears for a second. A question a lot of people have is, why are there no good white boxers?
Bernard (laughing): Genetics.
Johnny: You think so? You look 100 years ago, you had some good Irish boxers. And you look at it now, and it’s predominately African American, with a few Hispanics. Do you think it’s genetics, or do you think that people are comfortable, and are steered away from it?
Bernard: A lot of Irish guys became lawyers. And you know that a lot of boxers come from the make up of their environment. Nobody living in the Hamptons is thinking that lessons for exercise is letting another individual punch them in the nose. It’s not going to happen. Boxing is structured so that people who come from a neighborhood that has poverty, that has struggles, that has homeless, that has challenges, they’re already fighting that war. Every now and then you get a great white hope. The last one was Tommie Morrison.
Johnny: The closest he ever came to being a great fighter was appearing in Rocky V. What’s your favorite movie?
Bernard: Devil’s Advocate. It just showed me the concept of how it is. In the legal system, it’s about money, it ain’t about proving you wrong or right, it about, my job is to get you off, and you pay for it.
Johnny: You talked about how a lawyers job is to get you off, not to prove that you’re innocent. You were on South Street with O.J. a few years ago. I remember it was kind of a big scene. How does that tie in with a lot of the stuff we’ve been talking about today?
Bernard: The O.J. thing showed the opposite of what the Rodney King thing showed. It showed that most Caucasian people believed that OJ killed Nicole Simpson, and most people think that Rodney King got beat by 14 plus LA police officers. There was a big defense that he didn’t get beat like we witnessed on tape. The OJ thing was a situation was different in that there were two deaths involved. When you have an industry of racism in the department, right can become wrong and wrong can become right just based on people’s quick judgement. Mark Fuhrman showed what you shouldn’t do is (show) your real feeling’s about African Americans. Whether he did or not, O.J. knows it. If he’s guilty, he knows he’s guilty. If he’s not, he knows he’s not. It showed, whether he did it or not, it showed the divide of cultures we still have in this world. People wanna say that times is different now, and that things is not the way Kanye West says, is not the way that Mark Fuhrman took an oath and said that he never called nobody a nigger. It’s crazy. People wanna say, “Things ain’t like that no more. Things is good for you now.”
Johnny: You’re forty years old now. Going back to the race issue, do you think things are better now than they were when you were born?
Bernard: I was born in 1965, on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Can I go to a restaurant, and not see a white sign that says I can’t eat there and I have to go eat by the zoo? Things have changed there. But have I been in a situation where I’ve been on an elevator in this building, where’s there’s 99% caucasians that live here, have I got on an elevator and made a person feel uncomfortable, by body language? Absolutely. Have they later loosened up? Yes. But it took my status for them to loosen up. I’m glad that I know the signs of hidden ignorance. It makes me and my wife, without bragging or boasting, because I ain’t about that, it makes us feel great when we get on an elevator, and a person says what floor you on, and I say, “I’m on penthouse five.” It makes me feel great to push P-5 and see their facial expression, and thinking, “Who the hell are these people?” I don’t look my age, I don’t think. So they think you’re young. “What is he, a ballplayer?” Sometime I envy lawyers, because I wanna say, “No, I’m not an athlete. I’m an attorney or a doctor.” I wish I could say that without lying. Just to let them know that I don’t have to be an athlete to have something. In this case, they’re right. Not disrespecting what I’m blessed to do, and to disrespect what I’ve accomplished, but every now and then I wish I was a goddamned doctor, or a lawyer, or a judge. But I hear, “Do you play for the Sixers? What team do you play for?” No, I don’t play for no team, but I’m still an athlete. It’s that stereotype, and I want to prove them wrong, and that kills me because I can’t say what I’m not. And they walk away, and they think, “That’s the only way he can have them things is because of his athletic ability.” And that burns me the f*** up. But I suck it up and I say, My nephews, my nieces, I put up $15,000-$20,000 aside every fight so that they can have a chance to be a doctor or to be a lawyer, not a boxer, not a football player, not a basketball player, unless they are exceptionally good.
Johnny: But you want that when they get in an elevator, and people say, “Where are you going,” and they say “To the top”, it’s not because they got it through athletics, but it’s because they got it through the avenues-
Bernard: Not only on the elevator.
Johnny: You want them to defy stereotypes. Now, in America, there is a sense of rooting for the underdog and for example, we talked earlier about white boxers. If a white boxer comes along, do you think that-
Bernard: Blacks ain’t gonna root for him.
Bernard: Hell no. The blacks are gonna be the opposite. Oh, here we go, another Great White Hope. Blacks ain’t gonna root for him, and whites are gonna root for him. It’s gonna be divided like the O.J. case. The only time you’ll see whites and blacks both root for an underdog is when it’s a black athlete.