Standing in a hallway near the MGM Grand Garden Arena boxing ring where he will face Jermain Taylor on Saturday night, middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins bowed from the waist.

"This is how Sugar Ray Robinson did it when he retired," said the 40-year-old champion, who has stayed in shape at around 160 pounds for 20 consecutive title defenses during the past decade. He has watched a videotape of Robinson's farewell ceremony in the ring at Madison Square Garden 40 years ago. Wearing a plain white robe, Robinson silently bowed toward fans on each side of the ring and waved goodbye.

Hopkins, who says he is two or three fights from retirement, intends to emulate Robinson.

"I'm going to come from the dressing room with my hands wrapped, no gloves, and wearing a long white robe with black letters that read 'My Way,' " Hopkins said. "I'll be able to do that, having the credentials in my era to dominate my division."

After allowing himself that glimpse into the future, he said it is part of his motivation to beat Taylor, an undefeated contender (23-0) who at 26 is considered enough of a threat to be slightly less than a 9-5 underdog.

Losing to Taylor would detract from that retirement moment and possibly derail Hopkins's plan.

Hopkins concedes that Taylor "is the best middleweight in the world besides Bernard Hopkins. I wanted the baddest guy . . . the guy some have called the heir apparent."

Though that may be true, Hopkins said, it won't happen this weekend.

"Forget your personal agenda about me, whoever here has one," he said. "But if you look at me as just the athlete and nothing else, and what I accomplished and what keeps me going, you'd be a fool not to respect me. You'd be reckless not to respect me."