One of them is a certified all-time great and holds the record for middleweight title defenses and at age 48, two months shy of 49, is the oldest fighter in history to hold a legitimate world title. The other is currently the greatest pound-for-pound fighter in boxing and has won a legitimate world title in five different weight divisions who just happens to be undefeated after fighting professionally for 17 years. Together they've won a combined 45 world title bouts. Yes, I'm talking about IBF light heavyweight title holder Bernard Hopkins 54-6-2 (32) and pound-for-pound king welterweight Floyd Mayweather 46-0 (26).
Recently, there's been talk of the two of them meeting in a catch-weight bout and most likely that speculation will soon begin to escalate. Hopkins (pictured above, in Tom Casino-Showtime photo) is without a doubt the shrewdest fighter in boxing history outside of the ring and is self managed. He came from the penitentiary, wasn't an Olympian, didn't have any big money or corporate sponsors backing him and even lost his pro debut. Yet he's been managing himself for a decade and knows where every penny comes from when it comes to making and promoting a fight. You could say unlike Mayweather, Hopkins is more of a small government guy who travels light who doesn't bring or carry anything that isn't needed. In addition to that he's a strategic professor in the ring. He understands exactly what he can and cannot do and changes his style according to who the fighter is in front of him, and he doesn't need many rounds to size his opponent up and figure out what they can't do, then he forces them to do it over and over again. There's never been another boxer/fighter like him in or out of the ring, ever.
Mayweather is also one of the best fighter/managers ever. Where he differs from Hopkins is, Floyd was an Olympian and was brought along and looked after on the way up and even into his tenure as a title-holder and champ. Floyd is like Muhammad Ali in that he's not hip to where all the money comes from or how it's divvied up, but understands there's a lot of it and he's the draw and must get the lion's share of it. Mayweather is more of a big government guy who travels with an entourage and is his own entity to a degree. In the ring Mayweather is basically the same fighter stylistically every time out. He more or less forces his opponents to address what he does instead of the opposite. Floyd does what he does and the onus is on his opponent to make him do what he doesn't want to, something that we've seldom seen done by any fighter who he's fought. Listening to Hopkins and Mayweather negotiate a possible bout between them would be more fascinating to hear then watching them or anyone else actually fight. Unfortunately, Hopkins-Mayweather or Mayweather-Hopkins will probably never become a reality, because it makes no sense and is too risky and a potential disaster for both fighters. The negotiations could very well be the high point of the whole project if by chance it were to be realized.
In Mayweather's last fight he wasn't even breathing hard at the end of the bout after dominating Saul Alvarez for 12 rounds, the fighter who was perceived to be the biggest threat to him weighing between 147/154. This past weekend Hopkins dominated the IBF's number one light heavyweight contender, Karo Murat, and he wasn't breathing hard either after 12 spirited rounds. Everyone knows that Mayweather is only interested in partaking in big fights and Hopkins reiterated the same sentiment after beating Murat. Hopkins also implied that he thinks his next big fight will be fought at a weight south of the light heavyweight limit of 175. He's publicly said he'd be willing to go down to 160, a weight he hasn't fought at in almost nine years, to meet Mayweather in a super-fight. Mayweather has never fought above junior middleweight and has barely weighed over 150 and change for any of his 46 bouts.
Let's assume Mayweather would agree to meet Hopkins in a 160 pound catch-weight bout, which I doubt, but in boxing you never know. Does anyone believe Hopkins would resemble the same fighter who fought Murat or Tavoris Cloud in his last two bouts? I don't. I think he'd look more like Sugar Ray Leonard versus Terry Norris, a shell of the fighter he once was. At 160 Bernard would be an empty package. Could he make 168? Absolutely. Then again Hopkins can't even dent any of his opponents weighing 175 because there's not much left of his punch. He was taking free shots at Murat all night and I never got the sense that Murat was particularly bothered by anything. He was a little bewildered at times but that was it. At 160 Hopkins would resemble “Cotton Hands” more than “The Alien” and it wouldn't take Floyd long to realize that. It's doubtful that Bernard could get down close to 160 and remain a noteworthy fighter against a quick and accurate fighter like Mayweather. And if Hopkins lost to Mayweather he'd never live down that he lost to a fighter who turned pro as a junior lightweight despite his advanced age.
If you're Mayweather, do you really want to chance that Hopkins might turn back the clock for one night and become the fighter who took apart Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya at 160? Floyd couldn't do a thing with that Hopkins. And if there is a boxer alive walking the planet today who could not only solve Mayweather's style but also get inside his head, it's Hopkins. Floyd would have no advantage over Hopkins in ring sense and would be facing the one fighter in the sport who posses an even higher boxing IQ than he does. Bernard would also be one of the few fighters Mayweather has ever faced who held a size and strength advantage over him (if there's anything left of him at 160) who would actually know how to use it. On top of that, Hopkins is the only boxer in the world who keeps himself in shape as good or better than Mayweather does when he's not fighting.
What if Mayweather did beat 49/50 year old Hopkins at 160? I doubt it would do all that much for his legacy weighed against the risk if he lost. Then again who knows, the public and even gullible boxing people might be taken in by a Mayweather victory. I think there's a chance that people wouldn't understand that the 160 pound guy getting into the ring with Floyd that night (a guy who'd be nearly 50 by the time the fight took place) had no resemblance to the real Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins would be so weak at the weight there's probably four or five other active fighters who'd beat Hopkins at the same weight. He's even said that he would need months to get that low. How much left as a fighter would he have after draining down so low? And what if Hopkins was able to out-muscle Mayweather and smack him around a little bit, which isn't a major leap? Does Mayweather want to be remembered for losing to the oldest title holder in history who was fighting 15 pounds below his optimal weight? I think not.
What happens to Floyd if he loses? His reputation could never recover. He couldn't even argue that he was fighting a guy thirty pounds heavier than he was, since he would have been the one who forced Hopkins down to 160.
Hopkins fighting Mayweather at any catch-weight limit is a joke and makes no sense for either fighter. But I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if boxing fans spent their money to see it. With the right promotion they'd buy Mike Tyson or Lennox Lewis versus either Wladimir or Vitali Klitschko.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com