We knew he couldn’t walk away, even after barely competing in his last fight when he won perhaps only one round against light heavyweight Sergey Kovalev 27-0-1 (24) with the WBA, IBF and WBO world titles on the line.
Yes, I’m talking about the 50-year-old legendary great Bernard Hopkins 55-7-2 (32).
Hopkins, as most know, is the oldest fighter in boxing history to unify a world title and will no doubt fight one more time before calling it a career….and what a career it’s been.
Remember when Hopkins promised his late mother that he was going to retire at age 40, but he kept on fighting and scored some of the signature wins of his career between the ages 40 and 50. And even today a year and a half into his 50th year, Hopkins has never taken or absorbed a beating in the ring. In addition to that, in 66 career bouts as a pro, there have only been two of them in which he was beaten conclusively where there could be no case made in his favor. The first time, he fought Roy Jones in his 24th bout when he lost 116-112 on all three judges’ cards, and even at that, Jones hadn’t lost four minutes in 21 bouts at the time and Hopkins managed to legitimately win four rounds against him. The only other time Hopkins was totally beaten and handled occurred in his last bout against Kovalev when he was dropped in the first round and failed to win a single round on any of the three judges’ cards.
I don’t think there’s many, if any, who would dispute that Kovalev is the alpha fighter in the light heavyweight division. The fighter who is supposed to be the biggest threat to him after he fought Hopkins, Adonis Stevenson 26-1 (21), who holds the WBC title, has shown through his actions that he has no interest in fighting Kovalev. And if we’re honest, Hopkins didn’t really try to take him on and fight him. Bernard did everything in his power to hang on and go the distance without getting embarrassed. Hopkins wasn’t embarrassed, and he also didn’t dispute the decision and clearly acknowledged at the post fight press conference that he lost. And therein lies the issue with Bernard, he lost but he didn’t really get beat up or punched around the ring.
Hopkins had no case to make that he competed or really stayed with Kovalev during their bout. However, his toughness, durability and his mastery of ring combat kept him on his feet and forced Kovalev to have to work and press every minute of the fight. In the main, Hopkins was beaten by father time and Sergey’s style. For the first time in his career Hopkins crossed paths with a fighter who could do damage and nullify him from the outside. With Kovalev being able to make Hopkins react and address what he was doing before he could tie Sergey up in knots on the inside, that took a lot of bullets out of Bernard’s holster. For the entire fight Hopkins was forced to fight just enough to keep Kovalev from really working him over, but the residual of that was Hopkins never had a chance or the time to figure out something that would work in order for him to stem the tide of the fight. Only that never happened.
The net result of the fight was, Hopkins, although he can accept he lost, realizes that it was Kovalev’s reach and style that mostly befuddled him. Not the fact that he is a has-been washed up old fighter. If Hopkins could make the middleweight limit of 160 without being a skeleton, he’d have a much better chance to compete and perhaps beat the alpha fighter in the middleweight division, Gennady Golovkin, based on styles. Golovkin could never nullify Hopkins from long range the way Kovalev did, therefore Hopkins would have a better chance to put the clamps on Gennady and score with his judicious flurries once or twice a round.
The reason Hopkins will fight again is, Kovalev didn’t beat him up quite enough to convince him he’s finished, that along with the fact that he is very cognizant that Kovalev had the physicality and needed weapons to neutralize him before he could find his footing and a game-plan that he could execute. In other words Hopkins, who understands styles better than anybody in boxing, including Floyd Mayweather and Andre Ward, knows that against the right opponent, he can again capture a world title and the legend will continue to grow. Hopkins knows there are a few world class fighters at or near a weight that he can make who hold titles that he matches up with stylistically much better than he did Kovalev.
Look for Hopkins to continue to pursue title bouts for the immediate future, because if he wins, then why should he retire while he’s setting records, making good money and not getting hurt or beat up. And if he loses but is moderately competitive, he can convince himself and the boxing public that he had an off night and at his age that isn’t so terrible, as long as he didn’t get beat up or stopped.
I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Bernard continues to fight until the night comes that he finally is really beaten up and punched around the ring. And you can’t blame him for taking that route – it’s not his fault nobody that’s around and his weight can really beat him up. I guess that says a lot about him and it’s a minor indictment on the caliber of fighters at the top of the middleweight, super-middleweight and light heavyweight divisions.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com