Today, January 15th, light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins 52-5-2 (32) turns 47 years old. And at age 47 he's no doubt one of the top 10 pound-for-pound boxers in the world along with being the ruler of the 175 pound division. Hopkins is also among the top three successful world champions to fight after age 40, with Archie Moore and George Foreman being the other two.
Foreman was a physical freak of nature aided tremendously by his overload of strength and punching power. George didn't out-box or fox any single opponent during his career. He walked them down and/or beat them down before he knocked them out. Comparisons between Foreman and Hopkins are never made because as fighters, outside of their great chins and toughness, they share nothing else in common.
The old fighter Hopkins is most often compared to because of their ring acumen and guile is former light heavyweight champion, Archie Moore (185-22-11 with 130 KOs), who retired at age 49. But really the only thing they share aside from age is intelligence. Moore had an equalizer in both hands and was a threat to end the fight at anytime during the first through 15th round. Even as an old fighter Archie tried to lull his opponents to open up and engage with him. Sometimes he'd do it by laying back and going into a shell, only to open up and explode when he felt his man over committed or extended himself. Other times he'd put the pressure on and try to force them into a mistake and trade with him.
Another area where Hopkins and Moore differ is, Archie wasn't nearly as well conditioned as Hopkins is as an old fighter. Moore went rounds by fighting completely loose and relaxed the way an older Roberto Duran did. Archie's bouts were also more exciting and had more give and take than the bouts we've seen from the post 40 year old version of Hopkins. Even as an older fighter, Moore seldom lost many exchanges. Whereas Hopkins does everything he can to avoid exchanges as an older fighter, unless he is certain that he can get the upper hand or neutralize his opponent if they happen to catch him in between punches.
There's also another thing in which old Archie and Bernard are dissimilar and that's in their pre-fight antics and tactics. Sure, Archie would say that he used some ancient tricks to lose weight that he garnered from a witchdoctor he met when he was a teenager, but other than sometimes invoking evil spirits and voodoo, that was about it. On the other hand Hopkins will do whatever it takes by any means necessary to win the bout before a single punch is thrown. And that's because Hopkins isn't as physically capable of engaging with and straight up fighting his opponents as Moore was. As it's been mentioned here before, Bernard has to strip his opponent's gun of its bullets and then try to go in and rough them up or inflict a little physical or mental damage onto them if he can.
Because Hopkins has had so much success as a world championship caliber fighter after the age of 40, he's often compared to Archie Moore. And there's no doubt about it, they're the two best fighters over age 40 in terms of boxing skills. But the way in which they went about winning fights is a lot different. Moore had all the experience and wisdom of a fighter with over 200 professional fights, yet he retained a lot of his power and even into his late 40s it carried him and was something he could rely on to win. Trickery was no doubt a part of his game, but it was more of a Plan B than the single purpose of his strategy and fight plan.
Hopkins is great, but due to his lack of fight altering power, especially during his late thirties and forties period, Bernard needs to rely more on smoke and mirrors and a little deception and trickery to win. In addition to that, Bernard isn't above stretching the Marques of Queensberry rules in order to gain an advantage over a tough opponent. And that's not meant to be a shot at at him. Hopkins is of the mindset of most other great fighters, "whatever it takes to gain the upper hand and win." And that's something he's perfected.
If you really think about it, because of his lack of big finishing punch, Hopkins actually has had to fight harder and keep himself in better shape than Archie Moore had to as an older fighter/boxer. With Hopkins, it starts at the press conference announcing the fight and becomes more intense with every interview as the bout draws near. And this isn't something that should be held against him. It's more the case of him taking advantage of every thing in his tool box that's at his disposal. That makes him a smart fighter and partly the reason why he's never absorbed a single beating in the ring and is still fighting at an extremely high level at almost 50.
Forget about trying to compare the opponents of Bernard Hopkins and Archie Moore to determine who's the greater old fighter. Just embrace how they both used what they were blessed with as fighters and how they exceeded their limitations so late into their careers. And if you must make a distinction, how's this: Moore was more exciting and provided better action packed fights for the fans viewing as he was crowding 50 and Hopkins was better conditioned along with being more cunning and tricky, and as a result was hit less and endured less physical abuse and punishment.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com