Bernard Hopkins vs. Tavoris Cloud: Will This Be the Executioner's Last Fight?
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When Bernard Hopkins sets foot inside the ring at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn on Saturday night he will be seeking to once again become the oldest man to ever win a world championship.
And once again the man standing across the ring from him will be a younger, stronger and some would say more determined champion who would like nothing more than to retire the ageless wonder once and for all.
For boxing fans, we've seen this show before.
Jean Pascal was younger and stronger. So was Kelly Pavlik.
Antonio Tarver was just coming into his own after beating Roy Jones.
And even Chad Dawson, who was the lone man to fit this bill and actually beat Bernard Hopkins, didn't have anything close to an easy time doing so.
The point is that every single time we count Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO) out of a fight we do so at our own peril. He has an uncanny knack for digging deep and finding one more big performance to beat fighters that on paper you'd expect to have insurmountable advantages.
But Father Time catches up with all of us, and the 48-year-old Executioner is no different. Even if he's done a great job of outrunning the clock during his remarkable late career run.
Will his fight against the IBF light-heavyweight champion be the final time we see him in the ring as a fighter?
The answer to that question is no, because he will win this fight.
Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KO) is physically strong, in his prime and has built a resume by beating some notable fighters. But he's lucky to even still be on this stage.
He looked terrible after the first round of his last fight, an absolute robbery victory, against rugged Spaniard Gabriel Campillo.
After flooring his opponent in round one and scoring a second knockdown in the round he fell apart. Campillo dominated the remainder of the fight and should've been credited with winning no fewer than eight rounds.
This should not be interpreted to mean that Campillo and Hopkins have similar styles or that they are in any way comparable as fighters. Campillo swarmed Cloud and attacked from the first round on.
Hopkins on the other hands is a Rubix cube of defense and well-timed inside counter-punching.
At this stage the Executioner is prone to fighters that will swarm him and throw high volumes of punches that he cannot keep up with. A high activity rate is important given that Hopkins no longer throws that many punches in a round and relies on the well-timed short counter, rather than a flashy power shot.
In that respect Tavoris Cloud is built for Bernard Hopkins.
He's a relatively limited fighter who is able to generate tremendous power on his punches. But his technique and style are a little wild, which should give the ageless wonder plenty of opportunities to make him miss and make him pay.
It remains to be see how Cloud, who has never fought anyone as ring-savvy as Hopkins, will handle both the physical and psychological pressure of the moment.
Throughout his career Bernard Hopkins' in-ring style has been as much about the mental aspects of the game as the physical. He's tricked and frustrated many a fighter into beating themselves.
He's willing to fight dirty, and he has been able to frustrate more talented fighters than Tavoris Cloud in the past.
What will happen if Cloud start's to see his punches not having the desired effects, or if he starts eating short counter after short counter, or if he gets fouled?
All of those are trademarks of the Executioner's style and are things the IBF champion has never experienced in the ring before.
There's nothing you can do, even in training camp, to prepare and they'll give Hopkins a big advantage come fight night.
So if Hopkins does defeat Cloud, where does he go next? He won't retire, that's for certain.
If nothing else he is a savvy business man and has committed to fighting as long as he remains competitive in the ring.
And he'll keep competing as long as he keeps finding interesting fights.
A possibility that could become a reality—should he defeat Cloud—and possibly the only remaining interesting fight, would be a showdown with super middleweight champion Andre Ward.
Ward, who easily dispatched Hopkins' conqueror Chad Dawson last September, is currently rehabbing a shoulder injury but has expressed an interest in jumping to 175-pounds in the past.
The undefeated champion could make the final opponent for the Executioner's storied career and would make for an intriguing storyline.
But for that fight to make any sense Hopkins must first get by Tavoris Cloud in Brooklyn on Saturday night.
If he can't then all of this is moot.
People have been counting Bernard Hopkins out of big fights for over a decade now. He doesn't seem to care, though.
He'll just prove you wrong.
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