How old is too old to fight? Every time Bernard Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO) takes the ring, he and the rest of the boxing world is faced with that question.
On Saturday night, the 48-year-old legend will again be inside the ropes, competing at a world-class level against a man more than 15 years his junior. B-Hop will challenge undefeated IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris "Thunder" Cloud (24-0, 19 KO) at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Cloud is 31 years old and coming off a controversial split-decision victory over Gabriel Campillo in his last bout. He needs to prove he deserves to be considered an elite light heavyweight after many thought he received a gift win over Campillo.
Hopkins lost his title in a majority decision against Chad Dawson in his last fight. It wasn't pretty boxing, but then again, watching Hopkins rarely is—especially at his age. But the fact that he's still a formidable opponent is amazing.
Take a look at highlights of his amazing career:
Where: Barclays Center, Brooklyn, N.Y.
When: Saturday, March 9, 9:30 p.m. ET
Live Stream: HBO GO (Pay Service)
The Book on Hopkins
Where is the Ledge?
It seems inevitable that Hopkins will one day step into the ring void of the skills and guile to continue his legendary career on an elite level.
But the weird and amazing thing is, Hopkins makes you doubt what you think you know about the sport. At 48 years old, he looks a little slower and less chiseled, but he still carries most of the same in-ring qualities that made him great 10 to 15 years ago.
Even though we're staring at this number "48," the eyeball test doesn't say that he's primed for a monumental loss. Could Hopkins lose a close decision?
Do you still enjoy watching Hopkins compete?
Absolutely, but that wouldn't be a different outcome, or level of competitiveness from when the future Hall of Famer battled Jermain Taylor to two disputed losses in 2005.
Hopkins was undefeated from Aug. 1993 to July 2005, when he dropped the first decision to Taylor. He's never been knocked out, and he's been down only twice in his career (same fight in 1994 against Segundo Mercado).
He still has nearly impeccable defense, otherworldy reflexes and battle-hardened instincts. It feels like he should retire, but in all honesty, in the ring it doesn't like it.
The light heavyweight division is not exactly stellar, which certainly aids Hopkins' cause, but you can't take anything away from the longevity he has enjoyed in his now 25-year career.
In the Ring
Perhaps the biggest difference for Hopkins now is the absence of any real punching power. He was never a huge puncher to begin with, but he could score the occasional KO. Now, his game is simply about defense, countering and scoring in hopes of grabbing a close decision.
Unless he has an opponent severely outclassed, all of Hopkins' fights will be close at this stage of his career.
His defense is too good and he's too cunning to be blown away by this crop of light heavyweights, and he doesn't have the pop to finish guys.
Whenever B-Hop is in the ring, you also have to be on the lookout for fouls and strange events. His first fight with Dawson ended when Dawson dumped Hopkins on his shoulder after a clinch.
The move was precipitated by Hopkins' questionable tactics and appeared a little less severe than it was portrayed, but no one really knows for sure.
Check out the moment in this video:
This weird occurrence takes place at the 2:49 mark of this video:
The Book on Cloud
Avoiding the B-Hop Circus
Cloud knows this, and he sounds prepared, but you never can tell for sure until both men are in the ring. Cloud told Boxing Scene this:
Hopkins is more sneaky. He tries to be clever but, really, sometimes it's just dirty. I don't look at him as being physically formidable.
He's all skills, mind games and trickery. You can't play into that. He's not what you look for in a fighter, not what you think a fighter should be. That's why I'm trying to keep my mind smart because he's a thinking man's fighter.
If he can impose his will and stay away from the shenanigans, he'll have a better chance to win the fight.
In the Ring
Cloud is a very good puncher. His 19 KOs in 24 fights are evidence of that. He's built sturdy, but he reminds me a lot of Jeff Lacy. They are about the same height and they can do major damage to fighters that stand and bang with them, but they struggle against elusive opponents.
This was seemingly proven with Cloud in his last fight with Campillo. Facing a tall, athletic light heavyweight with a solid jab, Cloud was out-boxed after the early rounds. He captured the decision on the strength of two first-round knockdowns.
The first video is an example of Cloud at his best against a more stationary opponent in Glen Johnson. The second video shows Cloud being out-boxed but still victorious over Campillo.
That is the key to the fight.
Title Bout Championship Boxing 2 Prediction
In the TBCB2 simulations, the outcomes were very close. In 10 simulated bouts, Cloud won six times.
The fact that Cloud won more doesn't surprise me, but three of the wins coming by way of stoppage is a little shocking. Perhaps I'm drinking the Kool-Aid, but it is just hard for me to fathom Hopkins being stopped.
Even though Cloud is a tremendous puncher, it seems far-fetched. The other three Cloud wins were by unanimous decision.
Hopkins' wins were split equally as well. He had two unanimous-decision victories and two TKOs. The stoppages were more plausible because they were due to cuts, and Cloud has shown the propensity to cut in past fights.
I'm taking Cloud in this fight, but only by a split-decision. I'm expecting another disputed outcome because that's just what Hopkins produces at this stage of his career.
Cloud will likely push the action and be the busier fighter. This will serve him well with the judges. He'll likely be frustrated that he can't take Hopkins out, but B-Hop won't sustain enough offense to win the fight.