In recent fights, Bernard Hopkins has been fighting with nothing to lose; but on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., he’s expected to win. That is a bit of departure from his more recent bouts. Against younger, more well-known studs like Jean Pascal, Chad Dawson and Tavoris Cloud, many in the boxing community may have just assumed Hopkins’ age (48 years old) would show and the younger champions would make him look every one of his days.
Hopkins not only proved he could compete with the best fighters in the light heavyweight division, he easily outboxed Cloud and won a close decision over Pascal. Hopkins dethroned both men in the process. Because he lost a decision to Dawson in April 2012, he relinquished the WBC title he’d taken from Pascal. He is currently the IBF title holder after defeating Cloud in March.
On Saturday, he’ll put that title on the line against German-based Iraqi Karo Murat. The 30-year-old Murat has been in the ring with a few decent names such as Gabriel Campillo and Nathan Cleverly, but none of them carry the name recognition that Hopkins does.
Murat is a relative unknown to anyone who isn’t a hardcore boxing fan. Because of Murat’s lack of notoriety, and because he doesn’t have a title to somewhat validate him, expectations are higher for Hopkins. Per Bovada, Murat is a 5/1 underdog.
If Hopkins were to lose this fight, it would almost certainly bring out every naysayer. While everyone can appreciate what Hopkins has accomplished in his career, he is one upset loss away from being strongly encouraged to retire by multiple media outlets.
Some may long for him to walk away as it is, but it is hard to suggest retirement for a man who holds one of the four recognized world titles in his weight class—even if he is pushing 50.
When Hopkins was facing the likes of Dawson, Cloud and even Pascal, a loss would have left fans chanting “good job, good effort.” His opponents were really in no-win situations.
If they defeated Hopkins, chances are they wouldn’t receive much credit. Fans would say “the guy is in his late 40s, of course you beat him.” If they lost, like Pascal and Cloud did, it would really hurt their stock. Cloud has looked terrible since and Pascal has fought just twice against nondescript opponents, though he is scheduled to take on Lucian Bute in January.
Murat won’t face those issues on Saturday. If he loses, he’ll go back into relative obscurity. If he wins, he earns the distinction of having not only become world champion, but one who has defeated a legend and freak of nature in the sport.
The tables have turned a bit for Hopkins. We’ll have to wait until Saturday night to see how he performs.
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