Ranking Bernard Hopkins' Best Options for Next Fight
Ho-hum, Bernard Hopkins won another fight.
Though it’s patently unfair to diminish what the Philadelphia veteran has been doing in the ring over the last several years, the fact is that the 48-year-old has beaten foes young enough to be his kids for so long that it’s starting to become old hat.
Case in point, Hopkins entered his Saturday night IBF light heavyweight title defense against 30-year-old Karo Murat—a fight he won by wide decision at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.—as a bigger favorite (a $900 wager was required to recoup $100 at Bovada) than Filipino star Manny Pacquiao ($450 is needed to win $100) is for his November return against Brandon Rios.
Nonetheless, the one-sided defeat of the IBF’s unheralded No. 2 contender did precisely what it was supposed to do: Keep Hopkins active, successful and in position to continue a remarkable run of late-career relevance that seemed all but impossible when he dropped the second of two straight decisions to then-unbeaten Jermain Taylor nearly eight years ago.
Regardless of how long he chooses to continue—Hopkins claimed a desire earlier this year to unify the 175-pound belts by the time he turns 50 in 2015—the fighter now rechristened as “The Alien” will have no shortage of potential foils for as long as he’s a main event commodity.
Here are the men who warrant top consideration for the next go-round.
7. Floyd Mayweather Jr.
The Record: 45-0, 26 KO
The Credentials: World titles in five weight classes; Best pound-for-pound fighter in the world
OK, let’s face facts. This matchup became a source of discussion because Hopkins mentioned it in the run-up to a fight no one really cared about, which may have helped put a few more eyes on Atlantic City on Saturday night.
It’s ridiculous to consider—at 160 or otherwise—but if it made for a few heated discussions on a few bar stools over the past few weeks, bully for B-Hop’s credentials as a promoter. All that said, if somehow it happens, it’s the biggest pay-per-view seller of all time. Bank on it.
6. Andre Ward
The Record: 26-0, 14 KO
The Credentials: WBA super middleweight champ; Consensus acclaim as the best in his division
If boxing were a logical sport, this one would make the most sense. Hopkins is the premier name at 175 pounds. Andre Ward is the best fighter at 168. Still, most observers agree the tactical styles would make for an even duller fight than is the norm for both men.
Not to mention, Hopkins has said he’d “never fight” the man whom he labeled a “protege of myself,” per Boxing News 24.
5. Lucian Bute
The Record: 31-1, 24 KO
The Credentials: Former IBF super middleweight champion; Defended belt nine times
A couple of years ago in Montreal, this one was close to being the next item on the agenda for both fighters. Hopkins was in town to defeat another Canadian-based fighter, Jean Pascal, to win the WBC light heavyweight title, and the crowd went bananas when Lucian Bute’s face was shown on the video screens.
A train-wreck loss to Carl Froch took the air out of Bute’s balloon in May 2012, but it’d still be a lucrative prospect if staged back in Quebec.
4. Sergey Kovalev
The Record: 22-0-1, 20 KO
The Credentials: Current WBO light heavyweight champion; 10 straight wins by stoppage
The Russian billed as “Krusher” had scored his last nine wins inside the distance but was still largely unknown before an impressive fourth-round blowout of Welshman Nathan Cleverly on the previously unbeaten champ’s home turf in mid-August.
Sergey Kovalev generated some buzz by calling Hopkins out when the Murat fight was delayed by visa problems, and Cleverly added some fuel when he claimed Kovalev would overpower the old man. Still, he’s probably a little bit too anonymous when compared to other alternatives.
3. Gennady Golovkin
The Record: 27-0, 24 KO
The Credentials: Current IBO and WBA middleweight champion; KO percentage of 88.8
The streaking Kazakh is the middleweight flavor of choice these days, thanks to a 14-fight KO streak and a crowd-pleasing style that’s elevated him in spite of a dubious list of past opponents.
Gennady Golovkin’s stated willingness to pursue any quarry from 154 to 168 pounds makes him a potentially viable possibility at a catchweight or even a full-on 175, and it’d be interesting to see how the old-timer fared against a heavy-handed opponent who rarely takes a backward step.
2. Carl Froch
The Record: 31-2, 22 KO
The Credentials: Current IBF super middleweight champion; Has held three belts in division
Let’s face it, this one would be loads of fun from start to finish. The run-up would match two of the most willing talkers in a generation, and Carl Froch’s prowess as an aggressive action fighter would make him one of the few able to adhere to the necessity of making Hopkins fight three minutes every round.
The two have nodded verbally in each other’s direction within the last several months, and positioning this one at Wembley would make it a mega-event.
1. Adonis Stevenson
The Record: 22-1, 19 KO
The Credentials: Current WBC light heavyweight champion; Unbeaten in nine straight, all KOs
Adonis Stevenson doesn’t have the resume of some of the other guys on the list, but “Superman” made himself the clearest and most attractive choice with the booming left hand that separated Chad Dawson from both his senses and his title status in June.
He further validated his status by plowing through Tavoris Cloud in seven rounds three months later, posting a performance against both men that exceeded what Hopkins had done with them in three fights.
Hopkins didn’t speak Stevenson’s name specifically, but he was certainly referring to him on Saturday's broadcast when he referred to other titleholders as “frauds” and claimed “Showtime has got the best light heavyweight in the world.”
It’s the one B-Hop seems to want the most. And if the cold war between cable networks can be thawed enough to get it done, there seems to be enough interest to go around.