Boxing

Bernard Hopkins vs. Beibut Shumenov: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

Kevin McRaeFeatured ColumnistApril 14, 2014

Bernard Hopkins vs. Beibut Shumenov: Preview and Prediction for Title Fight

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    Associated Press

    Bernard Hopkins may be 49 years old, but when he steps through the ropes on Saturday night, he'll be attempting to carve out another slice of boxing history.

    Hopkins, the IBF light heavyweight champion, will face WBA 175-pound champion Beibut Shumenov at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., for a chance to become the oldest fighter in history to unify titles in his weight division.

    The Alien has already twice become the oldest man to win a world championship, breaking his own record last March by defeating Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center, and he'll—once again—be facing a younger, hard-hitting champion in his prime.

    Can B-Hops defy Father Time once more? Or will the Kazakh warrior Shumenov be the one who finally sends him packing?

    Read on for your complete preview and prediction of Hopkins vs. Shumenov!

Tale of the Tape

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    All stats and information per BoxRec.com.

     Bernard HopkinsBeibut Shumenov
    Record54-6-2, 32 KO14-1, 9 KO
    Age4930
    Height6'1"6'2"
    Weight172.5 lbs (Last Fight)175 lbs (Last Fight)
    Reach75"74"
    StanceOrthodoxOrthodox
    HometownPhiladelphia, PennsylvaniaShymkent, Kazakhstan
    Rounds Boxed482101
    Last FightUD 12 Karo Murat (10/26/13)TKO 3 Tamas Kovacs (12/14/13)

Main Storylines

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Hopkins might actually be an alien. How else do you explain a man who is 49 years old, has been in the sport of boxing since 1988 and still finds ways to put a whupping on men who are almost literally half his age?

    The Alien, as he styles himself these days, is truly a physical marvel, and he's one of the greatest fighters ever to lace up the gloves and step through the ropes. It's a testament to his physical and mental strength that he's able to compete at his age, and on Saturday night, he'll be chasing another piece of boxing history.

    Hopkins broke his own record last March when he easily outpointed Tavoris Cloud to win the IBF Light Heavyweight Championship and become the oldest champion in boxing history. On Saturday night, he'll look to do one better and become the oldest man to unify his division. 

    Shumenov is one of the most inspirational stories in boxing that you've probably never heard before. He was born in Kazakhstan and nearly died as a child when he was accidentally poisoned. He only survived after receiving an IV in his skull and was told that he would always be small and to avoid physical activity.

    Now, he's the WBA light heavyweight champion—a belt he won in just his 10th professional fight—and once represented his country at the Olympic Games. He fights not for money, but for love of the game. He has plenty of the green stuff, coming from a formerly poor family that made a great deal of money after the fall of the Soviet Union in Kazakhstan, and is himself a lawyer.

    Shumenov is one of those ultimate stories of making good from nothing. It's a shame that nobody has ever heard of it before. But if he beats Hopkins on Saturday night, you can bet it'll get out.

Strengths

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Hopkins is a physical marvel. He's always in peak physical condition and, even at 49 years old, never gives it anything but his all in training camp and in the ring.

    His boxing knowledge is legendary, the product of 26 years of stepping through the ropes and trading punches. He's forgotten more about the sport of boxing and its subtleties than 99.9 percent of fighters will ever learn. 

    Hopkins is a master technician in every aspect of the word. He can fight well from the outside, controlling his opponent from distance and giving him a boxing lesson. But he's also highly proficient on the inside, freeing up a hand and grappling his way to an advantageous position. That's where he's probably at his best these days, using all the old tricks—legal and some illegal—to rake an opponent over the coals.

    Shumenov isn't nearly as well-known—or devastating—as his better-known compatriot Gennady Golovkin, but he does have some similarities. He's very patient, precise and looks to do great damage with the punches he throws.

    He's extremely strong, both from a physical and mental standpoint, and his offense is best described as methodical but explosive. Nothing he does is going to wow you, but his punches carry great force, and he puts them where he wants them.

    Shumenov doesn't have the best hand speed in the world, but he's proficient at getting in, landing a shot and getting out. He fights with a controlled aggression, but he'll likely need to up his pace a bit in order to give Hopkins some trouble.

Weaknesses

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    Eric Gay

    Hopkins is 49 years old. His age has to catch up with him at some point, right? 

    One of the reasons that Hopkins has been able to last this long in the ring is his commitment to physical conditioning and his ability to avoid taking any significant damage. Even in the fights that he's lost, he's never really been badly hurt or in any trouble.

    Hopkins has to be conscious, though. At his age, every fight could be the one where he loses it.

    Shumenov has been in with his share of known fighters—William Joppy, Montell Griffin and Byron Mitchell—but he got to all of them when they were well past their best. It's odd to use that as a criticism against him in a fight where he'll be taking on someone months from being a half-century old, but it belies an important point.

    The 30-year-old Kazakh gives up an almost stupefying amount of experience in this fight. He's never been in with a fighter as ring-wise or crafty as Hopkins, and that's something he will quickly find out on Saturday night.

Bernard Hopkins Will Win If...

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    Hopkins needs to do what he's done in every one of the fights in his almost-miraculous late-career run—use his massive experience edge to lure his younger opponent into mistakes and make him pay.

    It's really as simple as that.

    He'll want to keep the pace of the fight slow, something—given Shumenov's past history—that's definitely possible. The Kazakh will need to be the aggressor and take the fight to the older man, and that could give B-Hops some opportunities to force mistakes and exploit them.

    This really comes down to a test of skill, patience and will. On the outside, Hopkins needs to be deliberate. On the inside, he needs to rough up his foe, frustrating him and causing him to fight outside of himself. 

    If he can do all that, making use of his superior ring IQ, he can definitely win this fight and make history.

Beibut Shumenov Will Win If...

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    Eric Gay

    Do not be goaded into thinking this is a walk in the park type of fight for Hopkins. His age, combined with an extremely dangerous world-class opponent, makes this a very dangerous fight.

    Shumenov is younger—who isn't at this point—than Hopkins. But so was Karo Murat, Tavoris Cloud, Jean Pascal and everyone else he's fought over the past decade or so. But the Kazakh's primary advantage is his punching power.

    There's little doubt that he's the bigger puncher—Hopkins hasn't knocked someone out since Oscar De La Hoya nearly 10 years ago—and he can win the fight if he's able to find his way into scoring range and unleash his big, powerful shots.

    Shumenov needs to force the pace in this fight. He needs to make Hopkins fight more than he wants and put a lot of stress on his 49-year-old frame. The ageless wonder won convincingly against Murat in his last fight, but he did show some signs of age during that bout. 

    If the Kazakh champion can really push him, up the tempo and connect with consistency, he can win this fight.

And the Winner Will Be...

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    Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

    This fight is going to be a lot closer and more dangerous than a lot of people think. 

    Hopkins is an ageless wonder, yes, but he'll eventually run into someone who has the goods to put the brakes on his amazing run. Shumenov could potentially be that guy, but the smart money says that he comes up just short.

    The Alien is too skilled and ring smart to drop this fight. He'll keep the pace slow and deliberate, potshotting Shumenov from the outside, and when the fight gets close, he'll rough him up, forcing him off his game. 

    When the fight gets to the championship rounds, it'll be close, but Hopkins will close the show, pulling out a close majority decision to retain his IBF belt and add the WBA strap to his growing collection.

    He'll call out Adonis Stevenson post-fight, and should the Haitian-born Canadian transplant take care of business on May 24, they'll meet for three of the four 175-pound belts in the late summer/early fall.

    Prediction: Hopkins MD 12 Shumenov

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