When Bernard Hopkins finally hangs up the gloves, he'll be remembered as the man who reigned over the middleweight division for an entire decade. But his late run as an elite light heavyweight is adding an entirely different page to his legacy.
The 49-year-old continued to cement his status as one of the top light heavyweights in the world by unifying the WBA, IBA and IBF light heavyweight titles with a split-decision victory against Beibut Shumenov on Saturday night in Washington, D.C.:
This isn't a case of "The Alien" beating up on a fighter with no experience in championship bouts. Shumenov was a champion in his own right and at 30 years old has considerably less mileage than his much older counterpart.
But none of that mattered. Hopkins continued to do what he does best, and that's forcing opponents to fight at his pace and frustrating them for 12 rounds.
Don't let the split judges fool you either. As Kevin Iole of Yahoo Sports points out, the judge who scored the bout for Shumenov's scorecard was more aberration than viable viewpoint:
Moretti and Roth had it 116-111 for Hopkins. Padilla's score of 114-113 for Beibut is an utter farce— Kevin Iole (@KevinI) April 20, 2014
While Shumenov was the much busier fighter, the final numbers from ShoBox reveal that Hopkins was the more efficient boxer on Saturday night:
#ShoStats: Total Punches Landed/Thrown thru 12 Hopkins [186/383, 48%] Shumenov [124/608, 20%]— SHO Stats (@SHOStats) April 20, 2014
So now the question becomes how long Hopkins can carry on. If his latest outing is any indication, he can keep going at this pace until he gets bored.
As the fighter's nickname suggests, he's not of this world.
He now has three titles in hand and three straight wins over Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Shumenov. There aren't too many names left in the division who could actually give the 49-year-old a serious run for his titles.
As Steve Kim of MaxBoxing points out, cardio shouldn't be an issue for Hopkins; he's in great enough shape to go 12 rounds with anyone:
Hopkins truly is a physical marvel and a testament to discipline and clean living. Not even breathing hard after 12 at age 49 #boxing— Steve Kim (@stevemaxboxing) April 20, 2014
Yes, Hopkins' evasive style might not be the most exciting thing to watch in the world. And yes, he's dominating a division that has few fighters who truly stand out. But to dominate any division at the age of 49 in the way that he has lately is something that is completely unprecedented in the sport.
And that's something that will set Hopkins' career apart from anyone else's when he's inducted in Canastota—eventually.