Forget, if you can, the numbers on his birth certificate.
Because only then, in the absence of such age-related qualification, can the 21st century accomplishments of 20th century relic Bernard Hopkins truly be appreciated.
From the time he was chased from the middleweight division following two straight 2005 losses to Jermain Taylor, all the former 160-pound kingpin has done is go 8-2-1 in 11 fights and defeat seven current or former world champions in a weight class 15 pounds beyond his former fiefdom.
Oh yeah, and he’s 49 years old, too.
The Philadelphian piled another sheaf of commendations atop an already incredible story Saturday night in Washington, D.C., where he took a decisive—though dubiously split—decision over 30-year-old Beibut Shumenov to capture the WBA’s sliver of the light heavyweight championship.
Two judges gave Hopkins the decision by correctly wide 116-111 margins (equal to 8-4 in rounds), while a third official somehow awarded Shumenov a 114-113 verdict, finding seven of 12 rounds in his favor even though he was out-landed over 12 rounds by a 186-124 margin and dropped in the 11th round with a quick, snapping right hand.
This Bleacher Report scorecard had it 117-110 for Hopkins.
“(Trainer) Naazim (Richardson) had been begging me to throw that short right hand. It was there the whole fight,” Hopkins said. “I've been around 27 years, I've seen everything. I just had to make some adjustments.”
The Kazakhstan native’s former jewelry pairs nicely with the IBF version of the championship that Hopkins had carried into the DC Armory ring with him, and it’ll be those two belts the old man will presumably have with him as collateral when he faces WBC title claimant Adonis Stevenson sometime before he officially reaches the half-century mark on Jan. 15, 2015.
“I want to be the undisputed light heavyweight world champion this year, period.” Hopkins said.
If he can pull that one off, the sports writing world may finally run dry of superlatives.
In Stevenson, a Haitian-turned-Canadian who’ll defend his title next month in Chicago, Hopkins faces another dramatically younger (Stevenson is 36) and presumably more devastating (he has KOs in 83 percent of his fights) foe who’ll be expected to overpower an old man who’s used to fighting at his own pace and who’s not scored a stoppage since Oscar De La Hoya 10 years ago.
But if bravado is predictive, it’s sure to be a far closer proposition.
“Stevenson, I am coming to Canada,” he said. “I am getting my papers together.”
Against Shumenov, who’d won 14 of 15 fights and scored KOs in nine of his wins, Hopkins could have been mistaken for the younger and more energetic combatant, thanks to his consistently better footwork and quicker, cleaner punching.
He had Shumenov consistently caught between all-out aggression and safety-first counterpunching, leaving him in a no-win limbo in which he was outclassed by a man who turned professional nearly 26 years ago.
And it seems on the surface to be less likely that the Canastota-bound “Alien” will be able to perform the same dizzying magic on a foe who’s overwhelmed 10 straight foes in 48 total rounds.
But then again, we’ve all said that before, haven’t we?
“Everybody’s got a game plan until they get in there,” Hopkins said, “But when it’s Mayweather or Hopkins, then it's different.”
All quotes were obtained firsthand.
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