Can Bernard Hopkins defy Father Time yet again?
PHILADELPHIA -- He cringed for a moment. Bernard Hopkins, a future first-ballot hall of famer and current all-time great, did not like the word. It was as alien to him as the 49-year-old IBF and WBA light heavyweight world champion is to everyone else, defying logic and nature as a viable, elite fighter in a third decade.
Hopkins did not want hear how actually many feel he is -- gasp -- “the favorite” against Russian expatriate Sergey Kovalev on HBO’s Championship Boxing on Nov. 8 at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. However, there is some level of truth in it. The undefeated Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) has never faced anyone of Hopkins’ level before; and though “The Krusher” is 13-0-1, with 13 knockouts in his past 14 fights, he has never gone beyond eight rounds.
Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs) has gone beyond eight rounds 35 times in his magnificent 65-fight career; he has stopped two first-ballot hall of famers, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad; and he has not lost in more than two years. However, “The Alien” finds himself in a new role as a fan-favorite who has grown on the boxing public -- and the media -- to hold an avuncular station within boxing.
“Sergey is 18 years younger, if my math is right. He’s a devastating puncher, to the point where he killed somebody (Roman Simakov on Dec. 5, 2010) -- and sometimes in the ring that happens -- so all of the things that you hear about this guy is true,” Hopkins told Sherdog.com. “I want people to recognize what they wrote and understand all that was put together I’ll take apart. I don’t live in the past; I like to look at the future. I know there are some people out there thinking, ‘We’ve been down this road before with the old man.’ I’m the oldest young man in the world right now.
“I’ve heard ‘old man, old man’ all through the interviews,” he added. “I’m a young old man in a young man’s sport. I’m doing this because I’m in a position to do it, but this is another segment in my career now. I’m riding a wave knowing I put the time into this game, and no one should be surprised anymore by Bernard Hopkins.”
There are no surprises left. Like a cat with nine lives, Hopkins has become a fighter with nine incarnations, and his most recent is still pretty damn good. That defiance is still there, too.
“Is anyone Sergey fought, are they at my level? We know the answer to that,” Hopkins said. “Has anyone Sergey fought had the experience of the guys that I fought over the years? The only name he has on his resume is [Nathan] Cleverly. I would put my record against his record any day, but look at his age and the fact that he’s dangerous. I have 10 weapons going up against one bomb. This guy is a dangerous puncher. That one bomb can be explosive. That’s the challenge. Don’t be fooled; it’s a dangerous fight. It won’t be easy. I may make it look like it is easy, but it won’t.”
Hopkins claims that he does not look at stories online or in the newspapers, that he does not like paying too much attention to the positive talk -- which has long been overdue in his case. He has been unappreciated through the early and middle portions of his career but is now riding a crest of acceptance, due largely to his longevity and success, that he has never experienced before.
Hopkins fights it. He does not want to grow too complacent hearing the praise. He would rather point his ear in the direction of the naysayers.
“I haven’t read anything or heard from anyone that says Bernard Hopkins is the favorite,” Hopkins said. “I’m comfortable not being the favorite. I know what the truth is. If I was the favorite, I would tell myself that it’s a trick, [that] it’s not true. I wouldn’t dispute anyone who thinks I’ll win, but I have to stay on my game. I’m comfortable being the 4-to-1 underdog (he opened as a 2-to-1 underdog when the fight was announced in August). I want to continue being the guy who has to beat the odds. It’s been the story of my life. I’d rather be respected than praised. Just don’t call me the favorite in this -- even though I’ll win.”
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