COMMENTARY | Saturday, Golden Boy CEO, Richard Schaefer, announced that former middleweight and light heavyweight world champ, Bernard Hopkins will be coming back for a bid at another light heavyweight world title. Tentatively scheduled for March 9th at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, Hopkins will be 48-years-old by the time the fight rolls around.
According to Schaefer, Hopkins' opponent will be chosen from the list of current light heavyweight world titlists, excluding WBC champ, Chad Dawson, who beat Hopkins via majority decision last April. On the short list is WBO champ, Nathan Cleverly; IBF champ, Tavoris Cloud; and WBA champ, Beibut Shumenov.
In 2011, Hopkins became the oldest boxer, at 47, to win a world title when he took the WBC strap from Jean Pascal in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
There's no doubt that the Bernard Hopkins saga over the last couple of years has been one of boxing's "feel good" stories, but it would be irresponsible not to point out that even a "B-Hop" with the recent win over Jean Pascal is a significantly diminished fighter.
With relatively dead legs and slowed reflexes, Hopkins has been winning fights for the last four years or so with basic, fundamental boxing augmented by veteran parlor tricks. And even with this all-brain approach to fighting, he still needs the right opponent in front of him in order to make it work.
Athletic fighters like Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson managed to beat him, even while he was employing a laundry list of veteran tricks of the trade. Since his 40th birthday, the fact of the matter is that Hopkins has needed to face one-dimensional fighters or those who suffer from mental lapses in order to look impressive. The older Hopkins gets, the tougher it is to find him the "right" opponent.
Now, apparently set to return for one more run at a world title, it looks as though Hopkins and his people have already decided that the current crop of light heavyweight titlists is not exactly a murderer's row of all-time greats.
Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), 30, has shown flashes of something better than good, but less than great. He has held the IBF world title since August of 2009 and has fought a solid level of competition, albeit with a lot of space between defenses. He was also the recipient of a controversial decision over Gabriel Campillo earlier this year. Cloud is brave and strong, but is not the greatest of thinkers or ring tacticians. Hopkins may not be able to handle a toe to toe war with Cloud, but he's definitely capable of stealing enough rounds to sneak away with a win.
Wales' Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs) is the WBO titlist and has been talking about a Hopkins fight ever since he became a top challenger. Long and lean, the 25-year-old Cleverly throws a lot of punches and is starting to iron out some of his technical rough patches. However, he has been mentally rattled at times during fights when his opponent sprung an unexpected style change or tactic on him. The confused Cleverly has been known to give up rounds at a time while he works to adapt. Although likely too energetic and athletic to be beaten by Hopkins and his bag of tricks, the bout could be a lot closer than many would expect,
Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs), from Kazakhstan, holds the WBA title and may be the crudest boxer of the three proposed opponents. Strong, athletic, and energetic, Shumenov has had plenty of problems with fighters who can actually box. By all accounts, Gabriel Campillo should be 2-0 against Shumenov, not the official 1-1 listed on his ring record. The 29-year-old is probably the most likely to be out-thought by the crafty Hopkins, but is such a talented physical specimen that he could also flip the script and walk right through any of B-Hop's tricks of the trade.
No matter who he chooses, beating any of these three young champs will be an uphill battle. Ideally, the place for Hopkins would be in a gym, sharing his boxing genius with future stars. But, as long as he can pass his physicals and still convince people to buy his fights, it's hard to argue that he should be forced into retirement-- Especially if there's still a plausible route to victory against three of the four reigning world champions.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and a close follower of the sport for more than thirty years. His work can also be found on Fox Sports and The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing.
Rick Reeno, Bernard Hopkins Returns on 3/9 at Barclays, Showtime, Boxingscene