COMMENTARY | Common boxing wisdom is that most boxers peak in their 20s to early 30s. This is the age where most are in their physical prime and best able to compete at a high level, in a sport that is unforgiving to even the slightest signs of slowing down. Despite most boxers seeing their best years end by their early 30s, there are still some that defy father time and continue to fight at an elite level.
It is impossible to talk about age and boxing in the same sentence without mentioning Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins first became the oldest man in the history of the sport to win a legitimate title when he defeated Jean Pascal at age 46. He then at age 48 went on to beat his own record, earning a unanimous decision victory against Tavoris Cloud to win a light heavyweight world title for the third time.
So why is Bernard Hopkins able to do what no one else in boxing has ever done before?
The most apparent difference is his boxing style. Bernard is almost technically flawless and relies on his boxing skills to win fights. This means that he mastered the art of hitting without getting hit. He rarely gets hit clean and has managed to avoid serious punishment in the ring, while at the same time making his opponents pay for their mistakes. This means that in "boxing age" Bernard Hopkins may actually be younger than fighters in their 20s who have been in many wars and have taken serious damage.
Another quality that sets an elite boxer like Hopkins apart is his commitment to the sport year round. He is always in top shape even when not preparing for a fight and has been known for maintaining a monastic diet and shunning smoking and alcohol. Very few boxers are able to maintain this type of discipline and be true professionals.
Finally Bernard Hopkins is perhaps the smartest and most knowledgeable boxer in the sport today as he always seems to know exactly what to do to negate his opponent's strengths. It is no coincidence that Hopkins' opponents usually wind up fighting at his pace and seem unable to push the older boxer out of his comfort zone. It is commonly mentioned that Bernard Hopkins has forgotten more about boxing than most fighters will ever know and in this case it is more than a clever saying, it is a fact.
As Bernard Hopkins has previously pointed out, not only did he make history but he did it "clean", without resorting to performance enhancing drugs. That in itself may be the most impressive part of the legacy he has created.
Oleg Bershadsky has previously written about boxing for braggingrightscorner.com and has been watching the sport for 17 years.