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Bernard Hopkins: After the Miraculous, the Reality Sets In-- What Now?

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COMMENTARY | For twelve rounds last Saturday night, Bernard Hopkins outwitted and out-boxed defending IBF light heavyweight champ, Tavoris Cloud. The unanimous decision win at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY would allow the 48-year-old Hopkins to break his own record and become the oldest boxer to ever win a world title.

If you're a true fan of the sport, the importance of this feat wasn't lost on you. As a matter of fact, the story of Hopkins' entire twenty-five year run as a professional prizefighter should be required reading for anyone serious about knowing the sport fully and completely. The Executioner has proven time and time again that boxing is more mental than physical, more a case of mind over matter than raw brute force. Mastery of the fundamentals trumps all in the world's cruelest sport.

But now that history has once again been made and the headlines are all being archived for historical reference, what's left for Bernard Hopkins?

It should be clear by now that the aged pug from Philly has no immediate plans to quit and nobody in the light heavyweight division has come even remotely close to retiring him. So, what's to come of Hopkins?

Maybe B-Hop will keep fighting until he literally beats the entire division into submission. Armed with educated footwork, an array of feints, and an encyclopedic knowledge of boxing sleight of hand, Hopkins has been able to tame the beasts at 175 without suffering as much as a black eye in the process.

Honestly, there's a bit of matchmaking trickery involved in the Hopkins phenomena. To not point this out would be disingenuous. Young, athletic fighters with solid fundamentals would likely run Hopkins into the ground. Chad Dawson decisioned him decisively. There are others who could likely do the same.

But vague stabs at semi-criticism pale when compared to the actual realities. Hopkins has captured two of the four recognized world titles and has beaten two of the five best light heavyweights in the world. He has done so soundly, decisively, and on his terms-- all well after his 46th birthday.

The two championship options that remain for him at 175 are WBO champ, Nathan Cleverly and WBA titlist, Beibut Shumenov.

Cleverly and his promoter, Frank Warren, have been speaking Hopkins' name obsessively for several years now. However, no real movement has been made to actually sign a fight between Cleverly and Hopkins. The UK's Warren is famous for talking big, but quickly opting for easier touches for his fighters. Hopkins has shown interest in a Cleverly clash and the 26-year-old Cleverly would likely be fine with it as well. The issue is Frank Warren and, given his history, this makes Hopkins-Cleverly a long shot, at best.

WBA title holder, Shumenov, doesn't appear to want to fight Hopkins or anyone else for that matter. The 29-year-old from Kazakhstan seems content with the one-a-year title defense plan and also doesn't seem remotely interested in dealing with anything other than a fringe-contending journeyman or club fighter. Hopkins would likely need a net and a chloroform-soaked rag to get Shumenov in the ring.

Another option would be for Hopkins to take on super middleweight kingpin Andre Ward in what would amount to a suicide bout. Legend or not, at this stage of the game Ward would tear right through Hopkins. Everyone knows it. Hopkins knows it.

A move up to cruiserweight could provide a challenge, but there's really not enough money involved in taking that kind of risk. Plus, a trip overseas would almost certainly be required from this move up in weight.

For now, the best bet for Hopkins is to bide his time and wait things out. A title defense against a lesser opponent could be in order and certainly overlooked by fans who have seen the first ballot hall of famer take on nothing but elite-level opposition for the last three years and five fights.

Retirement is also an option, purposely left for last in this article.

Not a single negative thing could be said about a Hopkins who finally decides that enough is enough. But what pushed him to greatness is also what keeps him from hanging up the gloves. A real fighter is only done when he's forced out of the business. So far, there simply hasn't been anyone tough enough, smart enough, or good enough to force Bernard Hopkins out of his sport.

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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 as Editor-in-Chief of The Boxing Tribune. In the past, Paul has done work for Inside Fights, The Queensberry Rules and Eastside Boxing. For breaking news, additional analysis, and assorted crazy commentary, follow him on Facebook, @TheBoxingTribune or on Twitter, @BoxingBTBC.

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