COMMENTARY | Wednesday, on Bernard Hopkins' forty-ninth birthday, the future first ballot Hall of Famer and current IBF light heavyweight champion got the news that he'd be getting yet another shot at making history.
According to Golden Boy Promotions CEO, Richard Schaefer, a title unification bout between Hopkins and WBA light heavyweight champ, Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs), is close to being finalized for either March 29 at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, NY or April 19 at the Alamodome in San Antonio, TX. Regardless of the date, the bout presents Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) with the opportunity to not only extend his reign as oldest world champion in the history of the sport, but to also add a second belt to the feat.
"I called Bernard today on his 49th birthday, and had a very nice conversation with him," Schaefer told RingTV.com. "I said that I wanted to give him a very special birthday gift, and I felt that delivering a unification fight at age 49 would give him a chance to make history again."
Hopkins has expressed his desire to take on WBC light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson, WBO titlist Sergey Kovalev, or perhaps, the winner of a Stevenson-Kovalev unification bout. Shumenov, however, was the easiest unification bout to make since both are Golden Boy fighters with ties to Showtime television. Stevenson and Kovalev, on the other hand, are currently HBO fighters.
So, Hopkins-Shumenov and maybe Stevenson-Kovalev may be as far as this light heavyweight mini-tournament goes. Boxing business and a fierce network vs. network rivalry between the premium cable giants may make Hopkins' dream of being the unified 175 lb. champ nothing more than an unattainable fantasy.
But all this talk of ultimate unification, of course, assumes that the 49-year-old Hopkins can beat the 30-year-old reigning WBA champ. This is a big, big assumption.
Kazakhstan's Shumenov was regarded as one of boxing's brightest young stars back in 2008-2009 when, as a pro with single-digit pro fights, he tore a path through some recognizable names such as Montell Griffin, Byron Mitchell, and Epifanio Mendoza.
In 2009, in just his ninth pro fight, a majority decision loss to WBA light heavyweight champ Gabriel Campillo paused the forward charge of the young, aggressive fighter and revealed some deficiencies in both tactical and technical sides of the game.
Five months later, a highly controversial decision over Campillo in a world title rematch brought him his first major strap and launched a title reign that has gone from promising to frustrating to pretty much invisible.
Making only five defenses in nearly four years as world titlist, Shumenov has yet to defend against a true, high-end light heavyweight and has seemed to be just treading water in between press released statements about wanting a unification bout with any of the other champs.
As disappointing as Shumenov has been as champ, he still presents a tough stylistic match-up for Hopkins at this stage of the legend's career.
Shumenov is quick, aggressive, and athletic in the ring and Hopkins, who has feasted in recent years on the technical and mental flaws of his much younger rivals, may have a tough time overcoming Shumenov's energy and raw ability.
But Hopkins has to know that this is about as easy as it's going to get at light heavyweight when it comes to meaningful world class fights.
Using little more than guile, hard-earned ring experience, and basic fundamental boxing, the Philly fighter with the mind-boggling 25-4-2 record in world title fights keeps pushing forward. At his age and at this level of the sport, every win for Bernard Hopkins stands somewhere between major accomplishment and minor miracle.
The question is whether Hopkins can continue to defy the odds and leave the sport on his own terms or if the day is soon coming where a younger, fresher foe will finally put him down for good.
Paul Magno was a licensed official in the state of Michoacan, Mexico and is the author of Notes from the Boxing Underground. 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.
- Sports & Recreation
- Bernard Hopkins
- Beibut Shumenov