“Father Time is undefeated.” A phrase uttered by men who have seen it all, and done it all in the world of sports. As Father Time continues to knock on Philadelphia’s own great fighting icon, former undisputed middleweight and two time light heavyweight champion of the world, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs), 48. A question continues to be put forth: When will Father Time smash down the door, and slay Hopkins’ terrific, two decade run of excellence down. For Hopkins is after all, just a mortal human being. Something he himself pointed out in the build up towards his rematch in 2011 against former light heavyweight champion, Jean Pascal. Hopkins noted that the exasperated reactions of those who had witnessed him being knocked down twice in Pascal and Hopkins’ first bout spoke to the aura of invincibility Hopkins has built up during his 20 plus year tenure in the sport.
It’s interesting to take note that Pascal and Hopkins’ foe on March 9th, the younger, stronger, harder hitting world champion, Tavoris Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs), 30, has a style not all that different than that of Pascal’s. Both Cloud and Pascal are strong, physical specimens, with youth, strength, and explosiveness in their favor over the crafty Hopkins. Both have also found criticsms with their conditioning, as both men tend to fight in bursts rather than fighting three minutes of every round.
With almost two years elapsed and the added physical strain to Hopkins’ 48 year old body has had since his victory over Pascal, could Hopkins duplicate a similar performance even if Cloud isn’t as superior a fighter as Pascal was?
Hopkins seems to be mentally ready to compete and give it his all to one up himself. If Hopkins is successful in his attempt to capture Cloud’s IBF light heavyweight world championship, then he’ll have become the oldest fighter in history to have won a world championship, surpassing the mark he set in 2011 when he won the WBC light heavyweight championship against Jean Pascal.
Critics have argued that Hopkins’ performances past the age of 40 haven’t seemed to give spectators their full money’s worth. Citing intentional fouls, over reactions to fouls committed by opponents to gain a edge, and other questionable tactics. For the most part though, Hopkins is looked upon as a throwback, with tricks up his sleeve similar to former boxing greats, “Jersey” Joe Walcott and “The Mongoose” Archie Moore. All and all Hopkins’ mental fortitude rarely comes into question.
That would wrap it up on Hopkins’ assumed mental processes heading into Saturday night’s showdown in Downtown Brooklyn, New York. However, as stated before: Father Time is undefeated. Well Father Time, Ricardo Lopez, and Rocky Marciano. And if Hopkins had his say about it, he would tell you he should be undefeated as well. As would many fighters. And while Father Time may make a man wiser in the mind, it also slows him down in the body. And if Hopkins has been slowed to a damn near crawl in comparison to his once terrific in ring prowess, then it will not be a story book ending for Bernard Hopkins.
Cloud has to be expected to put forth his best effort possible. Hopkins’ legacy has been signed, sealed, and delivered for years now, while Cloud is looking to truly put himself on the map on boxing’s biggest stage for the first time in his undefeated career. He has much more to gain than Bernard Hopkins does, and a lot more green backs he’d like to put in his bank account.
Cloud without question has the advantage of being the younger, stronger, bull. That may lead him to feel that Hopkins is in over head, and he himself will have his own coming out party. That will be an interesting dynamic: Cloud’s assured physical advantages over Hopkins, versus Hopkins’ wealth of experience in being in once again another big time prize fight. Will Cloud be befuddled at never seeing the trickery that Hopkins may indeed present? In his previous fight, against light hitting Gabriel Campillo, Campillo’s trickery off set Cloud’s preferred aggressive style. And Hopkins, even in his recent performances has shown himself to be a better fighter than Campillo, and his lateral movement and defensive technique will further fluster Cloud as long as his body can hold up. Because in between of Campillo’s outboxing of Cloud, he at times stood his ground to ward off Cloud to keep Cloud from gaining forward momentum consistently enough.
The question is, will Hopkins’ nearly 50 year old body be able to implement the come forward wrinkle in his strategy come Saturday night to keep his gameplan versatile enough? If the answer is no, then Cloud has a simple, not easy, but simple gameplan in front of him to pull off the biggest victory of his career.
If Cloud feels Hopkins out early, and implements intelligent pressure as to make sure he doesn’t tire himself out late (ala Hopkins’ first bout with Jermain Taylor) then he can feel what Hopkins really has in store for him. After putting on smart pressure, Cloud, who has had stamina problems in the past, should be able to sustain a good pace in the second half. If it turns out Hopkins doesn’t have much mustard on his punches to earn Cloud’s respect, then Cloud will have to make the old man look like the old man, and step up the pressure some more in the second half. Then Cloud will have to walk Hopkins down and not got caught up in any of Hopkins’ multitude of tricks. If all those variables come into play in Cloud’s favor, then he’ll retain his IBF light heavyweight championship.
This publiciation doesn’t have to remind boxing purists, but what the hell. Hopkins was supposed to be KO’d by Antonio Tarver, many thought by Jean Pascal, many thought by Kelly Pavlik, and although some won’t admit it now, many believed at the time Bernard Hopkins would be thwrated by a seemingly unstoppable tidal wave from Puerto Rico, Felix Trinidad, over a decade ago. So it wouldn’t be wise to count Bernard Hopkins out. “The last of the Mohicans” as Hopkins likes to refer to himself has a tough dish on his plate, but he ordered it. And the brains, skill, and will of Bernard Hopkins leads this site to believe that fight town USA’s finest current son will prevail once more.
BLEACHER REPORT BOXING’S FINAL PREDICTION:
BERNARD HOPKINS VIA UNANIMOUS DECISION.