Bernard Hopkins is now just 9 months away from turning 50 years old, and has absolutely nothing left to prove in Boxing. Do not try telling that to Bernard. For the past several years, Hopkins has essentially been running a victory lap. Adding on unnecessary, yet highly impressive performances to his already legendary career. What Hopkins has accomplished in his 40s alone would probably get the Philly great into Canastota.
Hopkins has been at an age, for a decade now, where most fighters are only in the sport for a paycheck. This was even largely true for fellow all time great, George Foreman. Foreman and Archie Moore are the only two fighters who have the kind of success Hopkins has had in his forties. Hopkins certainly would not be doing all of this for free, but it is not the frog skins alone that have Hopkins still lacing his gloves up. Hopkins does not just see another paycheck, instead he sees yet another opportunity to add onto his greatness. His legacy.
Hopkins’ daring attempts in his 40s have not come without their drawbacks, however. After getting off to a hot start, Hopkins would tire and drop a close decision loss to Joe Calzaghe in 2008. Surrendering the light heavyweight championship of the world. After winning the championship at light heavyweight again in 2011 against Jean Pascal, Hopkins would have a pair of lackluster performances against Chad Dawson to finish off 2011 and 2012. Hopkins may have added two unnecessary blemishes on his record in losing to Calzaghe and Dawson which could have been victories had he still been in his 30s. So, all of Hopkins’ risks have not turned into rewards, but in taking those risks Hopkins has done what all fight fans ask of fighters. He always challenges himself.
This Saturday in Washington D.C., Hopkins is taking a huge risk, for a relatively low reward. Hopkins will be defending the IBF world championship he won last March against Tavoris Cloud. He will be facing fellow world champion, WBA title holder, Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs). Shumenov, 30, is a largely unknown, but very dangerous fighter. Unlike Hopkins’ past two opponents, the aforementioned Cloud and Karo Murat, Shumenov has some boxing skills. Shumenov is also a good-sized light heavyweight, and he will assuredly hold a distinct strength advantage over the 49-year-old warrior.
Hopkins may have backed himself into an unenviable position. While Shumenov is a good fighter, with a world title, he lacks victories over big time competition. The world title he holds also has very little value, as the consensus champion of the division is WBC champion, Adonis Stevenson. So even if Hopkins is to be victorious and unify the IBF-WBA titles, he will still not be considered the champion of the division. If Shumenov is to pull off the upset, Hopkins would have to accept the worst defeat of his career since he has become a champion. Shumenov is good, but he is not of the likes of Chad Dawson and certainly not Joe Calzaghe. Shumenov’s name would stick out as the one fighter who absolutely should not have Hopkins’ name on his record.
The real reward for Hopkins, should he get past Shumenov, would in all likelihood be a showdown with Adonis Stevenson. What other fighter, past the age of 45, would have the patience and will to work his way back up the ladder to get into a position to again challenge for the lineal championship of the division? It has never been done before, and Hopkins knows that. Hopkins is out to separate himself and make history.
A showdown with Stevenson to become a three-time lineal light heavyweight champion is the last big challenge Hopkins has a real shot at conquering. Like a greedy businessman seeking one last way to score a profit; Hopkins sees perhaps his final opportunity to enhance his greatness. Now we will have to see Saturday night if the same greed that bolstered Hopkins’ career for the past several years will finally come back to bite him. So far, for the most part, it has only helped him. If only more fighters were greedy in the same way.