Bernard Hopkins added another masterclass performance to his story book career Saturday night. After having two good performances over solid fighters in Tavoris Cloud and Karo Murat, Bernard Hopkins raised his game against the best opponent he has faced since his two bouts with Chad Dawson. Hopkins’ opponent, the now former WBA light heavyweight champion, Beibut Shumenov, had successfully defended his world title five times. Shumenov was attempting to become the first man to unify the light heavyweight titles only 16 fights into his professional career, but Shumenov’s bid to make history was completely thwarted. It would be the former executioner turned alien, Bernard Hopkins, who would be the one making history yet again. Becoming the oldest fighter in the history of the sport to ever unify world championships.
After a slow start in the opening two rounds, Hopkins found his rhythm and looked very close to vintage form. It did not matter that Beibut Shumenov was a strong, capable fighter nearly 20 years younger than Hopkins. Shumenov simply could not cope with the phenomenal skills Hopkins will seemingly always posses. Hopkins’ signature punch, his withering right hand, dominated Shumenov all night long. Hopkins put on a beautiful exhibition of how to throw the right hand effectively, landing the punch almost every time he threw it. It did not matter whether Hopkins lead with the right hand, countered Shumenov with the right, or if he set the right up with his jab. He could not miss, Hopkins saw an opening over the low left hand of Shumenov and took advantage.
By the middle rounds, Hopkins had really began to tag Shumenov with amazing accuracy. It almost is not fair that a fighter at the age of 49 still has the hand speed and movement Hopkins has. While Hopkins’ movement is certainly not what it once was, he still displayed the legs capable of befuddling any fighter who is troubled by movement. Hopkins’ possible future opponent, Adonis Stevenson, had better taken notes on what it was Hopkins was doing to frustrate Shumenov. At least Stevenson will have a trainer in his corner should he meet Hopkins. Shumenov already had a mountain to climb in facing the masterful technical skills of Hopkins, he did himself no favors by bizarrely declining to have a trainer in his corner.
After taking complete control of the fight in the middle rounds, Hopkins flashed the kind of punching power not long seen from the ageless warrior. In the eleventh round, Hopkins brought the crowd to his feet and floored Shumenov with a short, crunching right hand. Shumenov did not see the punch coming, as he was blinded by a jab, it was a beautiful punch. Hopkins sent the crowd of thousands into a frenzy, making the entire crowd on hand in the nation’s capital chant “B Hop! B Hop! B Hop!” Simply making history apparently was not quite enough for Hopkins, he wanted to close the show and do it in style. Hopkins went for the knockout, much to the delight of the paying public, but the game Shumenov would not quite go away.
After twelve rounds, largely dominated by Hopkins, Hopkins would salute the crowd in U.S. military fashion as he awaited his name to be announced in victory. One judge, Gustavo Padilla, insanely posted a scorecard with Shumenov winning. Mr.Padilla posted as bad a score as you will see in the sport, there was simply no room for that level of incompetence in this fight. How Padilla wound up with that score is something only he knows, as his viewpoint was completely inconceivable. Thankfully the other two judges did their jobs well, and scored the bout for Bernard Hopkins.
All Bernard Hopkins is doing right now is further cementing that he is not just the best post-forty fighter of all time, but that he is the best post-forty athlete of all time. At this stage of his career, Bernard Hopkins is padding the resume so heavily that it will not matter if he gets the credit and appreciation he deserves right now. Hopkins is leaving behind in his trail a plethora of accomplishments for the historians, fans, and experts to talk about and dissect. Talk of him, much like his career, will have amazing longevity. Without question, Bernard has not only carved out a special place in history for himself as a prize-fighter, but as a competitor in all of sports.