by Cliff Rold
Imhotep, Pythagoras, Mozart, Edison, Einstein…
…their names live on long after they have left this plane. Moments might be fleeting, but genius lives forever.
Bernard Hopkins hasn’t written a great medical treatise, composed an enduring symphony, or invented the light bulb but, like those men, he is a genius in his field.
Long after he finally retires, long after he too has left this plane, he will be remembered as such. Just as fighters like him were able to study the work of men like Ezzard Charles, or draw inspiration from another ageless wonder like Archie Moore, those who wish to unlock the formula of ring immortality will study Hopkins one day.
He’s 48 years old and, while he isn’t the outright champion of the Light Heavyweight division, he again holds one of its more sought after belts. After five straight contests against men rated among the top four or five in the 175 lb. field of now, he takes on what for most is a run of the mill mandatory challenger in Iraqi-born Karo Murat.
Is anything really run of the mill at Hopkins’ age?
Let’s go to the report card.
Current Title: IBF Light Heavyweight (2013-Present, 1st Attempted Defense)
Previous Titles: Lineal/Ring World Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (1995-2005, 20 Defenses); WBC Middleweight (2001-05, 7 Defenses); Ring/WBA Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); WBO Middleweight (2004-05, 1 Defense); Ring Light Heavyweight (2006-08, 1 Defense) ; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Light Heavyweight (2011-12, 1 Defense)
Weight: 172.5 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 174.15 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 53-6-2, 32 KO, 2 No Contests
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, BoxRec); #2 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 24-5-2, 13 KO, 2 No Contests (including Ring Mag. Title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 18 (Roy Jones L12, UD12; Lupe Aquino UD12; John David Jackson TKO7; Glen Johnson TKO11; Simon Brown TKO6; Keith Holmes UD12; Felix Trinidad TKO12; Carl Daniels RTD10; William Joppy UD12; Oscar De La Hoya KO9; Jermain Taylor L12, L12; Antonio Tarver UD12; Winky Wright UD12; Joe Calzaghe L12; Kelly Pavlik UD12; Jean Pascal D12, UD12; Chad Dawson NC2, L12; Tavoris Cloud UD12)
Current Title/Previous Titles: 1st Major Title Shot
Height: 5’10 ½
Weight: 174 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 174.95 lbs.
Hails from: Kitzingen, Bayern, Germany
Record: 25-1-1, 15 KO
Rankings: #6 (Ring); #8 (ESPN), #9 (BoxingScene)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 17 (Cristian Sanavia UD12, TKO10; Gabriel Campillo MD12, D12; Nathan Cleverly TKO by 10)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Hopkins B; Murat B
Pre-Fight: Power – Hopkins B; Murat B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hopkins A+; Murat B
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hopkins A+; Murat B
Murat has waited over a year for his shot, last to scratch in June 2012. He’s likely to be hungry and hasn’t shied away from the moment so far. Could the layoff affect his stamina? Against Hopkins, often a minimalist offensively in his older years, it might not matter. Timing could. Hopkins remains a hard target.
Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson were able to outhustle him with different approaches in the last five years but none others could. Against Cloud, he landed enough to keep the then-reigning titlist at bay while also employing subtle movement, effective clinches, and just generally always keeping the fight under control.
His best physical tests in recent years came against Pascal. Met with superior speed and an unorthodox approach, he was dropped twice in their first fight and rocked late in the second. He overcame with all the little things he does well.
Hopkins controls space, is always relaxed, and outside the few rough spots with Pascal, remains tough to catch clean.
Murat has enough hustle to make this interesting if he stays within himself. Murat isn’t super fast but he has good hand speed and on the draw might be quicker than Hopkins. He’s a solid fundamental fighter who throws his jab hard and straight, hooks well off it, and fires the right true.
Defensively, Murat can get himself handcuffed, keeping his hands high and elbows tight but he doesn’t let that kill his activity level. He might be, in the ring, a far more formidable foe than a Cloud was on paper.
Hopkins has a way of killing activity anyways. Murat tends to need to be set to get off effectively and Hopkins is likely to show him every angle there is, forcing the younger man to think and reset. Murat has been stopped once, but by a volume puncher in Nathan Cleverly. Hopkins isn’t likely to multiply punishment all night so the battle could be against frustration.
Much of that will depend on the tactics Hopkins employs. As great as he is, Hopkins isn’t afraid to make a fight ugly and can sometimes lapse into a very negative approach that employs lots of holding. Murat has to have an answer for that. Specifically, he has to throw even when he might not land and hope he gets points for trying to make the fight if Hopkins is trying to stop one from breaking out.
Activity worked for Murat in two fights, a win and draw, against Campillo. There was a case for defeat in each contest but his spirited efforts made it close. He’s almost two decades younger than the man in front of him. He should believe he could outwork Hopkins, even if that sounds better than the challenge of it.
Murat is an interesting challenger. He fights with energy, mixes it up to the head and body, and doesn't just fight in one direction. He might be a sort of trap fight for the older Hopkins, able to steal rounds with work rate. Will Hopkins let him work though? The crafty veteran knows more about boxing than most of his youthful current contemporaries will ever learn and already knew it 15 years ago. Murat has been stopped before but that was against a Cleverly who set a different pace than Hopkins will. Everyone gets old eventually and Hopkins losing at any point as he nears 50 is no shock but Murat doesn't seem the right man for the job. The old legend is likely to pick up another duke by decision on a night that has some folks checking their watches by the end.
Genius can be genius after all without being pretty.
Hopkins is not the only notable name in action this week…For all the talk of Gennady Golovkin, WBO Middleweight titlist Peter Quillin (29-0, 21 KO) has arguably as good a resume as a professional and is getting better with each fight. It might be the case that the two best Middleweights in the world are already he and GGG. This is a 'comparison shopping' type fight where one can look to one-up a rival against a common foe. Challenger Gabriel Rosado (21-6, 13 KO) gave Golovkin a spirited effort. Quillin may look for a big performance to combat the hype of his fellow titlist. The pick is Quillin by stoppage…In the UK, we have what should be a star-type showing for Kell Brook (30-0, 20 KO). Vyacheslav Senchenko (34-1, 23 KO) was beat solid by the lighter hitting Paulie Malignaggi and was well behind against Hatton before landing a body nuke. Brook isn't old, has speed, and is sturdy. All of that adds up to a mid-rounds finish for the rising Welterweight contender.
Report Card Picks 2013: 41-24
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]