By Jake Donovan
At this point, anything Bernard Hopkins does in the ring – good or bad – will likely make him the oldest fighter to perform such a fight.
For his next trick, the 49-year old attempts to unify titles in the light heavyweight division. But Saturday’s showdown with Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9KO) isn’t the end of the road with a win, a loss or a draw. There exists opportunities in the immediate future, especially now the lineal light heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson has pledged his allegiance to Showtime and Al Haymon.
The winner of Saturday’s headliner at the D.C. Armory in Washington D.C. is being floated as next line for Stevenson, who still has a May 24 title defense versus Andrzej Fonfara. Many believe the Haitian-Canadian will emerge victorious and that the fight is a stay-busy affair with greater – and more lucrative – opportunities waiting in the wings.
A three-belt unification battle with Hopkins (54-6-2, 32KO) would provide a huge payday and storylines galore. That it’s even a possibility is a testament to Hopkins’ flair for self-preservation. The pride of Philly shocked a grand total of nobody by – at age 48 – dominating Tavoris Cloud last March to reclaim a piece of the light heavyweight crown. A title defense versus Karo Murat in October not only proved entertaining but served as his second fight of 2013, with Saturday’s bout marking his third fight in 13 months.
Despite 19 years of youth in his favor, Shumenov hasn’t come close to enjoying the same level of activity. The Kazakh boxer proved a precocious talent, fighting for a title in just his ninth pro bout and winning the belt in his 10th, both fights coming against then-champion Gabriel Campillo.
Just five title defenses have followed, spray-painted over a four-year stretch and none coming against opposition worth recalling. Saturday’s bout is by far his most significant to date, though an alliance with adviser Al Haymon could open the floodgates for a career makeover.
Will age prevail and Father Time come beating down the door of an aged veteran? Or will a modern-day legend once again rise to the occasion, and once again prove that youth is wasted on the young?
Read on to see how the staff at Boxingscene.com believes tonight’s action will go down.
BOXINGSCENE.COM STAFF PREDICTIONS: BERNARD HOPKINS vs. BEIBUT SHUMENOV
“Riding with B-Hop.”
- Damien Acevedo (Hopkins by decision)
“Hopkins simply has too much experience and skill for Shumenov who hasn't faced a fighter nearly close to as good as Hopkins.”
- Ryan Burton (Hopkins by decision)
“This one has controversy written all over it. Rounds could potentially come down to a shoeshine, but I see Shumenov doing enough to edge out Hopkins, deservedly or otherwise.”
- Jake Donovan (Shumenov by decision)
“Shumenov's two main attributes for this fight are his title belt and his willingness to appear on Showtime. Unless Bernard instantly turns 49 in the ring, it's a warm-up for a showdown with lineal light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson. Hopkins by decision, 117-111.”
- Lyle Fitzsimmons (Hopkins by decision)
“Bernard Hopkins is one of the smartest boxers around, intelligence that has long worked in his favor even if time will eventually work against him. Beibut Shumenov is younger, powerful and also seems smart, but he has limits that Hopkins can exploit. Unless this is the fight that Hopkins finally shows his age, I don't expect Shumenov to make that happen. I don't see Hopkins allowing himself to take shots the way he did against Karo Murat, but instead see B-Hop boxing his way to victory, perhaps bringing back his trademark ugly tactics, or some combination of both.”
- David P. Greisman (Hopkins by decision)
“Hopkins by majority decision. This will be his toughest fight in some time as Shumenov has a lot of skills that pose issues for the ageless wonder. Hopkins will be his ever present frugal with the action self but I think that plays into Shumenov’s hands quite well. The fight will look closer than what two of the judges feel and Hopkins escapes.”
- Ernest Gabion (Hopkins by decision)
“With the caveat being that one never knows when Hopkins will act his age, Shumenov doesn't have the sort of speed or awkwardness that troubles this older version. Hopkins if he's still reasonably Hopkins.”
- Cliff Rold (Hopkins by decision)
“Despite being 49, has Hopkins' skills realistically diminished? No. Is he easier to hit? Yes. I think Hopkins is busier and will pick him apart little by little. Hopkins wins by a close unanimous decision.”
- Francisco Salazar (Hopkins by decision)
“If Father Time hasn't been able to beat Hopkins convincingly after 49 years, I don't think Shumenov will fare any better. I like how Beibut looked in his last fight but the quality of opposition is night and day compared to Hopkins. I expect a vintage Hopkins performance which won't produce much action but will be a tactical and skillful exhibition. I can see Shumenov winning a round or two at most with Hopkins dictating and controlling the rest of the bout and unifying the Light Heavyweight titles.”
- Luis Sandoval (Hopkins by decision)
“The only hope for the Kazakhstani lazy boy (just 5 defenses of his title over four years) is that B-Hop will suddenly get old in one day. This is always a possibility when you talk about an almost 50-year old fighter. But not in case of Hopkins - and not in this fight. Shumenov is better skilled than Cloud but he will end this fight as a loser, finding himself unable to get out of the X's spider web.”
- Alexey Sukachev (Hopkins by decision)
Jake Donovan is the Managing Editor of Boxingscene.com, as well as a member of Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox