BoxNation viewers get to witness one of the most remarkable fighters ever to lace up when Bernard Hopkins opens the defence of his IBF World Light-Heavyweight title against Karo Murat at The Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City this Saturday.
Incredibly, the ex-con from the mean streets of Philadelphia has been hustling at the highest level for over 20 years now. In 30 world title fights he has been mastered just four times. Last March, he extended his own record as the oldest fighter to ever win a recognised world championship by comprehensively schooling Florida’s Tavoris Cloud.
It was Hopkins’ sixth world title belt with one of the ‘Big Four’ sanctioning bodies, and accomplished at the ripe old age of 48 years and 53 days! Known as ‘The Executioner’, he is an absolute ‘shoe in’ to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota as soon as he becomes eligible.
The latest young buck chancing that ‘B-Hop’ finally grows old overnight is mandatory challenger Murat, a 30 year old Iraqi born German who has lost just once in 27 and formerly reigned on the European super-middleweight throne.
Watch Hopkins v Murat live and exclusive on BoxNation (Sky Ch. 437/Virgin Ch. 546) as part of a huge double-header starting at 7pm with live coverage of Arthur Abraham’s WBO Intercontinental Super-Middleweight title defence against Giovanni De Carolis.
To assess his chances, and secure an expert synopsis of the great champion, boxing writer Glynn Evans called up ex WBO World Light-Heavyweight king Nathan Cleverly.
“This is a very interesting fight for me personally, because it’ll be a big figure in the sport against an opponent that I’ve beaten convincingly. It’ll be a good gauge of where I stand in comparison to Hopkins. I did a real job on Murat when I was just 23. Let’s see how Hopkins copes with him.
Love him or loathe him, you have to give Hopkins massive respect, not just because of his ring smarts but also because of the Spartan lifestyle he leads. At his age, after all he’s achieved, I’d want to be chilling on a white sandy beach, on an ‘all inclusive’, yet he’s still fighting the top contenders. Mad!
Because of his longevity at the highest level, and the manner in which he has moved through the divisions facing and beating all the top class fighters, you have to consider Hopkins to be one of the all-time greats. He’s very good technically and just so knowledgeable. He’s never in wars which might shorten a career, never in high intensity, action fights. He always manages to conserve a lot of energy. That’s why he’s flourished for as long as he has. He’s a master.
That said, I’ve always felt that I’d have given him a good run if I’d been presented with the opportunity. You’re never going to outsmart Bernard or better him technically because he’s the best out there. But I believe that, being a fast, sharp, energetic light-heavy, my style was something he’d have disliked. I think there was only myself and (Sergey) Kovalev who’d have had any chance of beating him.
Personally, at this stage, I think that Kovalev would now beat Hopkins; too hungry, too fearless, too heavy-handed. He’d be too active for Bernard and would overpower him. Kovalev represents the new era of the light-heavyweight division.
There’s hope for Murat. Hopkins has definitely slowed of late, eased off the gas. He only does just enough to win the rounds. If Murat can really put it on him, take Bernard out of his comfort zone, you never know.
When we fought three years ago, I found Karo to be very compact defensively. He didn’t waste much, always threw to land. But other than that, he was quite limited. I felt I exposed him quite badly. I pretty much won every round and bashed him up.
I didn’t think he was world class but he’s come back and is unbeaten in four including a stoppage of Otis Griffin and a draw with (Gabriel) Campillo, the former WBA champion from Spain, to earn himself another opportunity.
Personality wise, Murat wasn’t a feisty one and Hopkins likes to dominate the opposition with his mind games in the build up. I found Murat quite arrogant. Before fighting me, he was talking a good fight. He had an unbeaten record before we met (22-0) and thought he was far better than he was. He lacked the tools to back it up and I exposed him, made him look like a bum, really.
I’ve seen glimpses of him in his fights since we fought but I’ve not paid huge interest. Once you’ve seen him once, you know what he’s about. He’s not an exciting type and I’ve left him behind. I doubt he’ll come onto my radar again. I don’t believe his strengths are sufficient to see him win a world title.
Murat will be young and hungry, he’ll come to give it a go. He’ll try to cut the ring off, advancing behind a high guard and it’s conceivable he could cause Hopkins some problems. Bernard’s getting on a bit.
But I still expect Hopkins will have far too much class and movement for Murat. He’ll dart in and out, nicking points on the move, stealing rounds doing the bare minimum, constantly conserving energy. He’ll be conscious not to be caught flat footed and will refuse to play into Murat’s hands by having a ‘tear up’. I don’t expect he’ll win every round but he’ll probably be about five rounds up after another cagey 12 rounder
That said, it’d be very good for my situation if Karo could spring an upset on Saturday evening. Because of Father Time, all of Hopkins opponents at this stage have an outside chance of being the one to catch him at the right time.”