by Frank Warren
Historically the light-heavyweight division – sandwiched between the glamour middleweight and heavyweight classes – has struggled for recognition. However, that could be set to change in 2013.
Though the 175lb category presently lacks a dominant champion, there are at least half a dozen worthy contenders who, if matched against each other, would provide fantastic, competitive fights for the fans.
The fun begins this evening at the futuristic Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York when, at the ripe old age of 48 years and 53 days, the evergreen Bernard Hopkins attempts to smash his own record as boxing's oldest world champion by dethroning IBF king Tavoris Cloud. Future Hall of Famer 'BHop' is no longer the sport's best active fighter but certainly remains its most remarkable.
Despite engaging in more than his quota of street rucks around the infamous Raymond Rosen projects in North Philly where he was raised, Hopkins never boxed as an amateur. In fact, he didn't embrace The Noble Art until his mid 20s, whilst serving a five stretch for a botched armed robbery at the Graterford Penitentiary in Pennsylvania.
He lost his pro debut and only bagged the IBF middleweight title at his third attempt, back in 1995. However, he then proceeded to unify all four middleweight belts and break divisional records by reigning for 10 years and making 20 successful defences. In May 2011, aged 46, he surpassed George Foreman's claim as the sport's most senior world champion by masterfully outfoxing WBC
light-heavyweight king Jean Pascal in Montreal. This evening shall be his 30th recognised world title fight!
Despite his vintage, he continues to turn up in physical condition which fighters half his age can only aspire to. In more than a quarter of a century's active service, he has never been stopped. Known as 'The Executioner', the Philadelphian was never been slow to capitalise on his sinister past. He enters the ring wearing a hooded mask, makes slit throat gestures and sports a scowl that could freeze
volcanoes. He is the undisputed king of trash talk, master of the mind games.
When the bell tolls, however, he is far more pickpocket than mugger; a defensive wizard and strategic professor who exhausts minds as much as bodies by continually clinching, smothering and disrupting opponent's rhythm. His interpretation of the sports rulebook is, politely, loose!
He'll have his work cut out against Florida's 'Thunder' Cloud, a raging bull who is not only 17 years Hopkins' junior but also unbeaten in 24 with 19 knockouts and making a fifth defence of his belt.
Hopkins, who has not registered a stoppage win for eight and a half years, and who was comprehensively outpointed by Chad Dawson last time, enters as a marginal underdog. However, he's got proven form for upsetting touted up and comers like Kelly Pavlik and Pascal and I'd prefer he prevails. We could then work on delivering a unification humdinger with WBO king Nathan Cleverly at a soccer stadium this summer.
In May, WBC king Chad Dawson attempts to avenge his only loss at light-heavy when he squares off with Jean Pascal in Montreal and on April 20th Cleverly faces a tricky mandatory against Germany's Robin Krasniqi on my re-scheduled Rule Britannia show at Wembley Arena. Definitely no 'gimme'.
Factor in Kazakhstan's dangerous WBA czar Beibut Shumenov plus the present rich crop of super-middleweights such as Andre Ward, Carl Froch and Mikkel Kessler -who might be tempted to risk the seven pound rise in weight to seek out fresh challenges - and suddenly you're looking at the deepest talent pool in the sport. Last man standing would evolve into a genuine superstar. My dough is on Cleverly.
Last week it was confirmed that Amir Khan is to make a welcome return to these shores.
On April 27th the former Olympic medallist and one-time WBA light-welterweight world champion will lock horns with California based Mexican Julio Diaz at Sheffield's Motorpoint Arena; ironically the manor of arch protagonist Kell Brook.
Talk of a pending 'Superfight' between the Roses rivals is premature. Let both capture world titles then we have a real blockbuster. Brook, of course, is scheduled to challenge tricky St Louis southpaw Devon Alexander for the IBF welterweight title over in Atlantic City on May 18th.
The venues are getting smaller and the opposition less taxing for Khan who, during his time with me, fought the great Marco Antonio Barrera at Manchester's huge MEN Arena. It's always been my contention that Amir tried to crack the American market too early and, as a consequence, arenas were invariably half filled when he fought across The Pond.
But I'm confident British fans will turn out for him and they will expect him to win in style to strengthen his claims for a rematch with WBA and WBC king Danny Garcia, the Philadelphian who savagely wiped him out in four rounds last July.
Diaz might be a former two time IBF lightweight champion. But he's now 33 and we will see what has got left in the tank next month.
Boxing is arguably the most dangerous sport in which its brave participants can be, and sadly have been, killed.
Consequently, any boxer cowardly enough to resort to performance enhancing drugs needs to be slung out of the sport. Lately, the Boxing Board has increased its vigilance with regard to dope testing and the latest drug cheat to be exposed is Liverpool's John Donnelly who tested positive for benzoylecgonine after a recent British super-flyweight challenge.
Last week the Scouser was banned for two years and rightly so. Lives are at stake here.
Floyd Mayweather is looking to win the mind battle over Robert Guerrero ahead of their May 4th showdown.
The pair came head-to-head to film a commercial and Mayweather, looking for an early advantage over his opponent, engages in war of words with his challenger.
It's the first fight on Showtime PPV for Mayweather since his defection from long-time partner HBO.
Don King has asked for a 10-count in memory Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who died this week before the Dawson-Hopkins fight tonight.
The 10-count is normally held for someone in the boxing fraternity that has died, other than being a friend of King's, the controversial leader worked as security at one of Kings shows in Caracas.