by Cliff Rold
Just shy of 21 years ago, a short walk across the parking lot away at RFK Stadium, Bernard Hopkins lost his first shot at a major title against Roy Jones Jr. On Saturday night at the DC Armory in Washington DC, in front of a crowd of 6,823, 49-year old IBF Light Heavyweight Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KO) of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, got halfway to being the second man to unify all four major sanctioning body titles since the birth of the WBO in the late 1980s.
Hopkins dropped and befuddled Kazakhstan’s 30-year old WBA titlist Beibut Shumenov (14-2, 9 KO) of Las Vegas, Nevada, en route to a decisive win marred by an official split decision verdict. Shumenov, who picked up a belt in a widely decried decision against Gabriel Campillo, was made to look every bit the undeserving pretender but Hopkins has had a way of doing that to far better foes over the years too.
The world can marvel not because of who he beat but because he continues to win against contemporary top ten Light Heavyweights as the calendar grows closer to his fiftieth birthday. Hopkins remains one of the best of the world, having outlasted by years rivals like Jones, Felix Trinidad, and Oscar De La Hoya and through an assortment of ‘pound-for-pound’ players from the prime of the Pernell Whitaker to the eeking twilight of Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao.
Wearing the comical green alien mask adopted in recent years to celebrate how ‘extraterrestrial’ it is for a man his age to do what he does, Hopkins soaked in the cheers of an admiring crowd. As the fighters received pre-fight instructions, it was a small contingent of Shumenov fans leading a chant for their man. Then, the bell…
Neither man looked like they’d broken a sweat in warm ups, bone dry as they stared intensely at one another and played at leading with their lefts. Shumenov let out grunts as he began to move his hands while Hopkins tried to counter with the right. Neither landed anything of note and there was a smattering of boos at the bell.
The round started and ended with some brief, fiery exchanges. In between, there was little to separate the two. Hopkins swung for the cheap seats with a right early in round two, missing wide but declaring intent. Hopkins received a warning for low blows in the frame, the veteran nonplussed by the admonishment.
Round three had two distinct parts, Shumenov controlling the first half with quicker hands, Hopkins taking control with a crowd popping right hand at the halfway mark. Another right drew cheers as the round drew to a close, Hopkins’s fans chanting “B-Hop” down the stretch.
Hopkins held the edge in a clinical fourth round, sticking out his tongue late when Shumenov thought he might have something going in the corner. The right hands that won that frame were on display again in the fifth, Hopkins timing single, flush blows that kept the crowd engaged. Shumenov grunted, swung, and missed too often for his fortunes.
While he had his moments in the next three rounds, Shumenov never gained any control as the ageless master set traps, eluded shots, and pot shotted whenever he wanted. There were times where Hopkins was nearly toying with him, landing just enough hard shots to raise the idea that he could pull off his first stoppage since 2004.
A Shumenov right hand got the attention of Hopkins early in the ninth, Hopkins sticking his tongue out before gradually reasserting his complete control of the affair. Shumenov tried hard in the tenth, landing a few right hands to inspire a small, vocal contingent. Hopkins made him miss his follow up shots, sliding and slipping before landing counters with professorial aplomb.
In the eleventh, Hopkins landed his best right hand in years, dropping Shumenov to the floor right in the center of the ring. Fans already filing out of the arena stopped and roared with those still near their seats, everyone standing an roaring “B-Hop.” In the closing seconds, Hopkins waved Shumenov in, taunting the outclassed titlist. Shumenov landed a nice right hand moments later. Hopkins responded with a no-look left.
The master wasn’t letting the student any hope with one round to go.
Hopkins did his best to get a knockout in the final round, beating Shumenov up but unable to put him away. It was the only thing he wanted on the night that he couldn’t get. As he waited for the verdict, Hopkins hollered into the crowd that he was a “throwback” and “old school.” There was no one to argue with him.
Then the scores came down and all were reminded that nothing is more old school in boxing than atrocious scores. Somehow, judge Gustavo Padilla had it 114-113 for Shumenov, a score that brought a violent chorus of boos from the crowd. It was quickly overruled twice by scores of 116-111, those perhaps even charitable for Shumenov. It was hard to find a round against Hopkins after the second.
Asked in the ring after the fight about the scoring, Hopkins answered tactfully. “Listen, when you get into all that. They go to school…it’s the commissions job to deal with that.” Promoter Richard Schaefer was less kind. “That’s bullshit. That’s another judge who should be fired.” Praising his defeated foe for the effort on the night, Hopkins said, “Shumenov a gallant warrior. He will be a champion when I’m gone.”
Then the topic turned to the history Hopkins continues to write. “I’m special,” he said succinctly before saying that he’d leave it to the historians to judge his legacy while looking to the future and a likely showdown with the current lineal and WBC Light Heavyweight king Adonis Stevenson. “Stevenson, I’m coming to Canada,” Hopkins said while also making sure to point out that any fights he’d have going forward would be on Showtime.
It was impossible not to think that was a shot across the bow at WBO Light Heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, setting the parameters for any business that might unfold there down the road. Speaking to the press after the fight, Hopkins was explicit. If Kovalev wants Hopkins, it will be on Hopkins terms.
That is if Hopkins gets that far. Stevenson, should he successfully defend against sturdy contender Andrej Fonfara next month, is more than enough obstacle to worry about for now.
And beyond that, Hopkins wasn’t shy about the dream of a final superfight, stating that someone will be looking for their fiftieth win sometime after he turns 50 years old, adding that he can still get to or below at least168 lbs. Hopkins-Mayweather? 50 vs. 50?
If it were anyone but Hopkins, it would sound absurd. For Hopkins, apparently absurd is just his normal.
Shumenov was disappointed but noble in defeat. “Bernard was just the better man tonight. I chose the wrong strategy and used the wrong style.” Asked what he could have done different, Shumenov said, “I need to watch the tape.”
He’ll have a lot to learn from when he does.
On the undercard, an emerging force at Welterweight made a devastating impression.
26-year old IBF Welterweight titlist Shawn Porter (24-0-1, 15 KO), 146 ¾, of Akron, Ohio, made his first defense of the belt he won from Devon Alexander last December, dropping and stopping 33-year old two division former titlist Paulie Malignaggi (33-6, 7 KO), 146 ¼, of Brooklyn, New York, in the fourth round. It was Porter’s first stoppage win in six fights dating to 2012. The referee was Sam Williams.
While shorter it was evident at the opening bell that Porter was the more stout of the two and a fight with several early clinches resulted in a laceration under the left eye of Malignaggi. Malignaggi was firing back hard when Porter muscled him to the ropes, but Porter’s body shots looked like the sort that could put him to the ropes all night.
In round two, one could wonder how long all night would be. A left hook from Porter had Mlaignaggi on shaky legs and he absorbed a bad beating on the ropes, his return fire little more than a ploy for survival. In the third, it was Porter’s right hand doing the damage, and then some more with the left as Maliganggi’s supporters chanted for their man to no avail. At the bell to end the third, Malignaggi wobbled to the corner, already wearing the face of a beaten man.
Porter dropped Malignaggi early in round four with a clipping right hand and while the always-game New Yorker rose, his heart couldn’t change the course of the night. Porter trapped Malignaggi on the ropes and blasted away, referee Williams maybe letting it go a shot or two longer than necessary. It was the worst loss of Malignaggi’s career, halted at 1:14 of round four.
Interviewed after the fight, Porter was all smiles. “I knew what he was coming with but I had some questions of my own.” He found the answers and, with two big wins now under his belt as a champion, Porter may be a player at Welterweight for awhile. At the very least, he’ll be fun to watch try. Asked about his preparation for the fight, Porter said, “We lost the weight well. It paid off in this fight. Paulie was a great fighter and will always be someone I admire.”
An emotional Malignaggi contemplated retirement out loud after the fight and was all class. Asked what he’d said to Porter after the fight, he said, “I told him to go be great. I just said, “Don’t make me have lost to an average fighter. Go be great so that I can say that a really great fighter beat me.” I know that he has that potential.” The crowd gave him an earned cheer as he exited the ring.
30-year old WBO Middleweight titlist Peter Quillin (31-0, 22 KO), 159 ¾, of Brooklyn, New York, made his third successful title defense with a steady if uninspiring unanimous decision over brave but outgunned 35-year old former Jr. Middleweight title challenger Lucas Konecny (50-5, 23 KO), 158 ¼, of Usti, Czech Republic. There were no knockdowns in the contest. The referee was Kenny Chevalier.
Quillin set right to work, touching Konecny with light left hands while the challenger followed, head down, gloves and elbows tight. After a smattering of single power shots from Quillin, Konecny started letting his hands go to the body.
That was the shape the fight would hold for the next three rounds, the action intensifying in spots before settling into a rhythm. Konecny would find the body and then the head; Quillin the head and then the body. In round four, after being tagged with a hook, Quillin looked like he may have been rocked. Instead, it became apparent he was just turned to say something to potential rival Middleweight Daniel Jacobs, seated ringside on commentary. He continued to talk after the round ended.
Rounds five and six left the crowd in an almost library hush until the closing seconds of the latter, a big right hand stunning the challenger only for Konency to dig in and fire back. It was the storm before the calm, the crowd again going mild in a seventh marked by a couple hard body shots for Quillin and an attempted sneaky left from Konecny.
The last minute of the eighth breathed life into the fight, Konecny firing back after a big shot drew crimson from an already busted nose. It didn’t last and, after nine rounds of politely discussing whatever the crowd was discussing with their inside voices, the boo birds started to come out in round ten. They emerged again in an eleventh that featured a rare highlight: Quillin leapt on the ropes to celebrate the finish, mistaking what round he was in.
Apparently, the reigning beltholder was as ready for it to be over as the fans. He had to work through only three more minutes to get there. A low blow to Konency drew an audible wince from the paid masses, Konecny running a lap around the ring to shake it off before returning to the fray. The final scores were academic at a shutout 120-108 and twin scores of 119-109.
Quillin, interviewed in the ring after the fight, said he’s like to fight either the winner of lineal World Middleweight Champion Sergio Martinez vs. Miguel Cotto or the winner of a possible bout between WBA titlist Gennady Golovkin and Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. Looking to more likely immediate futures, Quillin said, “If Danny Jacobs on the menu let’s do it. As long as (manager) Al Haymon can get me the money I want, let’s do it.”
In swing action in the Lightweight division, local youngster Lamont Roach Jr. (1-0), 134 ½, of Washington, DC, made a successful professional debut at the expense of 21-year old Victor Galindez (1-4, 1 KO), 142 ¾, of Ponce, Puerto Rico. Despite his best efforts, and a number of hard right and lefts that brought the crowd alive, Roach couldn’t out Galindez away and settled for a unanimous decision by scores of 40-36 across the board.
In additional swing action prior to the main event, 26-year old Welterweight David Grayton (7-0, 6 KO), 148 ¼, of Washington, DC, dropped 26-year old Howard Reece (2-5, 1 KO), 149 ¼, of Miami, Florida with a right hand shortly after the bell to start round one. It never got any better for Reece. Trapped in the corner and taking a rain of leather, the referee halted the bout at 1:58 of round one.
23-year old Lightweight Zachary Ochoa (7-0, 4 KO), 134 ½, of Brooklyn, New York, scored knockdowns in the fourth and fifth rounds en route to a stoppage in the latter over 30-year old Hector Marengo (6-8-4, 4 KO), 140 ¼, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Ochoa went to serious work in the fourth, landing an assortment of blows before an overhand right put Marengo on the floor. Marengo beat the count and lasted the round but took a pasting until the bell. Hands down around his waist, Ochoa came out to test Marengo early in the fifth. An explosive series of blows in the corner finished with a left to the body, Marengo forced to a knee for the second knockdown of the bout. Marengo rose again, but his end was near. The corner raised the white towel as he took shots along the ropes, referee Joseph Cooper halting the bout officially at 1:32 of round five.
25-year old 2008 US Olympian Sadam Ali (18-0, 12 KO), 146 ¼, of Brooklyn, New York, kept his undefeated mark intact at Welterweight with a sensational left hook in the first round, sending 40-year old Michael Clark (44-10-1, 18 KO), 144, of Columbus, Ohio. It was Ali’s first opening round stoppage since his professional debut. The fight opened at a measured pace but Ali’s left sent Clark to the deck, struggling to rise as referee Joseph Cooper halted the action at 2:06 of round one.
23-year old 2012 US Olympian Marcus Browne (10-0, 7 KO), 174, of Staten Island, New York, continued his steady ascent in the Light Heavyweight division but it wasn’t pretty against 36-year old Otis Griffin (24-16-2, 10 KO), 176 ½, of Troy, Alabama. Browne managed a knockdown in round five en route to a shutout decision in eight rounds. The referee was David Braslow.
Browne rocked Griffin in the first but remained composed, staying behind his southpaw right jab and picking spots to let his hands go. A series of left hands punished Griffin along the ropes early in round two but Browne didn’t continue to press, pecking away and sometimes tying up Griffin inside.
The next two rounds passed with Browne maintaining a tedious control, Griffin escaping both without much injury. Perhaps hoping to catch Browne asleep, Griffin came out with extra energy in the fifth. Browne clinched to stem the rally before returning to his jab. Late in the round, a straight left put Griffin on the seat of his trunks and took away what might have been his best chance at a winning round.
Browne boxed in the sixth and opened the seventh strong, digging to the body. Griffin returned fire, turning Browne to the ropes and getting a couple of his own to the ribs. The fight immediately returned to its meandering norm. Three more minutes passed meekly by to bring the match to a close.
Browne took the fight by easy scores of 80-71 across the board. It was Griffin's sixth consecutive defeat.
The card was broadcast on Showtime and Showtime Extreme as part of its “Championship Boxing” series, promoted by Golden Boy Promotions.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene and a member of the Transnational Boxing Ratings Board and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at [email protected]