By Jake Donovan
For the moment, Bernard Hopkins still chooses to run towards the sound of gun fire.
Upon orders from the IBF, Hopkins’ first defense of his latest light heavyweight title reign must come against unbeaten knockout artist Sergey Kovalev. The thought of such a fight generated considerable buzz in boxing circles following Kovalev’s explosive 3rd round knockout of Cornelius White last weekend, a bout that aired live on NBC Sports Network.
Given the skeptical nature that comes with the average boxing fan, most of the buzz centered around whether or not Hopkins would still keep his belt and go through with the fight.
His first public statement on the subject suggests the 48-year old is at least warm to the idea.
“I respect (and) accept the IBF decision,” Hopkins (53-6-2, 32KO) said via his verified Twitter account Wednesday morning. “I see this guy is good! I look forward to defending my title.”
Hopkins rewrote the history books this past March with a decisive points win over Tavoris Cloud to win the belt he currently has in his possession. The win added to a legendary career long ago destined for Canastota and the International Boxing Hall of Fame, highlighted by a record breaking middleweight title reign from 1995 to 2005 and his lineal light heavyweight lifting effort over Jean Pascal in May ’11.
The win also came with the obligation to make an overdue mandatory title defense against Karo Murat, which Hopkins graciously accepted and was prepared to carry out on July 13.
However, the bout was canceled last week once learned that Murat would be unable to obtain a travel visa in time for the fight. Furthermore, the appeal process would take upwards of six months, thus rendering Murat unable to satisfy his role of mandatory challenger.
Kovalev took the opportunity to call out Hopkins immediately following his knockout win over White. The unbeaten Russian has two paths from which to choose, as he has also been offered the opportunity to face undefeated WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly, a bout that would take place August 17 on the road in Wales, though with reported interest from cable giant HBO.
A decision is expected to be made by Kovalev’s camp before week’s end on which direction he will choose to travel.
Previous announcements suggested a September ring return for Hopkins. For now, the light heavyweight titlist returns to the venue that helped him rewrite the record books – Hopkins will serve on the Showtime broadcast team as a color commentator for this weekend’s show at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. The main event pits welterweight titlist Paul Malignaggi in a defense against unbeaten Adrien Broner, who moves up two divisions in an attempt to become a three-division champ.
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