by Cliff Rold
So, is this the one?
When Bernard Hopkins won his first major title with a knockout of Segundo Mercado, George Foreman was the Heavyweight champion of the world, Floyd Mayweather was more than a year away from the Olympics, and Pernell Whitaker was the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound.
When Bernard Hopkins became the first man since the late 1980s inception of the WBO to unify all four major sanctioning body belts in a single division with a knockout of Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones was between his first two knockout losses, Manny Pacquiao was the lineal Featherweight king, and fans wondered if Lennox Lewis’s retirement would last.
So, is this the one?
Is this Saturday the night Bernard Hopkins gets too old to do it anymore?
He certainly doesn’t think so and, at 49, is set for a unification bout that would get him halfway to collecting four belts in a division again ten years after he did it the first time. No, a win this weekend won’t make him the true champion at Light Heavyweight. He’ll have to beat the man who beat the man who beat him, Adonis Stevenson, to reclaim the lineal crown.
That he’s even trying is part of why Bernard Hopkins can say his name in the same breath as men like Ezzard Charles and Archie Moore and people just nod.
Let’s go to the report card.
Current Title: IBF Light Heavyweight (2013-Present, 1 Defense)
Previous Titles: Lineal/Ring World Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); IBF Middleweight (1995-2005, 20 Defenses); WBC Middleweight (2001-05, 7 Defenses); Ring/WBA Middleweight (2001-05, 6 Defenses); WBO Middleweight (2004-05, 1 Defense); Ring Light Heavyweight (2006-08, 1 Defense)
; Lineal/Ring/WBC World Light Heavyweight (2011-12, 1 Defense)
Weight: 172.4 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 173.75 lbs.
Hails from: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Record: 54-6-2, 32 KO, 2 No Contests
Rankings: #1 (BoxingScene, TBRB, Ring, BoxRec); #3 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 25-5-2, 13 KO, 2 No Contests
(including Ring Mag. Title fights)
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 18 (Roy Jones L12, UD12; Lupe Aquino UD12; John David Jackson TKO7; Glen Johnson TKO11; Simon Brown TKO6; Keith Holmes UD12; Felix Trinidad TKO12; Carl Daniels RTD10; William Joppy UD12; Oscar De La Hoya KO9; Jermain Taylor L12, L12; Antonio Tarver UD12; Winky Wright UD12; Joe Calzaghe L12; Kelly Pavlik UD12; Jean Pascal D12, UD12; Chad Dawson NC2, L12; Tavoris Cloud UD12)
Current Title: WBA Light Heavyweight (2010-Present, 5 Defenses)
Previous Titles: None
Weight: 174.4 lbs.
Average Weight - Five Most Recent Fights: 174.9 lbs.
Hails from: Las Vegas, Nevada (Born in Kazakhstan)
Record: 14-1, 9 KO
Rankings: #4 (Ring); #6 (TBRB); #7 (BoxingScene); #8 (ESPN)
Record in Major Title Fights: 6-1, 3 KO
Current/Former World Champions/Titlists Faced: 17 (Montell Griffin UD12; Byron Mitchell TKO4; Gabriel Campillo L12, SD12; William Joppy KO6)
Pre-Fight: Speed – Hopkins B; Shumenov B
Pre-Fight: Power – Hopkins B; Shumenov B
Pre-Fight: Defense – Hopkins A+; Shuemov C
Pre-Fight: Intangibles – Hopkins A+; Shumenov B
Hopkins remains where he is today because his ability to minimize damage remains as keen as ever. Even in a decisive loss to Chad Dawson in 2012, the younger and quicker man had a hard time keeping consistent offense going. When people talk about the great defensive fighters, Pep, Whitaker, and Mayweather are names that roll off the tongue easy.
Hopkins is their peer. That he sometimes is omitted might be a tactical issue. Hopkins defends by making guys miss. He also does it often by not letting them fight. He’s cagey in the oldest sense of the word. Against Shumenov, we are likely to see some tricks.
The younger man can be awkward and has the sort of style that could make this ugly in spots. He often slaps from the outside with his shots and will lead from a distance with haymakers. Shumenov can put some mustard on his shots when he commits but sometimes pushes his blows instead. If he unsettles Hopkins early, stops his from finding a rhythm, Shumenov can steal rounds.
Against Karo Murat, Hopkins looked as old as he ever has in the first few rounds. Good thing for him there are twelve in a fight. Once his old joints were fully loosened, Hopkins took over and boxed Murat silly, the fight ending up better than it started out by leaps. Could the same thing happen here?
Shumenov certainly hasn’t been shy. He was matched well on his way up and has always been bold. While he might not have deserved the verdict in the second Campillo fight that earned him the belt he holds, his first defense against Vyacheslav Uzelkov indicated there might be a higher ceiling than looked to be the case before then. Shumenov has been plagued by inactivity since but knows this is the best chance he’ll have to truly etch himself a player at 175.
All he has to do is beat a living legend on a mission.
If Hopkins wasn’t 49, would this even be considered a real fight? Unification or not, the quality gap here looks palpable. That he is 49, and Shumenov is a capable pro, is where the intrigue lies. With the caveat being that one never knows when Hopkins will act his age, Shumenov doesn't have enough of the sort of speed or awkwardness that troubles the older Hopkins. Hopkins, if he's still reasonably Hopkins, takes this one with a crystal clear (if ugly in the ring) decision.
Report Card Picks 2014: 12-6
As long as there is a full tripleheader to pick…WBO Middleweight titlist Peter Quillin (30-0, 22 KO) should walk over Lucas Konecny (50-4, 23 KO). How Konecny earned a high rating from the WBO is worthy of a solid guffaw…IBF Welterweight tiltist Shawn Porter (23-0-1, 14 KO) against former WBA titlist Paulie Malignaggi (33-5, 7 KO) is a tough call. Porter seems to be growing as a fighter, showing marked improvement in his last few bouts. He should be able to impose his strength on Paulie and earn a decision but Malignaggi will give him some rounds.
Cliff Rold is the Managing Editor of BoxingScene, a founding member of the Transnational Boxing Rankings Board, and a member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org