By Keith Idec
Sergey Kovalev’s trainer is more than sure the fighter he works with is ready to beat Bernard Hopkins.
John David Jackson is not nearly as confident about Beibut Shumenov being up to the task. Jackson, Hopkins’ former trainer, expects the WBA light heavyweight champion from Kazakhstan to succumb to the 49-year-old Hopkins’ experience and guile when they meet Saturday night in a 175-pound unification fight at Washington’s D.C. Armory (9:30 p.m. ET; Showtime).
“I give Bernard the edge,” Jackson told BoxingScene.com. “I think this kid will fall into the same trap everybody else does. He’ll fall into Bernard’s trap and play Bernard’s game. They say this kid’s rich beyond his wildest dreams. He’s got money, so that means he’s not hungry. They say he’s a super-rich kid. So how hungry is he, really? He cares, but does he really care?”
Jackson was referring to several lucrative businesses Shumenov’s family owns in Shymkent, one of Kazakhstan’s biggest cities.
Shumenov’s motivation might be debatable, but Jackson, a former junior middleweight and middleweight champion, knows Hopkins cares immensely about strengthening an already incredible legacy and extending his reign as the oldest recognized world champion in boxing history. While he anticipates Hopkins, about a 2-1 favorite, will emerge victorious, Jackson doesn’t think their scheduled 12-round bout will be easy for the former middleweight champion from Philadelphia.
“It’s an interesting fight,” Jackson said. “I finally got, I guess you could say, the privilege of seeing Shumenov in his last fight on Showtime. He’s kind of strong, kind of raw. If he just follows Bernard around the ring, Bernard’s going to take him to school. What I tell people is Bernard’s an old man. You’ve got to treat him like an old man. You’ve got to make him fight. You’ve got to make him exert himself from 1 through 12.
“You can’t let him walk around, pick his shots, grab and hold and do what he does best. Shumenov’s going to have to make him fight. If Shumenov can do that, if he makes Bernard exert himself and makes it a life-and-death struggle for Bernard, he’s got a chance to win. If he doesn’t, Bernard will do what he does best – lure you in, grab and hold, make it a jabbing match, take him to school and beat him in a boring fight.”
Denver’s Jackson considers Shumenov’s comparative inexperience to be his biggest disadvantage against a legend whose pro career began when Shumenov was just 5 years old. Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) is 18½ years younger than Hopkins and has defended the WBA light heavyweight title he won four years ago from Spain’s Gabriel Campillo five times, but the 30-year-old former Olympian has fought just 15 times overall as a professional during a career that started six years ago.
“Not to demean what Bernard has done, but it’s just a sign of the times in boxing,” Jackson said. “A lot of fighters aren’t taught to really fight at that competitive level. Bernard’s experienced enough to know how to survive some of these guys’ so-called onslaughts. Today’s fighters don’t try to really fight. They’re rushed. You’ve got guys fighting for titles in 10 fights, six fights and now two fights. Who are they really fighting? Amateurs? Bernard has retained a lot of things from his years in boxing. He uses that in his fights. It allows him to navigate through those deep waters. Most guys can’t touch him because he understands the game of boxing. That speaks volumes for him, but it doesn’t speak volumes for those that are coming up now.
“Bernard is from the school of hard knocks. He earned everything he’s gotten the hard way. Now he’s on the other side, picking them kind of soft. But he has earned that right. All in all, I think he’ll win the fight his way. At this stage, if he tries to be exciting that would be like the nail in his coffin. He’s an old man, with an old body. He’s doing the right things and he’s winning. But if he ever fights a young lion that really wants it, then you’re going to see what he’s really made of. Boxing-wise, his knowledge is great. That’s great. Physically, how good is he in a hard, physical fight for 12 rounds? I don’t see that. But hey, he doesn’t have to do that because he does it his way. Shumenov has to pressure Bernard and make Bernard fight. Hit him in his arms, hit him in his shoulders, make that old body break down.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.