By Frank Warren
The Alien versus The Krusher sounds like something you would expect to witness in a WWE free-for-all rather than a WBA or WBO ringfest. But when the two boxers who rejoice in those respective noms du guerre clash in Atlantic City tomorrow night it will be the most fascinating match-up of the year. And one that could be frighteningly explosive.
Bernard Hopkins, a thoroughbred old warhorse who has ditched his earlier appendage as The Executioner in favour of The Alien (don’t ask me why), encounters Sergey ‘Krusher’ Kovalev, the ruthless Russian who has earned his own nickname by being arguably the most destructive banger in the game.
It is a genuine unification bout with Hopkins ambitiously attempting to wrench Kovalev’s IBF light-heavyweight belts to add to his own WBA and WBO world titles.
Hopkins one of the most remarkable fighters of this or any age. Nudging 50 - he reaches his half century in January- he is the oldest world champion in history yet has the balls to take on a highly dangerous opponent 21 years his junior and believe he can beat him. And maybe he can.
The phenomenal Philadelphian has a shrewd boxing brain, a sound defensive technique and keeps himself in incredible shape. He has a six-pack most of us old ‘uns would die for.
He certainly has a style that could frustrate Kovalev, as it has the majority of his 55 opponents. He could ’old man’ him’ out of it as they say in the business.
But Kovalev is an exceptional puncher, one of the burgeoning band of big-hitting beasts from the east - who takes no prisoners, all but two of his 25 victories coming by KO.
If this fellah hits you on the arm he could break it, but I think he may have trouble dealing with a good, clever boxer.
One of his victims was Britain’s Nathan Cleverly, the then WBO champion whose unbeaten record he wrecked in four rounds in Cardiff last year with steam-hammer body punches that left the Welshman gasping for air. “Fighters like him are a different breed,” Cleverly reflected recently.
True. But so is Hopkins. A former jailbird – got 18 years for various violent felonies as a teenage mugger before being paroled after serving six- he has turned his life around. He has also proved that age is becoming increasingly irrelevant in sport, especially in boxing, as the Klitschkos and Floyd Mayweather jnr have also shown.
Life begins at 30 or even later -for many modern fighters. For Hopkins it was 33, when he had his first pro bout -and lost.
He may be admired and respected now but he is no Saint Bernard. His downside is that he can be a bit of a cry-baby when things don’t go his way, like when he lost to
Joe Calzaghe. He never stopped bitching and moaning to the ref about alleged low blows.
He also plays the race card, once saying; ‘No white man will ever beat me.’’ And that he would be more of an icon if he was white, Jewish or Hispanic.
Being a black boxer wasn’t a handicap for Muhammad Ali, Sugar Ray Leonard, Marvin Hagler or many other black iconic gladiators. It is purely down to personality.
Hopkins never picks a fight with an opponent he doesn’t think he can beat. So can his ring savvy carry him through? Either way it will be no cakewalk on the Boardwalk.
Brain will usually overcome brawn in my view, with a boxer beating a puncher.
If this scrap, which BoxNation are showing live, was taking place even a couple of years ago I’d have picked Hopkins. But it’s a really tough call for a near half-centurion to beat this monster.