Bernard Hopkins never needs a reason to talk at length, but was certainly the most qualified person in the room to put into proper perspective Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s decision to jump from middleweight to light heavyweight for his next outing.
Alvarez still reigns as the World middleweight champion but it’s his status as one of the sport’s pound-for-pound best he wishes to improve upon as he moves up two divisions to face reigning three-time light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev. Their bout takes place Nov. 2 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nev., and where a win by Alvarez will put him in exclusive company.
Only three fighters in history have claimed titles at 154, 160 and 175 pounds—Thomas Hearns, Mike McCallum and ‘Sugar’ Ray Leonard—while only the late, great Dick Tiger remains the only boxer in history to win a light heavyweight title while having actively served as the reigning middleweight champion.
Few in history have made the leap to the light heavyweight crown straight from middleweight, an even rarer occurrence upon the firm establishment of the super middleweight division in 1984.
“I know a little bit about history,” Hopkins—a significant stakeholder in Golden Boy Promotions, Alvarez’s promoter—noted to the crowd and assembled media on hand for the official announcement press conference Wednesday evening at Union Station in Los Angeles, Calif. “For Canelo to take a big leap from ’60 to ’75 to dare to be great to make history… anyone who’s not a real educated in the history of boxing, wouldn’t know what I’m talking about right now.
“Just in case you want to learn, it’s very historic to be in the position of Canelo. To want to bite off challenges and challenge himself, and dare to be great and make history.”
Hopkins (55-8-2, 32KOs) made the leap in 2006, nearly a full year after ending his 10-year middleweight title reign with the first of two consecutive losses to Jermain Taylor. Not only did the legendary future Hall of Famer move up, but did so against the best light heavyweight in the world at the time in Antonio Tarver, scoring a landslide decision. For those who debate the validity of Tarver’s “championship” status (The Ring title was at stake, though historians recognized Zsolt Erdei as the lineal champion), Hopkins would right that ship following a 12-round nod over Jean Pascal in their May 2011 rematch to claim true championship status. Just one defense followed—an aborted two-round No-Contest versus Chad Dawson, whom would dethrone Hopkins in their April 2012 rematch—before claiming another version of the title in 2013.
Two defenses would come of his second reign, including a dominant win over Beibut Shumenov in their April 2014 unification bout, before running into Kovalev himself as he dropped a 12-round decision in Nov. 2014.
“There’s very few fighters in boxing that have accomplished ’60-’75 and been successful,” noted Hopkins. “As you know, you’re sitting here staring and hearing one right now. I know the personal feeling about making history with because I’ve been there done that. But now it’s Canelo’s time.”
The scheduled 12-round bout will stream live on DAZN.
Jake Donovan is a senior writer for BoxingScene.com. Twitter: @JakeNDaBox