Fighting Words: Aging Bull

Bernard Hopkins is an absolute freak of a man. At 49 years old, Hopkins is a living boxing legend. As opposed to most 49 year olds, Hopkins woke up on November 8 holding two light heavyweight title belts with a legit argument as the best light heavyweight in the world today.

“It’s ridiculous for him to be able to take a punch at this age,” said Hopkins’ trainer Naazim Richardson on HBO’s 24/7 show. “You go hit the average man at 49 in the face with a punch, you see how they react to it. They’d probably carry that punch the rest of their life.”

That said, while Hopkins may have garnered enough respect by staying in world-class shape right up to AARP eligibility, Father Time has an undefeated record. So does Sergey  ‘Krusher’ Kovalev, a Russian destroyer who has burst onto the scene in the last couple of years as a knockout machine with wild power and a merciless disposition. Hopkins deserves credit for daring to step in the ring with Kovalev–something lineal light heavyweight champ Adonis Stevenson seems reluctant to do–and it’s a testament to BHop’s legacy that the fight on Saturday night began as a 50-50 pick ’em. Unfortunately for Hopkins, on Saturday night, time–as it is wont to do–caught up.

Fight Recap: Sergey Kovalev UD12 Bernard Hopkins

Sometime the Wolf score: Kovalev 119 – 108 Hopkins

Let’s make this clear: Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KO) being 49 years old doesn’t take a single thing away from the performance Sergey Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KO) put on today in Atlantic City. Kovalev had never been past eight rounds in a fight before, and early on it seemed Hopkins’ strategy was to let Kovalev wear himself out and take over late. It was pretty common thought in the boxing community that if Kovalev didn’t get an early knockout, Hopkins would find a way to win a decision. This was never the case, as Kovalev’s smart, measured attack, expertly cutting off the ring and legitimate power put Hopkins in a turtle shell he was never able to come out of, from the first round on.

Kovalev got Hopkins down on a flash knockdown in the first round, which didn’t seriously hurt Hopkins but put him in a two point hole to start the fight. After that, Kovalev stalked Hopkins around the ring, landing sharp jabs and the occasional overhand shot to the backpedaling veteran. Hopkins’ awkward, lunge-in-punch-and-grab wasn’t working, as every time Hopkins jumped inside there was Kovalev’s fist waiting to meet him. The fight, steadily one-sided as it was, was never boring, as you were always waiting for Hopkins to pull something out of his hat, and he did have his moments. A couple of sharp punches landed that seemed to annoy and affect Kovalev, but Hopkins was never able to put combinations together effectively. In the middle of the fight, Kovalev landed a bomb of a right hand that would have put most other boxers down and out, but though Hopkins’ knees touched as he almost went down hard, his granite chin and alien conditioning somehow kept him upright.

Hopkins somehow stayed on his feet here

Hopkins, unable to pull the trigger in the 12th round, showed his pride to end the fight and went out on his shield. After sticking his tongue out at his tormentor and smiling, Hopkins received an all-out assault from Kovalev, who went for the final round finish and began landing flush, painful looking shots that saw Hopkins resemble a blowup clown that bounces back from a child’s punches. If that assault had happened in any round previously, this fight would have been stopped–but the referee chose to let the fight play itself out and let Hopkins end his miraculous run standing on two feet.

Bernard Hopkins has nothing to be ashamed of. He’s an all time great that met a fearsome beast of a fighter in his prime and stayed upright for 12 rounds. Though I can’t say I’ll miss him–Hopkins has been in some ugly, atrocious fights throughout his career–I do not think we will see anything like him again. And Kovalev is a worthy champion. This was not an undeserved beating of a washed up shadow of a great fighter. This was a legit win, and Kovalev now has the name on his resume to put him safely amongst the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and certainly the most accomplished fighter in the light heavyweight division.

The king is dead. Long live the king.

                                   Sergey Kovalev

***

Fight Recap: Sadam Ali TKO9 Luis Carlos Abregu

On HBO’s undercard, Brooklyn’s Sadam Ali (21-0, 13 KO) registered an impressive win over the typically tough and hard-hitting Luis Carlos Abregu of Argentina (36-2, 29 KO), a fighter who only had one previous loss, and that was to Tim Bradley, one of the top fighters in the world. It was a statement victory for Ali, who looked slick, fast and accurate, with solid pop, as he continually caught Abregu coming in with right hands and legitimately hurt him in the 6th and 9th rounds, when he finally secured a somewhat surprising TKO stoppage win.

Look, I’m not going to mince words here: Abregu looked like shit. He looked slow the whole fight, unsure and sluggish, unable to land much of significance and frankly looked like he spent the whole fight guessing. The bout got off to a dreadful start–the first five rounds were getting deservedly booed by the Atlantaic City crowd–but once Ali caught Abregu and realized he could hurt him, the last few rounds picked. It will be really interesting to see where Ali goes from here, and whether Abregu looking bad was a product of Ali fighting well or of Abregu just not being as good as advertised. For now, Ali looks like a rising name in the division. Time will tell.

***

This was a solid, if ultimately unspectacular, night of boxing for HBO, but Hopkins-Kovalev was an important fight in a year where important fights haven’t really been delivered. I haven’t been writing much about boxing lately, and that’s in large part due to the dearth of interesting fights we’ve been offered. I’ve been watching them, because there is something clearly wrong with me, but I haven’t been inspired to write about them. We have a couple intriguing fights on the schedule to close out the year (though I am having trouble mustering much enthusiasm for Pacquiao-Algieri, I have to admit), but here’s hoping 2015 offers boxing fans a little more than 2014 did.

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