“THE TALE OF THE 48”
Published: Monday, March 11, 2013
Updated: Monday, March 11, 2013 18:03
It’s funny how the boxing world works. In December I had a conversation with my dad about the Manny Pacquiao-Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight and when it might happen.
My dad said something along the lines of “they’ve waited too long. This is what boxing promoters do; they put fights off until guys are too old.”
Tell that to Philadelphia’s own Bernard Hopkins. At 48 years old, he beat 30-year-old Tavoris Cloud on Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center to win the International Boxing Federation’s (IBF) light-heavyweight title and become the oldest boxer to win a major title, breaking his own record.
While most people at 48 are counting down the years to retirement or collecting gold watches and pens for “25 years of service,” Hopkins maintains a fighting-fit shape. If the announcers had not said his age and one did not know his history, one could mistake him for a much younger man.
Hopkins has had a varied and interesting life. At 17, he went to prison for various robberies, where he learned how to box, and it eventually became his career. He started boxing professionally in 1988, and won his first major title in 1995, beating Segundo Mercado for the IBF middleweight title, which he defended 12 times. He also beat Keith Holmes in 2001 to win the World Boxing Council (WBC) crown. Hopkins beat Félix Trinidad to win the World Boxing Association (WBA) title. Finally, he knocked out Oscar de la Hoya in 2004 to win the World Boxing Organization (WBO) belt, becoming the first boxer to hold titles of the four major sanctioning bodies.
Hopkins , who turned 40 in 2005, thought about retiring, but came back to fight as a light heavyweight in 2006. Two years ago, at age 46, he broke George Foreman’s record as the oldest boxer to win a major title, beating Jean Pascal to win the World Boxing Council’s light heavyweight belt.
This fight marked my return to watching boxing; I have not watched a boxing match in a decade, for many of the fighters who I cared if they won or lost have retired and the fights have not been quality. So when I heard my dad watching the fight on HBO last night, I did not immediately go in, instead going in when I heard the announcers say Hopkins’ age. The fight was at the halfway point, yet Hopkins showed no signs of stopping.
The announcers said that when Hopkins writes his column for The Ring magazine, he uses a “studious, almost professorial tone.” It seemed apt that they brought that up, for Hopkins seemed to be teaching Cloud a lesson or two in how to win a prize fight.
And win he did. Hopkins dominated the last three rounds, landing punch after punch and connecting well. One statistic was nine punches out of 18 were landed by Hopkins, a small number until the announcers said Cloud landed five out of 26. Hopkins bounced around, and even when he was in the corners with Cloud in front of him, he was able to dodge the flurries of punches.
HBO’s Harold Lederman, who puts together an unofficial scorecard, had Hopkins winning eight rounds to three heading into the final round. Hopkins outperformed Cloud to the end, and showed no signs of wearing down.
After the match, Hopkins joked with the HBO guys and said “I need to find a home, so either you or Showtime give me a home,” which says to me he doesn’t expect to retire anytime soon. During the reading of the result, Hopkins did not seem winded or beaten up; he seemed relaxed as ever.
Bernard Hopkins has shown the world a thing or two about age and boxing: that just because your age starts with four, it doesn’t mean you cannot win if you train hard. Maybe that Paquiao-Mayweather Jr. fight will be as good as this one was.
Jack Cobourn is Sports Editor at The Review. Please send all questions, comments and two tickets to an upcoming Bernard Hopkins fight to firstname.lastname@example.org.