For an Alien, Age is just a Number Determined by a Stardate
On November 8, 49-year-old IBF/WBA light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, 55-6-2 (32), and WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev, 25-0-1 (23), will tangle in a title unification match-up. The two will fight at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, televised by HBO’s “World Championship Boxing.”
It is amazing to see anyone at 49 competing at the highest level of any sport. It is even more amazing to see anyone at 49 years of age who is competing at boxing’s highest level. But “The Alien” isn’t just “anyone.”
This fight will be another chapter in the storied, Hall-of-Fame career of Hopkins. “B-Hop” will step into the ring with the powerful banger Kovalev, looking to add the WBO belt to his own growing collection of 175-pound trinkets. If he gets by Kovalev, one would assume his last trick might be, at age 50, to travel north to Montreal, Canada and go after WBC champion Adonis Stevenson’s belt once and for all.
The Hopkins-Kovalev fight will bring together two very different albeit effective ring styles on this night. Kovalev is a straight-ahead slugger who looks to seek and destroy. Hopkins will look to hold, hit, wrestle, frustrate and slow the fight down to the pace he can ultimately control.
The tenacious, aggressive, power-punching style of Kovalev is one which most opponents, let alone someone Hopkins’ age, would try to steer clear. But Hopkins has always thrived on upsetting the odds. He has done so his whole professional career as he has done outside the ring for most of his life.
Already incarcerated in prison by the time he was 17, Hopkins appeared destined to be another sad, inner-city statistic. But the gifted boxer and fiercely determined competitor had other ideas. Now 65 fights and several world championships later, he is a living legend who continues to upset the odds. And Hopkins has defied those odds his entire life and continues to do so as he fights for his legacy in the game.
While Kovalev doesn’t have the all-around ring acumen of Hopkins, he does have serious punching power. Kovalev believes he will catch Hopkins at some point and if he does, he believes he can hurt Hopkins, if not put him right into orbit. “I respect Bernard Hopkins for taking this fight,” said Kovalev recently. “When I came to America, it was dream to fight the best and now I am fighting; I have my chance. He says he is alien. He punch; I punch, then we see who is gonna go to Mars.”
Hopkins could retire today and would be a first-ballot guarantee for Canastota. He has been in title fights in 39 of his last 43 bouts while setting an insurmountable record for title defenses at 160 pounds and has held light heavyweight titles on more than one occasion. The former “Executioner” is the only former or current champion to hold belts from the four major sanctioning bodies at one time (at middleweight) and has a résumé that includes an incredible list of ring foes such as Roy Jones Jr., Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Kelly Pavlik, Jermain Taylor, Ronald Winky Wright, Joe Calzaghe and Antonio Tarver. Hopkins has fought through parts of four decades and he is in very much the same physical shape, if not better, as he was when he turned pro 26 years ago. For a long time, his opponents have been many years, if not decades, younger than him.
However, his success against young, hungry fighters looking to beat a legend like Hopkins doesn’t seem to have impressed Kovalev. “Nothing dangerous from Hopkins because he is already old. I don’t have any strategy for this fight, just a street fight. Yes, I’m going to kick his ass. I’m 100% sure this fight will not be clean from Hopkins. I’m going to fight a clean fight but if he fights dirty, I will be fighting dirty. Who is the referee in the ring? Who are the judges? If I lose, I lose,” he said.
However, according to Hopkins, threats and challenges from the latest gunslinger to roll into town only fires the up the ‘ol sheriff. The Alien is at his best when the odds and stakes are at their highest.
Hopkins recently stated, “Fans believe Kovalev is the most dangerous light heavyweight in the division to beat. I will not go back on my word that the man who beats the man becomes the man. That’s the political part on paper. I’ll gain strong support from boxing fans beating Kovalev in grand fashion. It will open up a lot of debate about where I stand in the division. I believe this will be a bold statement, better than Pavlik, better than “Tito” [Trinidad]; outdoing myself fires me up. Bernard Hopkins definitely ain’t dead.”
Hopkins is clearly and frankly fighting for his hard-fought legacy. What many people would view as obstacles, Hopkins chooses to embrace as motivation. Hopkins brings a ring sense like no other, an iron chin, phenomenal conditioning and an expert, in-ring guile that allows to him dissect opponents on the fly. He then picks his spots to score his points and leave the ring unscathed and victorious.
While a banger like Kovalev always has a puncher’s chance, logic would dictate that he’d better have a lot more than that on fight night if he wants to upset the legend. Once Hopkins gets the timing down and figures out Kovalev’s rhythm and strategy, he will break the whole thing down to a man fighting a boy. Kovalev might get lucky and catch Bernard with a bomb but banking on luck is just that: banking on luck. Worst strategy ever.
Hopkins didn’t put himself in the position to fight the best in his division at age 49 by being lucky. He is here because of his will, fierce determination, dedication to a Spartan lifestyle and talent. And Hopkins, as he has done for most of his life, believes he will once again silence the doubters and upset the odds.
“Everything I do at this point in my career affects my legacy,” said Hopkins. “I’ve set and broken many records but becoming the oldest undisputed light heavyweight world champion is the goal and Kovalev stands in the way of that goal. He’s another young, hungry fighter and just like the ones that came before him, he will leave the ring beltless.”