Bernard Hopkins Continues to Defy Age

Boxing Icon Dazzles at D.C. Armory

Elton Hayes | 4/20/2014, 4:07 a.m. | Updated on 4/23/2014, 3 p.m.
Bernard Hopkins claimed the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Association titles Saturday night as the 49-year-old living legend won ...
Courtesy of Showtime Boxing

As Beibut Shumenov struggled to gather his wits enough to hoist himself up from the mat, Bernard Hopkins gave him a quick glance and then turned to soak up the applause and acclaim of the more than 6,800 boxing fans who packed the D.C. Armory.

As the mostly pro-Hopkins crowd chanted “B-Hop” to show their approval Saturday night, the living legend took it all in.

His left jab had just lured the Kazakhstan-born Shumenov in enough to bite. A big mistake. Hopkins then countered with a powerful overhand right that crashed into the side of Shumenov’s head and sent him wobbling to the ground.

Not too shabby for a 49-year-old boxer who scored an 11th-round knockdown of his 30-year-old opponent.

“I’m not done yet,” Hopkins said following his weekend victory. “The pound-for-pound best fighter in the world right now is Floyd “Money” Mayweather. But behind Andre Ward, who I believe is second and should be, I’m not too far from the top three ... I’m not done yet.”

Hopkins won a controversial split decision over Shumenov on April 19 at the D.C. Armory in Southeast. Judge Gustavo Padilla scored the fight 114-113 in Shumenov’s favor while the other two judges – Dave Moretti and Jerry Roth – scored it 116-111 in favor of Hopkins.

Padilla’s scorecard elicited boos from those in attendance whose allegiance to Hopkins was made even more apparent when the boxer strolled to the ring in burgundy-and-gold trunks, to pay homage to the host city.

While not known to possess the hitting power of fighters like Wladimir Klitschko and Adonis Stevenson, Hopkins relied on the use of elusive defense and strategic, well-placed punches to set the pace early in the fight – a formula that has afforded him longevity and success over the past four decades.

“I think [Shumenov] was surprised at the way I stood there and could make him miss,” Hopkins said. “I didn’t use my legs, I didn’t run and I didn’t jump in-and-out of danger. I stayed in the pocket. I had my better moments on the ropes.”

After shaking off a sluggish start in the first few rounds Hopkins settled down and went to work. With his right hand as his preferred weapon he unloaded a barrage of jabs and power punches that riddled Shumenov’s torso. Ever the showman, Hopkins offered a few jokes about his inability to score a technical knockout during his post-fight press conference.

“I can’t get a damn knockout. I tell you, I’ll retire if I get a knockout,” he said with a laugh. “You know I’m going to be around until I’m 80. I’ll retire when I get a knockout.”

Hopkins chose efficiency over volume as he threw 225 fewer punches than Shumenov, 19 years his junior. And while Hopkins connected on 46 percent of his jabs, his body punches proved to be most effective.

“As soon as he threw a punch, he committed himself,” Hopkins said of his strategy to punish Shumenov’s body. “I would see his ribs and I would punch them. That takes something out of you. And after a while, you start to feel that. Once he backed up, I knew that I got him. That set up that right hand [that caused the knockdown].”

With the victory, Hopkins added yet another achievement to an already-growing list as he became the oldest fighter to unify titles. In addition to retaining his International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight belt, he also claimed Shumenov’s International Boxing Association and World Boxing Association titles.

The Philadelphia native has changed nicknames a few times throughout his career, but his current choice of “Alien” seems about right. The fact that he continues to defy age without showing signs of slowing is an anomaly in a sport that frequently chews up fighters half his age.

But Hopkins isn’t thinking about slowing down. In fact, he welcomes any challenger who stands between him and adding to his legacy in the sport.

“I must be the light-heavyweight undisputed champion before I leave, because no one has ever been able to do that in boxing. I want the hardest puncher and the [biggest] threat,” Hopkins said. “Because without a threat, and I’m not saying that I’m not motivated, it won’t be as spicy to all of you and it won’t be spicy to the history of boxing.”