Bernard Hopkins began fighting before most of the undercard boxers on the card he headlines on Saturday had started kindergarten, including his 30-year-old challenger Karo Murat (right).
NEW YORK, N.Y. – This is Karo Murat’s first time in the United States. He landed in New York three days ago and has been playing the part of tourist until he takes on Bernard Hopkins for the IBF light heavyweight title at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City on Saturday night.
Murat has marveled at the skyscrapers and even went to a Manhattan recording studio to hear a friend from Germany work on her latest CD. In all of his sightseeing, there’s a good bet that Murat, an Iraqi light heavyweight who lives in Berlin, has never seen anything like Hopkins, who at 48 years old is like boxing’s version of the Eighth Wonder of the World.
That must have been going through Murat’s mind, language barrier notwithstanding, as Hopkins preached a sermon at the final press conference at BB Kings in midtown Manhattan on Wednesday afternoon before their showdown on Showtime on Saturday night.
Hopkins began fighting before most of the undercard boxers on the card started kindergarten. Junior welterweight prospect Zachary Ochoa, who was born in 1992, wasn’t even a twinkle in his father’s eye.
It was 25 years ago this month that Hopkins lost his pro debut at light heavyweight on a four-round decision to Clinton Mitchell in Atlantic City.
Wilfred Sauerland, Murat’s promoter, recalled another night in Atlantic City when Axel Schulz came in as a major underdog against George Foreman and nearly pulled off an upset in 1995.
“George was 46 years old and Axel Schulz lost a disputed 2-to-1 decision in Atlantic City,” Sauerland said. “I look forward to seeing something similar from Karo Murat, who is also a huge underdog on Saturday night.”
An upset seemed to be the farthest thing from Hopkins’ mind on Wednesday afternoon. In a 20-minute speech, Hopkins tried to impart a quarter century of boxing knowledge to all within ear shot, using his own brand of storytelling, metaphors and analogies. Trying to follow along is difficult. But the bottom line is that Hopkins is a one-of-a-kind.
It is hard to imagine that there will ever be another 48-year-old world champion with the body of work that Hopkins has established in his career. Hopkins’ longevity is attributable to genetics, clean living, hard work, ring smarts and blind chance.
“It’s getting old saying I’m old,” Hopkins said.
Nothing he said was truer than that. Age has become just a number for Hopkins, who shows no signs of retiring or slowing down. When he defeated Tavoris Cloud for the IBF title back in March, Hopkins re-ignited his career. He is now fighting a mandatory defense against Murat.
Murat said he saw a few signs of Hopkins slowing down. He thinks there are things that he can take advantage of. But he speaks in general terms about a strategy.
“He’s sitting at the top right now, but I’m pretty sure I’m going to win,” Murat said through an interpreter. “He’s had his time. It’s my time now. In his last fight against Cloud he was kind of slow.”
It’s pretty much the same line that many others have said in the recent past – Jermaine Taylor (twice), Kelly Pavlik, Antonio Tarver and more recently, Cloud.
Hopkins has heard it before. But when you’ve been in the game for 25 years almost everything has that been-there, done-that feel.
As crafty and wily as Hopkins is in the ring, he’s even more so outside it. He has been floating the idea of a match with Floyd Mayweather, Jr. And veiled among his comments during his speech was the idea of a Mayweather match.
While it is an intriguing thought because of the names involved, it seems highly unlikely.
“I just don’t see that happening,” said Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, who works with both Mayweather and Hopkins. “I know that Bernard is interested in that. I have no problem floating that idea to Team Mayweather. But ultimately Floyd is the captain of his own ship. He says who he wants to fight, when he wants to fight and where he wants to fight.”
Schaefer said the weight would be an issue. Mayweather has never fought above 154 pounds and Hopkins hasn’t fought at middleweight since 2005.
“I’m rather doubtful that the fight between Floyd and Bernard will happen,” Schaefer said.
That won’t stop Hopkins from continuing to float the idea until it catches fire.
Don’t bet against Hopkins in a waiting game.
BIG THINGS PLANNED FOR QUILLIN, WILDER — IF THEY WIN SATURDAY
If Peter Quillin can successfully defend his WBO middleweight title against Gabriel Rosado in the co-feature at Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night, there will be a major show awaiting him. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions, said he is planning to match Quillin against Danny Jacobs at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn possibly on Feb. 1 – the day before Super Bowl XLVIII at Met Life Stadium.
“I’m working on something really exciting for that weekend,” Schaefer said.
Undefeated heavyweight standout Deontay Wilder, who will meet Nicolai Firtha on the undercard, sparred with Wladimir Klitschko at his training camp in Austria last fall before Klitschko defended his RING/WBA/WBO/IBF titles against Mariusz Wach on Nov. 10.
“It was a beautiful camp,” Wilder said. “I learned a lot of different things about him. I definitely know how to beat him.”
Wladimir’s older brother, WBC beltholder Vitali Klitschko, could retire to concentrate on his political career before Wilder gets a chance at his title. But there is still the younger brother.
Schaefer is banking on Wilder being the next American heavyweight champion and if he gets past Firtha, he wants to step up his competition by having him face some of the other top American heavyweight contenders, starting with Chris Arreola.
Photos /Tom Hogan – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions