Lem Satterfield

Bernard Hopkins wants to unify the belts before turning 50

BROOKLYN, N.Y. — The next 14 months could be critical for the goals of IBF light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins, who wants to unify the 175-pound division before January of 2015 when he turns 50.

During that time, Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) will look to defeat promotional stablemate, Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs), who must first get beyond a Dec. 14 defense against Tamas Kovacs on a Golden Boy card at the Alamodome in San Antonio.

In addition, Hopkins hopes for a matchup to materialize between hard-hitting conterparts RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) and WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs), who are aligned with Showtime’s network rival HBO.

“I’d rather unify the titles. I’d rather be the guy that has all of the titles like I proved in the middleweight division. The light heavyweight division is hot right now, and the unique thing is that I’m in the middle of it,” said Hopkins, a former undisputed middleweight champion with a division record 20 defenses.

“I’m very much relevant in this puzzle but there’s a cold war going on. That cold war is that HBO doesn’t do business with Golden Boy. I’m loyal to Golden Boy. No money and no favors could sway me from my loyalty to Golden Boy. Hopefully, that’s a situation that could be solved and the cold war can be ended.”

Hopkins spoke of his goals on Thursday over a mid-day meal in a restaurant in downtown Brooklyn, where the Golden Boy executive is helping to promote Saturday’s Zab Judah-Paulie Malignaggi fight at Barclays Center on Showtime.

“I would love to be the unified light heavyweight champion of the world, and I hope that it happens in time. I don’t know if it will for sure but I hope that it can happen,” said Hopkins. “But if you want to do what’s good for the state of the game, and for business, then I think that it should be done before the summer of next year, and before I turn 50, which is just 14 months from now, so we’ve still got time left.”

A 48-year-old future hall of famer, Hopkins unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in October in defense of the IBF belt he won by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March to extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown.

Hopkins first set the record at the age of 46 by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s title in May of 2011 before being dethroned following a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in May of 2012.

He acknowledges that Stevenson is the linear light heavyweight champion.

Stevenson is coming off a second-round knockout of Tony Bellew, representing his 10th straight stoppage victory, and his fourth of the year, and one that he accurately predicted would come within six rounds during an interview with RingTV.com.

A 36-year-old southpaw who fought at 175-pounds for only the third straight time, Stevenson has scored knockouts in his past 13 victories. In March, Stevenson scored a sixth-round stoppage against journeyman Darnell Boone in a super middleweight bout, avenging the Canadian’s second-round knockout loss from April of 2010. In June, Stevenson rose into the light heavyweight division for a clash of southpaws with Dawson, whom he stopped in 76 seconds with what he called his “Superman punch” to become the RING and WBC 175-pound champion. 

In August — six days after his 36th birthday — Stevenson registered his 10th straight knockout in as many consecutive victories when he out-boxed and out-slugged Cloud for a seventh-round knockout in defense of his belts.

“I don’t get upset when I see that the ‘beltholder’ is Bernard Hopkins, and that the linear champion is Adonis Stevenson. It doesn’t hurt my marketability to say that, ‘Hey, Stevenson has THE RING belt and he has the WBC belt, because he is the man who beat the man,” said Hopkins.

“Dawson beat me, he KO’d Dawson, so he becomes that. The rules don’t change because it’s not in my favor. Stevenson has those unique belts in the history of boxing. No question about it. All of the writers that I know of in the world classify the man with THE RING belt as the man who beat the man who beat the man.”

Meanwhile, Kovalev devasted Ismayl Sillakh on the Stevenson-Bellew card, dropping Sillakhh twice in the final stanza of a second-round knockout.

Kovlev made the first defense of the belt he won from previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round stoppage in August, and is 11-0-1 with 11 stoppage victories in his past 12 bouts.

“I think that the best fighter from over there [HBO] across the street should fight the best fighter from over here [Showtime] and whoever comes out of that would be the two best from each side,” said Hopkins.

“Showtime is saying that they have the best light heavyweight champion, and we know, by record, who has THE RING belt. I agree that Stevenson is the man who beat the man who beat the man.”

After winning the IBF middleweight title from Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, Hopkins went on to defend it a record 20 times before losing to Jermain Taylor by a split decision on July 16, 2005.

Hopkins’ milestone run included knockouts against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Felix Trinidad, Robert Allen, Simon Brown, Glen Johnson, John David Jackson and Carl Daniels.

After he lost to Taylor, and then endured an immediate rematch loss, Hopkins rose into the light heavyweight division for triumphs over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones, his lone defeat prior to Dawson in the division being by split-decision against Joe Calzaghe.

Having beaten Father Time throughout much of his career, Hopkins is hoping that time will be on his side, yet again, against either Stevenson or Kovalev.

“These two punchers who have been dominating everyone with ease might have a chance to do what no one else has, and that is to knock out Bernard Hopkins. If one of those guys blew me out in five rounds, it would just confirm their credibility, because you all would start naming the people that couldn’t do that that were way more talented than these guys. I’ve been in there with some punchers. Cloud was a good puncher. Trinidad was a good puncher. Pascal was a good puncher. Kelly Pavlik wasn’t a bad puncher, look what he did to Jermain Taylor,” said Hopkins, referring to Pavlik’s seventh-round stoppage of Taylor in September of 2007.

“So I’ve been in there with some punchers. But on my side, there is something different that I have that none of the other three has, and that is the ability to solve puzzles, which I’ve done throughout my career. The problem for them is that I like guys that come forward, and that people know that Bernard Hopkins does well with guys like them. They’re perfect for my style. They would fall right into my traps. So the question is, can Bernard Hopkins, who is so good at solving puzzles and proving us wrong, time in and time out, prove us wrong again?”



Photo by Naoki Fukuda

Lem Satterfield can be reached at lemuel.satterfield@gmail.com

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