Less than a day and a half before his 49th birthday, IBF light heavyweight beltholder Bernard Hopkins vowed to be a more entertaining fighter than perhaps he has during his entire career.
"I want to be exciting, and I want to be entertaining. Not that I'm going out there to give up my brain for free, " said Hopkins, who turns 49 on Wednesday. "But that entertainment aspect, people will get a chance to see me dig into my old bags and give entertainment."
In his last fight in October, Hopkins brawled his way to a virtual rout of Karo Murat to extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown. Hopkins-Murat headlined a tripleheader that drew a large viewership on Showtime for 2013.
"The way that I fought that fight doesn't mean that I'm going to abandon my skills," said Hopkins. "But that was just a preview of what I'm hoping that I can continue to give the fans in 2014 in a new chapter of my life as I turn another page in my life. That's going to be significant."
A former undisputed middleweight champion with a division record 20 defenses, Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) said that his greatest birthday gift would be the ability to unify the 175-pound division before January of 2015 when he turns 50.
During that time, Hopkins will look to defeat WBA beltholder Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 8 KOs) potentially in March or April, followed by the winner between hard-hitting counterparts RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs) and WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev (23-0-1, 21 KOs).
"I would easily beat Kovalev. That would be the easiest fight. That fight, for me, would be just as easy as beating Kelly Pavlik," said Hopkins. "That fight would be real easy. Less than easy. If not, easier — and don't forget to put that 'Er' on the end of that word — than the Kelly Pavlik fight. I'm telling you."
Hopkins considers Stevenson more problematic than Kovalev, in part, due to the Canadian's exposure to the late Hall of Fame trainer Emanuel Steward, whose nephew, Javan "Sugar" Hill, handles Stevenson.
"Adonis Stevenson would give anybody in the light heavyweight division problems, because, not only does he have the IQ that he learned from one of the greatest trainers in the history of boxing, Emanuel Steward, but he's also an athlete. He's not one-dimensional," said Hopkins
"So when you have that situation with a guy like Kovalev, even if you try to teach something to the guy that's one-dimensional, when it gets hot, Kovalev's going to go back to what he's notorious for, and what has traditionally been working for him. His natural instincts will say, 'well, this ain't working, let me go back to what got me all of these knockouts.'''
Stevenson and Kovalev are aligned with Showtime’s network rival HBO which has severed ties with Golden Boy, the promoter of Hopkins and Shumenov.
Hopkins' win over Murat was in defense of the IBF belt he won by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March. 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.
"My thing is we can all talk," said Hopkins. "But I think that out of all of the champions, I'm more right in my predictions than wrong over the years."
Photo / Naoki Fukuda