A deal is "done" for IBF light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins to meet WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov in a Showtime-televised unification bout on April 19 at The D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer has informed RingTV.com.
"I'm very excited for this fight. It's a world championship unification bout," said Schaefer, who called Hopkins on his 49th birthday on Jan. 15 and informed the boxer that a deal to match him and Shumenov had been reached, in principle.
"It's absolutely amazing that the age of 49, to see Bernard keep pushing himself to yet other new challenges and to continue to make history. I think to have a historic achievement, and to do that in Washington, D.C., adds to the significance of this event."
A Philadelphia-native who is already the oldest man to win a significant crown, Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts), who fights on Showtime (along with Shumenov), wants to get beyond Shumenov and face the winner between hard-hitting counterparts RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev (should those two fight this year)
Having already established himself with a middlweight record 20 title defenses, Hopkins would like to accomplish unification at 175 pounds before his 50th birthday. That could be difficult, however, since Stevenson and Kovalev are aligned with Showtime's network rival HBO, which has severed ties with Golden Boy.
"How can this guy make more history? He has set his sights on becoming the undisputed champion," said Schaefer. "So the first step, of course, is going to be on April 19 in Washington, D.C., in what will be history from the nation's capitol, so we are very excited to be able to deliver this fight."
In his last fight in October, Hopkins unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in defense of the IBF belt he won by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March to extend his own record. 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.
"Bernard recently changed his nickname from 'The Executioner' to 'The Alien,' and, he must be an alien, because how can a 49-year-old guy keep on making history and keep on amazing us with these achievements which has never been possible, not just in boxing, but in any sport. At his age, to have an athlete like Bernard Hopkins keep on breaking records and making history, it's just amazing," said Schaefer.
"We're fortunate that this is not just any athlete. It's a boxer who is just very special. To all of us who are part of boxing, be it fans, be it promoters, be it the networks, to be a part of that, to witness it, it is just very, very special. This is one of those events where people are going to say, 'I was there when Bernard Hopkins, at the age of 49, unified the title,' or at least, attempted to unify the titles."
A 30-year-old 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian living in Las Vegas, Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) ended an 18-month absence to score one knockdown each in the first, second and final round of a third-round stoppage over Tomas Kovacs for the fifth defense of his belt in December.
Hopkins was ringside for Shumenov's victory at the Alamodome in San Antonio, as was Schaefer.
"I am sure that Beibut Shumenov, who is a very, very talented fighter with a very good amateur background, is going to have a say as well. It's exactly these kinds of fights and these kinds of opportunities that some of the young fighters like Beibut are waiting for," said Schaefer.
"Beibut knows that Bernard has a big target on his back, because a win over Bernard is not just a win, it is a statement, and Beibut knows that. He wants to be the one who is unifying the light heavyweight championship belts."
Shumenov dethroned Gabriel Campillo by split decision in January of 2010, avenging a loss by majority decision in their previous fight in August of 2009.
Shumenov established a record for the light heavyweight division by defeating Campillo in just his 10th professional bout before making the first defense in July with a unanimous decision over Vyacheslav Uzelkov, who had knocked out Campillo in 2007.
"Beibut Shumenov is going to be as motivated as he can be. I know that he will be ready. He's coming off of a great knockout win down in San Antonio," said Schaefer of Shumenov, who, like Stevenson, is advised by the powerful and influential Al Haymon.
"I have to tell you that a lot of fans, and a lot of people that I know in and around boxing have told me that they're really worried about Bernard for this fight, because Beibut is a big puncher, as we've seen, so it's going to be a fascinating matchup, and I think that the eyes of the world will be on Washington, D.C., on April 19."
It was back on Sept. 29, 2001, that Hopkins scored a 12th-round knockout over previously undefeated Felix Trinidad at New York’s Madison Square Garde, earning the undisputed middleweight title.
Trinidad became the 14th of Hopkins' 20 title defenses, culminating a Don King-promoted 160-pound tournament during which IBF beletholder Hopkins had dethroned the WBC's Keith Holmes by unanimous decision, and Trinidad, the WBA's William Joppy by fifth-round stoppage.
Hopkins’ triumph added Trinidad’s WBA title to his IBF and WBC belts, unifying the middleweight division for the first time since 1987 and tying Carlos Monzon with his record 14th defense.
Now, Hopkins, sees a chance to achieve similar glory as a 175-pounder.
"It's going to happen because you've got two of the smartest guys, and two of the brightest guys that I trust, and that I respect first, and that's Al Haymon and that is Richard Schaefer," said Hopkins, during an earlier interview with RingTV.com
"When you've got that situation, and you have two fighters who say that they want to fight in order to get to the other light heavyweight champions, that's an ancient attitude. It hasn't been like that in so many years. That's why I think that the tournament of 2001 was so big, and promoted so big."