WASHINGTON, D.C. — Bernard Hopkins set the middleweight title defense record by retaining his IBF belt 20 times en route to unifying all the major 160-pound belts during the course of his historic 10-year reign.
From 1995 to 2005, he was known as "The Executioner." More recently, Hopkins twice became the eldest man to win a major belt in boxing, later changing his nickname to "The Alien."
On April 19 at the D.C. Amory in Washington, D.C., Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts), who turned 49 in January, will put his IBF 175-pound title on the line against that of WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs).
Hopkins' goal, within proximity of his 50th birthday, is to become undisputed champion as he did at 160-pounds. Hopkins wants to unify all the major belts by defeating Shumenov before facing the winner of a potential clash between RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
Golden Boy COO Bruce Binkow offered his perspective of Hopkins during a Tuesday press conference at the W Hotel in downtown Washington, DC.
"Every time Bernard Hopkins fights it's a historical event," said Binkow, "and we also have a world champion who is looking to make his mark and history by taking Bernard’s belt. Shumenov has successfully defended his title five times, and this April he gets an opportunity to add his name to the history books if he can do what very few people have done and beat Bernard Hopkins.
"I could remind you that Bernard won his middleweight title in 1995 and successfully defended it 20 times. But what’s really amazing is that Bernard has had a spectacular last couple of years. He's already twice become the oldest man to win a major world championship and in 2013 he had one of his greatest years ever. I believe that if a baseball, football or basketball player was performing anywhere near the level that he is performing at his age he would be in a lab being studied by science. It's absolutely unbelievable."
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 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 2011 before being dethroned following a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in May 2012.
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 losing back-to-back controversial decisions to Taylor, Hopkins rose into the light heavyweight division for triumphs over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones, his lone light heavyweight defeat prior to Dawson was a split-decision against recent hall of fame inductee Joe Calzaghe.
"When you’ve been in the game so long that you outlive your nickname… he was 'The Executioner,' now he's 'The Alien,' it’s been an honor and a pleasure to actually watch him culminate into the type of athlete that he is today," said Hopkins' trainer, Naazim Richardson.
"A lot of people don't understand our sport, and they don't understand that 30 in boxing is old. This guy is ancient. You have to sit back and realize how impressive this is."
Hopkins is old enough to be a parent to the 30-year-old Shumenov, a 2004 Kazakhstan Olympian who ended an 18-month absence by scoring three knockdowns during a third-round stoppage of Tamas Kovacs in December.
Shumenov dethroned Gabriel Campillo by controversial 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.
"Beibut is just an exceptional athlete. If you look at this fast pace he's been on you have to respect it and the success he's had," said Richardson of Shumenov, whose victory over Kovacs Hopkins witnessed from ringside. "But when you look across that ring and you see an absolute legend, no one can tell you what that’s like."
Hopkins plans include using any hint of intimidation against Shumenov when they're in the ring together.
"As the fight gets closer to April 19, you can't block out that you're getting ready to go up against the great Michael Jordan, or you're ready to go up against the great this, or the great that, at the end of the day, that's a fight, itself, of nerves. That's a fight of anxiety attacks. That's all kinds of things playing in your head," said Hopkiins.
"How do you run back and forth in your mind about how you're going to deliver and how you're going to win this fight, what you're going to work on and what you're not going to work on? These things, I must use as an advantage, because age-wise, I'm at a disadvantage…I think that I am the king, behind Muhammad Ali, when it comes to knowing how to test a guy's mentality, and testing the guy's belief in himself…This is something I've been a master at."
Shumenov, for his part, expressed supreme confidence in his chances.
"I'm going to show the world that I'm the best light heavyweight champion in the world, and a lot of people just underestimate me," said Shumenov.
"They think that because I have just a few amount of fights, that's how they judge me. But soon, they will find out, that with all of my abilities, I belong on the elite level, and that I'm the best light heavyweight champion of the world."
Whatever happens, said Richardson, Hopkins' legacy is virtually etched in stone.
"I hope that we can appreciate this guy while he’s here. Every single thing this guy does in this sport is history," said Richardson. "Every press conference he has, every mouthpiece he puts in his mouth. Everything he does in this sport now is absolute history."