WASHINGTON, D.C. — It was back on April 29, 1995 when Bernard Hopkins stopped Segundo Mercado in the seventh round to win the IBF's vacant middleweight title.
Their bout took place at the US Air Arena in Landover, Md., just a few miles from the border of Washington, D.C., and represented a rematch of a December 1994 draw during which Hopkins was dropped in the fifth and seventh rounds.
Hopkins went on to become the undisputed 160-pound champion over the course of a division-record 20 title defenses before being dethroned in a split decision loss to Jermain Taylor in July 2005.
On April 19, nearly 19 years to the day of his triumph over Mercado, Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) will return to the Washington, D.C.-area with another IBF belt.
Hopkins will put his IBF 175-pound title on the line against that of WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov (14-1, 9 KOs) in the beginning of a quest to unify the light heavyweight division before his 50th birthday.
Hopkins wants to defeat Shumenov before facing the winner of a potential clash between RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev.
During a press conference on March 11 at the W Hotel in Washington, D.C., Hopkins offered perspective of his goal to become undisputed 175-pound champion as he did at 160 pounds.
"Where do you put a guy like me or an athlete like me in any sport? You can't just say he's one of the greats here. I'm trying to force history to write another book on me. It makes me feel just as important as [President Barack] Obama, without the problems and the headaches," said Hopkins, who turned 49 on January 15.
"Because everything he touches, his being a black president…I understand the significance of this. Time-wise, I don't think that I'm going to be alive to see another guy do 20 defenses, the way that these guys move up in weight classes. I don't see nobody making 20 defenses and holding the title for over a decade. Who does that?"
In October, Hopkins unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in defense of the IBF belt he won in the same manner from previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March, extending 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 in a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in April 2012.
"My goal is that I want to do one of those big celebrations with a big, mega-fight for my 50-year milestone birthday party," said Hopkins. "I want to continue to break records for as long as I can. I want to stack the cards high for everybody."