It was back on December 5 when Bernard Hopkins made his goal of unifying the light heavyweight division before January of 2015 when he turns 50 public.
At the time, Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) still was more than a month away from his 49th birthday when he mapped out his plan to defeat promotional stablemate and WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov before facing the winner between hard-hitting conterparts RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson and WBO beltholder Sergey Kovalev, who were then aligned with Showtime's network rival, HBO.
In addition, Hopkins spoke in the wake of having unanimously decisioned Karo Murat in October in defense of the IBF belt he won by unanimous decision over 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 of 2011 before being dethroned following a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in April of 2012.
Hopkins added to his legacy last Saturday at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C., with a unanimous decision over Shumenov (14-2, 9 KOs), scoring an 11th-round knockdown on the way to becoming the oldest fighter to unify by adding Shumenov's WBA belt to his IBF title.
"Everybody's got a game plan on how they can beat Bernard Hopkins," said Hopkins, "just like everybody's got a gameplan on how they can beat Floyd Mayweather.
HOPKINS SAID SHUMENOV 'TOOK IT PERSONALLY'
Hopkins said Shumenov approached him after the fight, still upset at Hopkins for weighing Shumenov's resolve against his status as an attorney who comes from a wealthy background.
"He was upset that I had said things to him before the fight. He was taking it to heart and I said, 'Listen; rule number one: I'm supposed to have you beaten before we fight,'" said Hopkins. "I mean, Muhammad Ali was the best at it but these young guys don't know their history of boxing, so he took it personally. I told him the fight starts first up here [pointing to his head.] That was school in there and he was the student."
Said Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer,"Class dismissed."
HOPKINS WANTS STEVENSON, THEN MAYWEATHER
Hopkins' next target is Stevenson (23-1, 20 KOs), should the latter get beyond a May 24 defense of his championships against Andrzej Fonfara on Showtime after having signed with powerful advisor Al Haymon.
"I want to be undisputed champion by the end of this year," said Hopkins, during a post-fight interview in press row on Saturday night. "Between now and January of 2015. Let's do it."
After conquering Stevenson, however, Hopkins mentioned that he still would love one major challenge, referring to Floyd Mayweather Jr. (45-0, 26 KOs) without mentioning his name.
Mayweather, 37, is THE RING's number one fighter, pound-for-pound and THE RING's 154-pound champion. In addition, he will defend his RING 147-pound championship against WBA counterpart Marcos Maidana on May 3 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
"After I become the undisputed light heavyweight champion, if there's one big fight out there, I think we can call it 50/50. He gets 50 wins; I turn 50. That would be huge at 165 or 170 pounds. I would love to do that but let me get past Stevenson first because you know that he can punch," said Hopkins.
"Once I become the light heavyweight champion, if I do a fight, the promotion will be 50/50 and you can figure out what that means. I know somebody in boxing who wants to get 50 wins and to break Rocky Marciano's record [49-0] and I'll be 50 and we can name the promotion, '50/50.' We'll do that at one of the stadiums somewhere. You never know what weight we could fight at for $50 million."
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 knockout wins 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.
"I set out to be the best in the light heavyweight division," said Hopkins. "I'm thirsty for that like I was at middleweight."
'HOPKINS: KOVALEV "HAS TO CROSS THE STREET'
Hopkins has acknowledged that Stevenson is the linear light heavyweight champion, coming off a second-round knockout of Tony Bellew in November that represented his 10th straight stoppage victory and his fourth of last year.
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 2013, 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 Chad 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 ninth straight knockout in as many consecutive victories when he outboxed and outslugged Tavoris Cloud for a seventh-round stoppage in defense of his belts.
Meanwhile, Kovalev (24-0-1, 22 KOs) devastated Ismayl Sillakh on the Stevenson-Bellew card, dropping Sillakh twice in the final stanza of a second-round knockout.
Against Sillakh, Kovlev made the first defense of the belt he won from previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round stoppage in August, and rose to 12-0-1 with 12 stoppage victories in his past 13 bouts with last month's seventh-round knockout of left-hander Cedric Agnew.
"I'm a Showtime fighter and I'm loyal to Showtime and I'm loyal to Richard Schaefer and I'm loyal to Al Haymon and I'm loyal to Showtime," said Hopkins of Kovalev, who has a multi-fight contract with HBO, and is promoted by Kathy Duva of Main Events. "So what I'm saying to you is that is Kovalev comes over here on our side, if he crosses the street, then we've got a bed for him and we'll let him into the house."
Even without Kovalev, however, Hopkins said, "The circle will be complete."
"If I don't have the WBC belt, the person who is the man that beat the man is that guy," said Hopkins. "If you've got THE RING belt, then you have the IBF, the WBC and the WBA, then you're the man and you all know that. Unless Kovalev crosses the street, then he's just Kovalev."