By Jack Sumner @Jack_Sumner_
Bernard Hopkins stands on the brink of making history yet again this Saturday, when he challenges IBF light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. Hopkins will bid to break his own record as boxing’s oldest ever world champion, after dethroning Jean Pascal in May 2011 at the tender age of 46 years, 4 months and 6 days.
When Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) enters the ring against Cloud he will be a sprightly 48, stepping through the ropes to face an unbeaten 31-year-old with a knockout percentage of 79%. Even as an ex-champion, at his age you’d be forgiven for watching world title fights from the sofa, allowing the middle-age paunch to take it’s course in your slippers and your dressing gown, thankful you no longer have to take the punishment.
But not old B-Hop, ‘The Executioner’, who with each year that passes defies father time with further accomplishments inside the squared circle. For over a decade, boxing’s Peter Pan has been converting non-believers to the point where fans and so-called experts of the sport have given up predicting his demise. You wouldn’t give any other 48-year-old a chance with Cloud, but you can’t write off Bernard Hopkins.
Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs) might well be 17 years Hopkins junior but there is no doubt that his fifth title defence will be by far the toughest test of his career. It’s over a year since the Tallahassee Florida native’s last fight ended with a split-decision victory over tough Spanish contender Gabriel Campillo. Prior to that outing in February 2012, Cloud’s biggest scalps had been points victories over Glen Johnson and Clinton Woods, the latter the bout in which he won his IBF crown in 2009.
As both his record and his alias of ‘Thunder’ might suggest, Cloud is a heavy hitter but only has one knockout victory in his last five, an eighth-round stoppage of recent Carl Froch victim Yusaf Mack. Cloud typically tries to outmuscle and outwork his opponents and rarely takes a backward step. That may well be his undoing against Hopkins.
The Philadelphia veteran has been at his impressive best against aggressive front-foot fighters in the past, bewildering them with the wily tricks and spoiling tactics that supplement his effective counter-punching. When you add into the equation how Cloud struggled with Campillo and was picked apart as the southpaw retreated, plus the precision that Hopkins is renowned for and the holes in Cloud’s defence even when he has his guard up, it all adds up for master B-Hop schooling another lively upstart.
A prime Bernard Hopkins outboxes Tavoris Cloud, no question. The problem is that at 48, regardless of his relative achievements since the big four-O, Hopkins is not in, nor is he anywhere near his prime. In his last fight, the rematch with Chad Dawson, Hopkins’ reflexes appeared to have waned considerably and he looked to have slowed since his history-making victory over Pascal, which was by no means vintage Hopkins. He can no longer fight at full pace for an entire round and his clinching and spoiling has become more prevalent. Age catches up with every man. Father time could well lend Cloud a helping hand.
But never write off Bernard Hopkins!