In 1983, a 17-year old Bernard Hopkins began an 18-year prison sentence, he would serve 5 years and be told by the warden on his release that he expected to see him back there soon. On Saturday night, a 49-year old Bernard Hopkins defeated Beibut Shumenov to unify the IBF, IBA and WBA Light Heavyweight titles.
The victory was yet another milestone in his remarkable career. Pretty much any record that begins with “Oldest fighter ever to” ends with the answer Bernard Hopkins.
Shumenov was making the 6th defence of his WBA and IBA titles but was making a serious step up in class by taking on the legendary Hopkins. Before the fight Hopkins had promised he would take the younger Shumenov to school and teach him a lesson. He certainly lived up to the promise.
As his age has crept upwards, Hopkins’ fights haven’t always been the most entertaining. He hasn’t scored a knockout victory since stopping Oscar De La Hoya almost 10 years ago. But what Hopkins may lack in explosive power, he certainly makes up for in ring craft and experience. Shumenov just couldn’t figure Hopkins out. Everything Shumenov tried to do, Hopkins had an answer. When Shumenov tried to pressure the older man, Hopkins would time him and catch him on the way in. If Shumenov stood back and tried to box, Hopkins beat him with jabs and lead right hands.
As early as the third round, frustration began to show for Shumenov as he took his eyes off his opponent to complain to the referee about something. Needless to say, Hopkins pounced on that error and landing a nice right hand that staggered Shumenov.
Entering the championship rounds, Hopkins looked the fresher fighter. Despite being comfortably ahead on the scorecards he continued to push Shumenov and look for a rare stoppage. In the 11th round Hopkins scored his first knock down in 6 years and once again it was the jab-right hand combo that did the damage.
In the end the fight went to the score cards. Despite the fact that Hopkins clearly dominated the fight, one of the judges somehow scored the fight for Shumenov. Luckily, the other two judges were actually watching the fight and Hopkins rightfully had his hand raised at the end as the winner.
Afterwards, Hopkins spoke about future opponents, he plans to challenge Adonis Stevenson for the WBC title later this year and hopefully unify all four Light Heavyweight belts. He also mentioned the possibility of taking on Floyd Mayweather in 2015. Despite the current weight chasm between the two, Hopkins would be willing to drop down in weight and meet Mayweather halfway, somewhere around the 160 pound mark.
Perhaps we saw a more likely future Mayweather opponent on the undercard of Hopkins victory on Saturday night. Shawn Porter added to his growing reputation with a hugely impressive victory of Paulie Malignaggi. Malignaggi is a veteran with two weight world titles but he had no answer for Porter’s power and relentlessness.
Towards the end of the second round, Porter hurt Malignaggi with a leaping left hook and proceeded to unload on Malignaggi who was trapped against the ropes. Paulie is notoriously tough; he has only been stopped twice in his career, and did very well to survive the onslaught.
Malignaggi made it through the 3rd round relatively unscathed. The 4th round however started terribly for him as Porter scored a knock down in the opening seconds of the round. Although it was more of a glancing right hand, and Paulie wasn’t seriously hurt, Porter smelled blood. Another leaping left hand hurt Malignaggi and Porter blasted away with vicious hooks almost knocking Malignaggi through the ropes. Paulie collapsed to the floor as the referee waved the fight off.
Porter won the IBF title with an upset win over Devon Alexander last December but this was his most impressive performance to date. Only Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton had previously stopped the durable Malignaggi and both those stoppages came in the 11th round. The fact that he couldn’t last four rounds with Porter’s power will help Porter as he seeks a big money fight in his next outing.
There were shades of Mike Tyson about Porter on Saturday night. His short muscular physique is reminiscent of Iron Mike as is his tendency to explode upwards with leaping punches. Although significantly tougher tests lie in wait, his improvements in the last year suggest the welterweight division may have a future star on its hands.
In Manchester on Saturday, Scott Quigg defended his WBA Super Bantamweight title with an impressive demolition of South Africa’s Tshifiwa Munyai. The South African took the fight on a week’s notice as a late replacement but had only two defeats on his record. Quigg however blew him away. From the opening bell, Quigg was all business. At the end of the first round he landed a huge left hook that put Munyai on his back. Although he beat the count, Munyai was badly hurt and was saved by the bell. Halfway through the second round Quigg put Munyai down again, this time with a right hand. Munyai again did well to beat the count but with so much time left in the round there was no escape this time. Quigg pounced on him and left referee Howard Foster no option but to stop the fight.
The future is bright for Quigg and for the Super Bantamweight division. With Carl Frampton, Guillermo Rigondeaux and Leo Santa Cruz alongside Quigg at the upper end of the rankings, there are some great fights to be made. A domestic showdown between Quigg and Carl Frampton would be a huge fight both in Ireland and in the UK.
Michael McCarthy, Pundit Arena.