On 8th November, Bernard “the Alien” Hopkins goes head-to-head with puncher Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, at the Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City to decide who is the best light heavyweight in the world. Hopkins holds the WBA and IBF titles, while Kovalev holds the WBO belt.
Back when he was merely the Executioner, Hopkins won the then vacant IBF Middleweight title in April 1995 against Ecuadorian, Segundo Mercado. He made twelve defences of the title over a five-year period before taking the WBC belt off Keith Holmes in April 2001.
The Executioner unified the belts when he out-boxed and KO'd the heavily favoured Felix Trinidad in September 2001. He remained the undisputed middleweight champion until he ran into Jermain Taylor. Nearing 40, Hopkins, couldn't solve the problems posed by the younger man.
This should have been the cue for B Hop to call it a day, but defying all boxing logic, he moved up to the light heavyweight division and won the IBO Light heavyweight title by out-boxing the bigger and stronger Antonio Tarver.
Hopkins who turns 50 in January, has made a career of beating men the critics thought were too young, strong, or hard hitting for him.
He is unique among fighters in that he stays at, or close to his fighting weight the year round. This means he doesn't have to deprive his body of valuable nutrients, or go through the physical stress of boiling down to make weight. Allied to his highly disciplined diet and life style, these factors contribute to his uniqueness, his doctors asserting he has the physical attributes of a man in his twenties.
But reality is Hopkins' body-clock is about to hit the half century mark, and his remarkable story has to play out one of these days.
Kovalev at 31, is the hardest puncher Hopkins will have faced in his career. The most feared puncher in the game today, the
Krusher is relentless as he marches forward throwing short economical punches in the certainty he will eventually nail his opponent.
But, he has not faced anyone remotely with the skills the grand old man of the ring brings to the table.
Like Super middleweight king, Andre Ward, whose crown is now fragmented due to inactivity, Hopkins is adept at staying in the pocket while nullifying his opponents offence, and punishing mistakes with accurate hurtful counters.
It is easy to visualize the Alien frustrate the Krusher with his old-school holding and smothering techniques, on his way to a points decision. Hopkins may not be aesthetically pleasing, or get fight fans off their seats by indulging in rock 'em, sock 'em exchanges.
But he knows how to win fights.
But Kovalev is a hard man to discourage, and will keep on coming. Hopkins has an excellent chin and his very difficult to hurt. But Canadian light heavyweight knocked him down twice in their title fight back in 2010. Kovalev hits harder than Pascal, and any fighter can be knocked out if caught properly, but it is difficult to imagine Hopkins lying spread-eagled on the canvas as the referee tolls 10, or being punched to a standstill as the referee rescues him.
If the Krusher wants to bring the Alien down to earth, he will have to do so the hard way. Over 12 toughly contested championship rounds.
Ollie Odebunmi got hooked on boxing after watching the Fight of the Century between Ali and Frazier as a 15-year-old. His book, The Last Great Heavyweights-From Ali and Frazier to Lewis and Tyson, is available on Amazon Kindle, Barnes and Noble Nook, Apple iBooks, and Kobo.
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