Almost 21 years ago in historic RFK stadium a boxing card was being promoted that would forever change my perspective and love for the sweet science. The main event for the card was the undisputed heavyweight champ of the world Riddick Bowe v. Jesse Ferguson.
Although the main event was noncompetitive (If my memory serves me correct Bowe knocked out Ferguson with a vicious right upper cut and a short left hook to the temple), there was another fight on the under card that unbeknownst to any one at the time would have major boxing historical ramifications in the future. The fight was Roy Jones v. Bernard Hopkins I, no need to go into the details of that fight but we all know the end result Roy Jones Jr. my unanimous decision for the IBF Middleweight title.
This would be Bernard Hopkins first big night in Washington DC , but not his last or most historic.
Fast forward to April 19, 2014, Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2-2 32 KO) at the age of 49 years would successfully make his 24th successful title defense against 30 year old Beibut Shunenov (14 -2 9KO) the defending WBA and IBA Light Heavyweight champion. Hopkins would become the oldest champion to unify a world championship at the age of 49. Although Hopkins vs. Shumenov was a unification bout between two titleholders, this match-up was a mismatch in boxing accomplishment, experience, technical skill, and capability.
As a native of the Washington DC there are two sports that this town really loves that is basketball and championship boxing. (Although Washington has a passionate fan base for their professional football team, at its grass roots basketball and boxing are two of the areas favorite sports). Although there was a lack of local marketing and promotion for this fight, 7,000 passionate boxing fans showed up to a nearly sold out DC Stadium Armory.
A very pro Bernard Hopkins crowd was at a fever pitch in anticipation for the main event. Shunenov entered the ring with scattered applause through out the stands at the top of the Armory. Next, Bernard Hopkins entered to a loud ovation from the crowd, when he disrobed his ovation grew louder. This was due to Hopkins choice of colors for his boxing trunks and gloves; he sported burgundy and gold the colors of Washington ’s professional football team.
From the opening bell it became obvious that Shumenov’s success would be dependent on two things his ability to crack the code to beating Hopkins (Shumenov doesn’t have a trainer he prefers to train himself) and whether or not father time has caught up with Bernard Hopkins. As the fight proceeded it became apparent Shumenov would go 0 for 2 on that front. At the start of the bell this was a classic Bernard Hopkins in the first round; Hopkins was content to use faints to set traps for later in the fight and allowed Shumenov to jab to try to close the distance while Hopkins used his high shoulder defense and shoulder roll. When Shumenov was able to close the distance Hopkins would circle right which served to make Shumenov reset his feet and weight after he threw punches.
The action in the fight started to pick up from the end of the 3rd round on for Hopkins . During the round Hopkins was able to land his over the top right hand, which started to swell Shumenov’s left eye. This prompted the crowd to start their chant of “BHop! BHop!” Shumenov maintained his volume punching pace through out the fight; this could potentially make for a recipe for disaster against a fighter like Hopkins who loves to capitalize off his opponents mistake with the shoulder roll and short right hand or stepping to his left and finding a place for a one – two combination.
Hopkins maintained his measured pace throughout the middle rounds of the fight. On numerous occasions Hopkins would invite Shumenov to engage him by letting his lead left hand down to capitalize with lead right hands and stiff jabs, specifically in the seven round where Hopkins tripled up on his jab to move Shumenov back. Always the master of in ring antics and mind tricks Hopkins would antagonize Shumenov by sticking his tongue out or using his glove in a waving motion to invite Shumenov to engage him.
During the 11th round, with the momentum building for Hopkins in the ring and the crowd starting to get a sense of a possible knockout victory, Hopkins caught Shumenov with a straight right hand that hurt and dropped him in midway through the round.
The crowd erupted once again into a chant of “BHop! BHop! Shumenov beat the standing eight count to rebound and land a impressive combo in the last 15 seconds of the 11th round.
With the fight clearly in hand, Hopkins did not rest on what he did during the prior 11 rounds, he came out on the attack going for the knockout which would have been his first since 2004 when he defeated Oscar De La Hoya. This brought the crowd to their feet with anticipation but Hopkins was unable to get the coveted KO.
After the final bell the fight went to the judge’s scorecard, in what everyone in attendance thought was a foregone conclusion the ring announcer stated there was a split decision. This prompted a sense of confusion and “Here comes the Bu**Sh*t” from some of the spectators ringside, it what was the only drama in the fight two judges scored the fight 116-111 for Hopkins and Gustavo Padilla, had it 114-113 for Shumenov.
After a historic outing from Hopkins he held court ringside in the media section with Golden Boy CEO sitting beside him and graciously answered a numerous of questions about his legacy, the historical significance of the fight, the sport of boxing, and what is next for him.
When the subject of a potential showdown with Adonis Stevenson, Schaefer said “I think it’s a terrific match-up” “I believe this is a big fight for Bernard and for Stevens and I will get it done.”
But before we get ahead of our selves Stevenson has to defeat Andrzej Fonfara on May 24th. If this fight happens, it would pose a significant challenge for Hopkins. But if he wins he would be the oldest undisputed champion ever in boxing. This would be yet another great accomplishment for a man who has done it his way bout inside and outside the ring.