Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs) isn’t the first elder statesman of the sweet science to hold the light heavyweight crown.
With a win on Saturday, November 8 against WBO Champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City live on HBO World Championship Boxing®, Hopkins would be just one belt away from becoming the first fighter in boxing history to hold all four major alphabet titles simultaneously in two different weight divisions.
He’s already the first man to hold all four major alphabet belts in any weight class.
When the 49-year old unified light heavyweight champion puts his titles on the line against the 31-year old knockout artist Kovalev, he will be looking to raise the standard yet again.
That the feat could come at light heavyweight does fall in line with some of the all-time great pugilists who found accomplishment in the same division past their 40th birthday.
In November 1903, former middleweight and heavyweight world champion Bob Fitzsimmons outpointed George Gardner over 20 rounds to win the light heavyweight crown and become boxing’s first three-division champion. Fitzsimmons, at 40-years-old, was four years removed from losing this heavyweight title. It is an accomplishment that adds to his legend more than a century later. Fitzsimmons would hold the title until 1905 and, while he continued on for many years, would never win a title again.
“The Old Mongoose” Archie Moore was 39-years-old when he finally overcame years of hard climbing to defeat Joey Maxim by decision for the light heavyweight title in December 1952. Just shy of his 45th birthday, Moore came off the mat four times to keep the title in a legendary war with Yvon Durelle in December 1958.
George Foreman won the WBA and IBF Heavyweight crowns from Michael Moorer at age 45, but never pushed any further.
Unification at light heavyweight has been rare even among younger men. Michael Spinks was 27-years-old when he defeated Eddie Davis to become the undisputed light heavyweight champion in February 1984. Virgil Hill was 32-years-old when he defeated Henry Maske to unify the WBA and IBF belts in November 1996. Attempting to add the WBO title in his very next fight, Hill was defeated by the 29-year old Dariusz Michalczewski in June 1997. A 30-year-old Roy Jones Jr. unified the WBA, WBC and IBF titles with a win over Reggie Johnson in June 1999.
What we are witnessing is a singular pursuit of the extraordinary by a fighter already respected by his peers as one of the genuine greats.
Hopkins has always made the extraordinary look ordinary, considering that Hopkins was thought to be old for the sport when he completed his unification of the middleweight division with a ninth-round knockout of Oscar De La Hoya in 2004 at age 39. Ten years later, against larger men, he’s halfway there again.
Hopkins’ road to light heavyweight unification started when he came off the mat twice at the age of 45 to earn a draw with then-WBC Light Heavyweight Champion Jean Pascal in December 2010. Six months later, in May 2011, Hopkins became the oldest world champion in boxing history (for the first time) with a rematch decision over Pascal, winning the WBC and Ring Magazine titles.
Despite losing that title in a close decision to Chad Dawson, Hopkins remained determined and convincingly defeated IBF champion Tavoris Cloud to break his own record as the olden man ever in boxing to win a world championship
Two fights later, Hopkins defeated Beibut Shumenov in April of this year to win the WBA Light Heavyweight World Championship. The victory over Cloud made Hopkins the oldest major title winner in the history of the sport; Shumenov made him the oldest to unify a share of any title.
Unification isn’t easy at any age. At 49-years-old going on 50, against one of the most feared offensive machines in the sport in Kovalev, it’s remarkable in the attempt alone. History says Hopkins has always been capable of remarkable new chapters of boxing history. He’s been writing and rewriting the history books for years.
Bernard Hopkins Media Workout Photos
With just a little over a week until fight night, Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins worked out in front of a packed media contingent that traveled from far and wide to see the 49-year-old ageless light heavyweight champion train for his Saturday, Nov. 8 light unification bout against Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City live on HBO World Championship Boxing®.
BERNARD HOPKINS, IBF and WBA Light Heavyweight World Champion
“To be able to bring a lot of the top writers in the out here to cover history is great. This fight has a lot of historic things about it.
“Oscar was talking about me fighting without pressure. It’s the pressure of the unknown. The unknown is the reward that comes after taking on such a challenge. For me it’s about never taking anyone lightly. I’m ready mentally and physically for this challenge, come November 8.
“I believe the difference comes in the execution. If you think about it too much beforehand it will keep you up at night. You can’t worry about things you can’t change. I prepare to do what I know how to do best. That rule of code has never betrayed me.
“There’s not one fighter I wouldn’t put my record up against. In this era – in any weight class. I put the work in to have the track record and be taken seriously.
“There are a lot of things I look at that I used to do, even though I was successful, as a waste of time. But those are the things you have to go through. We are young before we are old. We are immature before we become mature.
“When I look back at the last five years of my career, I’m spending less time in the gym than I did in the beginning of my career. I’m fighting 12-round fights, why am I training for four hours? These are the things you do when you’re young. When you get older you realize that you had to survive it, that’s how I got here.
“When you look at the things I do, the lifestyle and the discipline. You would say I’m preserved. You would say that I’m well kept. You would say I’m clean in the garage. The mechanics are all brand new, because I took care of them.
“I have the same thoughts on Kovalev that most people here do. He’s a dangerous puncher. He has an over 90 percent knockout rate and anyone who fights this guy has the opportunity to not be the same once he exits the ring. We won’t take anything away from this guy because he’s real.
“Kovalev is a threat to anybody. It won’t be an easy fight, even if it looks easy to you. I don’t just have to beat the man, but I have to beat a lot of people. They’re either going to watch me win or watch me lose, and I don’t mind playing that game. I don’t believe in luck. I believe in whoever brings the best and whoever sacrifices the most to be victorious will win.
“It doesn’t bother me if people are rooting for me or not. My family, are the only thing that matters at the end of the day. If you’re motivated by other things, you’ll never stop. No matter how many people you beat there will always be something else.
“No one expected me to be gone 10-15 years ago. I became their worst nightmare. I still have my senses and my intellect. I can still articulate. That makes me an even bigger force.”
NAAZIM RICHARDSON, Hopkins’ Trainer
“With some of the young guys, you have to be on them before they get comfortable. But with Bernard he comes in knowing what he wants to do and it’s just a pleasure to work with him.
“You can’t be undedicated in this job, you have to be in there and be a part of everything. We’re dealing with a freak of nature in Kovalev, he might be the hardest puncher in the history of boxing, we’ll see.
“Bernard can watch Kovalev’s tapes, but until you feel the punches you don’t know what it is. We don’t know how hard he can punch, but we’ve fought some guys who could punch. We saw with Pavlik, Tarver and Trinidad, those guys had power.
“The only thing Bernard hasn’t done in this sport is lose badly, so I told him to get out of this sport before he does everything. But he proved me wrong because then he beat Pavlik and Pascal and all of the other guys.”
OSCAR DE LA HOYA, President and Founder of Golden Boy Promotions
“We’ll never see anything like Bernard Hopkins again. We won’t see any athlete in any sport compete at the highest level. It’s unheard of. You can talk about any era, or any great fighter, no one has been able to compete at this level. Everybody in America should be cheering for him.
“When you take a look at Hopkins being 49-years-old, almost 50, you have basically a kid in the other corner who punches like a man. It’s a 50-50 fight.
“I haven’t counted Hopkins out since he beat me, even before that. Hopkins is a master at what he does. The question is how will Kovalev react psychologically to an ‘alien?’ He’s never fought an athlete like Hopkins. How will he react when he hits the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
“Everything he does is calculated. Everything he consumes. It’s all calculated. It’s clean living for a very long time. There’s more to it but that’s a lot of it.
“At this point. Hopkins is already in the Hall of Fame. He’s already going to be talked about as one of the greats. So he doesn’t have that added pressure of trying to prove himself. I think people already have the utmost respect for him.
“People respect the fact that at 49-years-old, he’s still going strong. There’s no sign of him slowing down. He’s getting faster, he’s getting stronger and he has more energy. He’s toying with young fighters, half his age. For Hopkins it’s starts outside the ring, he breaks you.
“What comes to mind from my fight with Hopkins, was one of his teeth fell off and he was, ‘well that’s old-age.’ Now I look back and think wow, he made me think I was fighting this old man. I had in my mind that if I just got through training camp, without doing any extra, that I could take this guy on. He made me complacent. He didn’t need to talk trash or get in my face, he’s a master.
“I believe that Hopkins focuses not on what he’s going to do physically, but on what he can do to get his opponent out of their comfort zone and what combinations does he not expect from me. I wouldn’t say he’s awkward, but he knows how to offset his opponents.