@FKSportsBlog – The moment it was announced the Bernard Hopkins would face Sergey Kovalev on November 8th at Boardwalk Hall, Atlantic City, my first thought was that of trepidation for the oldest world champion in boxing history, 2 weeks shy of his 50th birthday. That’s the knee jerk reaction, which must have been experienced by almost every boxing fan and professional to such a perverse match-up when looked at with conventional logic.
Make no mistake; Bernard Hopkins 55-6-2 (32 KO’s) is taking on a challenge measurable against any feat attempted in boxing history. This is a 49-year-old man, who has not registered a knockout in 10 years (Hopkins KO’d Oscar De Hoya at the MGM Grand Las Vegas in 2004), faced with Kovalev 25-0-1 (23 KO’s) the most ferocious puncher in the world of boxing. (With the possible exception of Gennady Golovkin)
Surely he just cannot emerge victorious.
My second thought was of Apollo Creed, the fictional fighter immortalised by Carl Weathers within the Rocky franchise. This might come across as an easy comparison, placing the charismatic and highly decorated American against the fearsome, robotic Russian import, however the comparison is very much there to be assessed and one which must be respected. I feared for Hopkins as a long-standing fan, that this could indeed be his Apollo Creed moment, minus the dramatic finale.
But, as the fight drew closer, my negative thoughts began to subside. This tends to be the case when Bernard Hopkins, the ultimate salesman, is building up to a fight. You are forced to look past the obstacles that would prove insurmountable to mere mortals and concede that if there is anyone that can do it, it’s Bernard Hopkins, now campaigning aptly as ‘The Alien’.
You start to believe along with many respected boxing analysts worldwide, that if Hopkins has chosen to fight Kovalev, its because he see’s something which he can exploit and take advantage of to emerge victorious. The obvious example of this, was the Kelly Pavlik fight when Hopkins facing a knockout artist, whose chilling streak included 2 victories over previous Hopkins conqueror Jermain Taylor. The Philadelphian was written off in most quarters, only to defy logic once more to box beautifully to a landslide decision, nullifying Pavlik’s threat with ease.
You start to consider the respective records of the two fighters and there really is no comparison to be made. What Kovalev has faced thus far, with the exception of possibly Nathan Cleverly have been fodder, with all due respect. How will he react if he doesn’t have success with those sickening straight punches? How will he react when Hopkins utilises his famed ‘experience’ up close to nullify his charges? Does he have the ability to change tactics mid-fight? And most importantly, how will he react when the fighter in opposite corner does not fear him?
We don’t know the answers to these questions yet, conversely, we don’t know how Hopkins will react when hit flush by undeniably the biggest puncher he has ever faced. Let’s not forget, Kelly Pavlik moved up to face Hopkins, whereas Kovalev is a big natural light heavyweight. This is what makes the fight so intriguing, like all the best fights it could be argued either way.
On the eve of the fight, I have considered both my initial reaction of fear and my secondary consideration of styles, ability, records and timing. As a romanticist my heart is screaming Hopkins, but my head is telling me Kovalev, just like Creed v Drago on my first viewing of Rocky IV as a boy.
Creed argued, “We always have to be in the middle of the action ’cause we’re the warriors. And without some challenge, without some damn war to fight then the warriors might as well be dead, Stallion. Now I’m asking you – as a friend – stand by my side this one last time.”
Hopkins is a warrior of the highest caliber and he faces his biggest challenge this evening, I am with him as a fan and I think he can do it. But, if this is a bridge too far, I rest safe in knowledge that, unlike Creed, the right action will be taken early and he can walk off into the sunset a proud man, the kind of champion with the type of career that even Hollywood couldn’t write.