Tonight on HBO a 48 year-old Bernard Hopkins will take on Tavoris Cloud for a light-heavyweight title and the historic stature of besting his own record for oldest fighter to win a championship belt. The previous fight in which he earned such an honor was against Jean Pascal, who many predicted was going to be the young gun to finally undo Hopkins as a competitor. In Hopkins’ most recent fight, however, a rematch against Chad Dawson, Hopkins age did seem to be catching up with him as he was systematically dismantled and nearly shut out by the younger fighter. The point was made even finer when Dawson attempted to defend his title against the smaller American Olympian Andre Ward, who knocked Dawson down three times in a one-sided display of dominance. Tonight I expect to see a good fight, with Cloud displaying some superior athleticism and speed, but having difficulty with Hopkins’ head movement and punching accuracy. I also expect Hopkins age will have caught up with him even more than it had in his fight against Dawson, despite his insistence that he’s recommitted himself in the gym. I have to believe that, especially after the shoving to should-injury fiasco from the first Dawson fight, Hopkins was as dedicated to his training as ever in the rematch. There’s always the chance, though, that Cloud, who has been quoted as saying he feels “invincible,” has greatly underestimated Hopkins’ abilities. The old man may not be what he once was, but as I see it, Hopkins’ source of strength has always been stylistic as opposed to athletic. That’s why he performed so impressively against fighters like Kelly Pavlik and Jean Pascal, who rely on volume and power from angles to pressure opponents into submission. Hopkins is usually able to prevent fighters from using angles against him because he’s such a master of them himself. Cloud has stated that volume is a good bet for strategy against the aging Hopkins but usually that’s a dead-end as well because of the Executioner’s counter-punching ability. In an interview from the latest issue of Ring magazine, Hopkins compared his upcoming fight to Danny Garcia’s dethroning of Erik Morales, saying that only a loss like that can convince a fighter to retire. As one who’s never been stopped in a long and successful career, Hopkins may yet continue without tasting a defeat demoralizing enough to convince him to leave the sport he loves so much. Fans can only hope he recognizes the right moment when it arrives.
In last night’s edition of Friday Night Fights on ESPN, veteran Victor Cayo was upset by the younger, stronger Emmanuel Taylor in an exciting fight. Taylor fought well in the early rounds only be to be knocked down by a single devastating counter shot that led to a change in the momentum of the fight. For a few rounds after the knockdown Cayo regained his composure and began taking control of the distance in the fight. His defense was far too open, though, and after several staggering shots and impressive combinations by Taylor spread throughout the fight, Cayo was finally floored. He seemed unsteady when he returned to his fight and after only a single follow-up shot from Taylor, referee Randy Neumann stopped the fight. The opening bout between the less-than-chiseled heavyweights Abdulsalomov and Bisbal was also interesting, with both fighters winging big shots from the beginning of the fight. Bisbal was landing the more accurate shots early, but Abdulsalomov, who came in 16-0 with 16 knockouts, finally got a big shot in that put Bisbal down and improved to 17-0.