Tomorrow night I’ll be watching Bernard Hopkins, at age 49, take on Beibut Shumenov of Kazakhstan at the DC Armory. The light heavyweight title fight is part of Hopkins’ crusade to unify the championship and become the oldest fighter in history to do so. As much of a critic as I was back in the days he was feigning injury in every other fight and taking credit from better fighters like Joe Calzaghe, I can’t help but be truly excited to see this historical fight. Shumenov is a worthy opponent, if not an intimidating champion, and Hopkins’ recent performances have been more than impressive, especially at his age. I have to admit, I think the title unification is somewhat of a pipe dream, but who can root against him? Like Big George’s one-punch knockout of Michael Moorer, a win over Shumenov would change the way fans think about age in boxing and in athletics in general, not to mention how they feel about Hopkins as a fighter. I think he deserves all the credit he’s gotten for his accomplishments, except maybe some he’s given himself in attempts to mitigate his defeats. The stats for the fighters are as follows (courtesy of boxrec.com):
14(9)-1(0), 101 pro rounds
While Hopkins began his pro career at light heavy, Shumenov began at crusierweight and is naturally larger. Similar in height and reach, both have scored knockouts, and neither has been knocked out themselves. Shumenov is considered the more dangerous puncher even though he’s only fought 15 fights against modest competition. Hopkins, on the other hand, has fought some of the best in the business from middleweight to light heavy, managing knockouts in almost %60 of as many fights, and lost only 6 times. While Shumenov has avenged his only loss, it was a loss to Gabriel Campillo, a gatekeeper in the division at best.
Losing to the legendary Roy Jones Jr. in his prime is no embarrassment, but when Hopkins comprehensively defeated him in their rematch so many years later, it was a real achievement. Going from “The Executioner” to “The Alien,” in reference to his new role as father time in the sport of boxing, Hopkins has established himself a legitimate athletic phenomenon and dismissed suspicions that his primary advantage is luck.
More good fights are on the horizon, with heavyweight stars populating basic cable time slots. The next Wladimir Klitschko fight will be aired on ESPN next weekend, followed closely by Stiverne-Arreola II on May 10.