Age before Beauty

Bernard Hopkins takes on formidable slugger Sergey Kovalev tonight in what’s being hailed as the greatest fight Hopkins didn’t have to take. Kovalev’s performances have been, without exception, powerful and impressive. Racking up 23 KOs in only 25 fights, almost of all of his opponents have found his particular combination of offensive pressure and technique overwhelming. Hopkins has also had a run of impressive performances since his most recent loss to Chad Dawson, defeating Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov. Most impressively, in a fight that bored most of the fans in attendance out of the DC Armory before the conclusion, Hopkins scored a shocking knockdown in the 11th round against Shumenov with his signature overhand right.  Neither fighter is known for a particularly graceful technique, and make no mistake, aesthetic appeal is the last reason to watch this fight, but there’ll be more than enough to make up for that deficiency once these two get in the ring.

Fighting with an 18-year age advantage, Kovalev’s intimidation factor and physicality have convinced most fans to predict a rough loss for Hopkins. As his moniker implies, however, “The Alien” defies traditional standards for age and ability, performing well against title holders after absorbing isolated losses at several points in his long career. The most significant draw of the fight, as I mentioned earlier, is that fans have become accustomed in recent years to fighters carefully managing fights to minimize vulnerabilities. In this case, Hopkins is seen as vulnerable as any fighter, not quite to the half-century mark, but only two months from it, he’ll be out to take the ultimate test tonight. While Hopkins may live to regret the decision, it’s one you have to respect, and admire. Kovalev truly does scare most fighters in his division, the same people who take Hopkins lightly because of his age and his deceptively formidable ability. This refreshing change of pace guarantees fans an interesting outcome, even if it means watching Hopkins feign his way through a few more technically legal maneuvers that most fighters are too proud to attempt.

For these reasons, I’d like to lay out my prediction for this fight with a more quantitative description than I typically do, by rating specific aspects of each fighter’s abilities, relative to weight class:

Power: 7
Speed: 7
Precision: 9
Endurance: 7
Defense: 9
Offense: 7
Effective Movement: 8
Chin: 9

Power: 9
Speed: 6
Precision: 7
Endurance: 7 (yet to be tested)
Defense: 7
Offense: 9
Effective Movement: 6
Chin: 6

Before anyone gets up in arms about it, I use this format intentionally to be both more provocative and more subjective than my usual predictions. Assigning numbers to specific aspects of a fighter’s ability is always easy to criticize, but I think it provides some basis for the end product.  I always welcome comments.

I see Kovalev’s pressure and power being too much for Hopkins in the middle rounds. Hopkins may even take some early rounds based on his defensive ability and frustrating style, but unless he lands the perfect shot, or Kovalev’s endurance is much worse than we could have predicted, his experience and slickness won’t save him from the onslaught. Kovalev, by stoppage, round 6.

That being said, Hopkins has the reach and height advantages.  This could be a very interesting fight.  Don’t walk away before the end like the DC Armory crowd.

Finally, let’s not overlook the historical significance of this fight in boxing, and in the broader universe of sports and athletics.  If Hopkins loses this fight, he loses approximately at the age of fifty, to the man who is undeniably the toughest opponent in the division, after already earning the distinction of oldest boxer to win a title, and against seasoned, legitimate opponents.  If Hopkins wins this fight, though, it’ll be a spectacle of human achievement the likes of which the world has not yet seen.

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