Barclays Center, Brooklyn, New York– Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) did it again. The 48-year-old living legend once again took a younger, stronger opponent to school and, in the process, grabbed a world title without really having to exchange all that much leather.
With Hopkins’ unanimous decision win over Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs), the 48-year-old from Philadelphia becomes the IBF light heavyweight champ and breaks his own record as the oldest fighter to ever capture a world title.
The fight, itself, was a testament to mind over matter as Hopkins owned the tempo and the pace of the bout from the very beginning with smart footwork, feints, and general sleight of hand. One got the feeling that if Cloud had stepped up the pace and crowded Hopkins with pressure, that things would’ve been much different. But Cloud never stepped forward, never fought with anything resembling urgency. As a result, Cloud gave the impression that he was being led around the ring on a leash, allowed to move, but never really of his own free will.
Hopkins fought confidently throughout the contest, stealing rounds with a decent jab and the occasional solid counter right hand. But putting Cloud into sleep mode was the biggest factor in Hopkins’ favor and he accomplished that with hardly any effort at all.
At the end of twelve rounds, the three judges turned in reasonable, accurate scores of 116-112, 117-111, and 116-112–all in Hopkins’ favor. The Boxing Tribune also scored the bout 116-112 for Hopkins.
So, what’s next for a 48-year-old world champ in a fairly shallow division? A suicide mission against super middleweight kingpin, Andre Ward, would probably bring the biggest pay day. UK promoter, Frank Warren will likely be all over the place tomorrow, engaging in empty rhetoric about a showdown with his fighter, WBO light heavyweight titlist, Nathan Cleverly. But Warren lacks the testicular fortitude (and perhaps the money) to put his 26-year-old champ up against Hopkins.
After an ill-suited Ward bout and a virtually impossible Cleverly clash, there’s not much else left for Hopkins, who has already lost to Chad Dawson, but has proven to be better than just about everyone else worth fighting at 175.
Maybe a run at cruiserweight? Maybe a trip abroad?
On the televised HBO undercard, heavy hitter Keith Thurman (20-0, 18 KOs) pursued a defense-minded Jan Zaveck (32-3, 18 KOs) for twelve dull rounds en route to a one-sided unanimous decision, winning with three scores of 120-108.
Former paper world titlist, Zaveck, 36, fought as though he was biding his time, looking to exploit some weakness he had seen in Thurman, but could never really pull the trigger.
Ironically, the 24-year-old Thurman looked at his best, technically, in one of his dullest performances, but the improved technique and patience will serve him well as he steps up in class.
The bout was supposedly a WBO welterweight title eliminator, meaning that, if such things are to be believed, Thurman is now in line for a shot at the winner of next week’s Timothy Bradley-Ruslan Provodnikov world title bout.