The Boxing Tribune staff is voting 7-2 in favor of Sergey Kovalev over Bernard Hopkins. Read on to see each staff member’s individual take on the big fight:
Jean Pascal laid out the blueprint in their first fight when he almost mugged Hopkins early but then he let him off the hook and let him find his rhythm. Kovalev is no Pascal and once he gets Hopkins buzzed, the end will come quickly and mercifully. I see the Krusher by early Krushing on this one. Says Pascal, “Sergey Kovalev’s best chance against Bernard Hopkins is to catch him early…but if it goes past the fifth round, then Hopkins is going to win a decision.”
Hopkins has made a second career out of proving the predictors wrong. Instinct says Hopkins befuddles the much younger and powerful, but inexperienced Kovalev. But Kovalev isn’t Tavoris Cloud or Beibut Shumenov. Kovalev’s patient and disciplined offense will prove to be a puzzle even Hopkins is ill equipped to solve, and he’ll overpower Hopkins and force Hopkins’ corner to intervene late in the fight.
Jesse Ian Lardies
Bernard Hopkins need only utilize his superior intelligence (and perhaps some hit & grab techniques) to neutralize Sergey Kovalev’s onslaught. The Russian, while quite adept at cutting off the ring, hasn’t faced anyone on Hopkins’ level. Look for B-Hop to register a classic performance for the first nine rounds – shutting out the Krusher – until a body punch crunches home and sends the nearly 50 year-old back to the dressing room title-less.
Perhaps you shouldn’t bet against an Alien, but this time I really believe that Hopkins has bitten off more than he can digest. Despite his incredible conditioning for his age, and his considerable experience, the fact is that ‘The Alien’ is almost 50 years old, and he is about to face a man with the power to make him age overnight. What might have been over looked here is that Kovalev is a very capable technician in his own right, he is not a rush in and have a swing brawler. He will target Hopkins body, and he has the technique and hand speed to get through enough punches on that 50 year old tummy to exact a painful toll, which will probably see the Alien stopped somewhere about the 8th to 10th rounds. There is also the possibility that Kovalev will catch a slow starting Alien in the first two rounds. But early or late, I go for ‘The Krusher’.
I don’t believe Father Time will finally catch up to Bernard in his bout with Kovakev. However, I do believe Hopkins will leave the ring in defeat. I expect Hopkins to be boring and tactical like always, trying to lull Kovalev into his traps. It’s one thing to trap Shumenov and Murat, however, Kovalev is a boogie man the likes of George Foreman. With John David Jackson, my main reason for my pick, in his corner, I believe Kovalev wins a close bout on aggression and volume of punches. 115-113. The main question though, is: will Adonis Stevenson be in the house?
The post-40 version of Bernard Hopkins has had success against big punchers with a robotic style, like Beibut Shumenov, Tavoris Cloud and Kelly Pavlik. While boxers who deliver combinations at a higher volume, like Chad Dawson, Joe Calzaghe and Jermain Taylor have given him trouble. His opponent Saturday night is more of the former than the latter. Kovalev will look to hurt the 49-year-old, then quickly finish him. But, Hopkins is still slick enough to disrupt his timing, frustrate the Russian and score enough to earn a victory via split decision.
I’m sensing that we’ll be seeing the end of Hopkins run Saturday night. For years he’s defied the odds, and through the mastery of his craft has made younger, stronger fighters look ordinary. In Sergey Kovalev however, he’s facing an entirely different fighter. “Krusher” is the biggest, strongest, and hardest puncher Hopkins has seen, but what makes him different isn’t just his power, but his skill set and patience in the ring. He’s not a wild slugger that swings away just hoping the big shot will land, but a measured assassin that can break down an opponent without wasting energy or punches that miss his target. Hopkins’ slickness and conditioning will allow him to last the distance, but once he starts getting hit with the heavy stuff, and without the power to keep Kovalev away, will be sent into defensive mode and though he’s still slick enough to avoid being knocked out, just won’t be able to regain control of the fight. Kovalev wont be completely dominant, but will have enough of an edge to win a split decision.
Back in 1996, when Boris Yeltsin was running for re-election as Russian President, P.J. O’Rourke asked a journalist friend of his in Moscow who he thought would win. The journalist replied, “I think Yeltsin will be the next president.” When O’Rourke replied, “Then you think he’ll win”, the journalist shot back, “I didn’t say he’ll win. I said he’ll be the next president.”
It is with this in mind that I predict the Hopkins-Kovalev fight…Hopkins will clutch, he will grab, he will foul, and he will get the benefit of the doubt from the judges even as Kovalev, when he does have the chance to let his hands go, will land the cleaner, harder shots. “Krusher” will just find himself clinched and fouled before he can deliver the killing blow.
Bernard Hopkins will be the next champion. I didn’t say he’ll win. I said he’ll be the next champion.
Despite the flowery headlines, the decline of Bernard Hopkins is clear and obvious to all those willing to pay attention. Everything about the Hall of Famer has diminished over the course of his post-40 run– hand speed, foot speed, reflexes, endurance, even physical appearance. But Hopkins has compensated for that with a genius-level ring IQ, extreme efficiency, and good/fortunate matchmaking that has kept him in the ring with belt holders extremely lacking in ring IQ and poise. It hasn’t quite been sleight of hand or smoke and mirrors– because at his age, wins over the likes of Pavlik, Shumenov, and Cloud are still monumental feats– but it’s still hard to make the case for him being the “best” light heavyweight in the world when he is so clearly performing like a 49-year-old (albeit one with a magical touch of applied ring mastery). At some point, being really efficient and smart can only take you so far and I suspect that he is reaching that high water mark with Kovalev. Sergey Kovalev is not a genius ring technician, but he’s no dummy, either, and his work thus far suggests the smooth, fluid, and relaxed style of someone fairly unflappable in the ring. In order for Hopkins to win, he’ll have to go after Kovalev a bit, back him up and earn his respect, something which I don’t think he’s capable of doing at this stage of his career. I see Hopkins tasting Kovalev’s power early, backing off to play defense and regroup, but never finding a way to do enough to win rounds. Hopkins has proven me wrong before, but this task is too great and the match-up is not favorable on any level. Kovalev by unanimous decision– maybe in the area of 116-112 or 117-111.