Bernard: Looking Down Both Barrels

By Ted Spoon on November 8, 2014
Bernard: Looking Down Both Barrels
I want to see Hopkins tear up another script. I want to see that mask twitch. (Edward Lea)

He’s always been there, for the last 24 years, harassing and (mainly) baffling opponents with a museum’s worth of knowhow…

In what many consider Bernard Hopkins’ magnum opus, The Executioner punched out a masterpiece. His ring IQ did more than win the day, it told a story, masterfully paced over the set distance. Initially gliding around his opponent the middleweight champion eased himself in. There was no shoe-shining when the punches began to flow but while combinations lengthened never were they indulged. It was brilliant. Boxing and fighting had merged into one. In the twelfth a hard right caused a fall and a sympathetic corner to act. Hopkins (unmarked) visited Larry Merchant.

“What do you do if your opponent has a gun?”

It was a question aimed at himself.

“You grab it.” 

Thirteen years have passed since Bernard disarmed Felix Trinidad. Now boxing’s oldest ever champion at 49, it’s amazing to think how fresh those 36 years were…thirteen years ago.

It’s not the same fighter today. That musculature has faded alongside his work rate. Reactions, while good, are not at optimum. The punches don’t snap like they used to. The beard is frosty. If that hand is to be raised for the 56th time Bernard will need to call upon his ring IQ like never before.

Russia’s Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev, undefeated and officially scary, boasts a maturity which renders him so. There’s zero arrogance going into this bout which will ensure he gets the most out of his destructive fists. The inevitable question which floats above a guy who has made Borscht out of so-so competition is “How good?” This is where opinion varies. 

Getting pummeled in four rounds probably leaves you with no option, but Nathan Cleverly is positive about the Russian being a “different breed.” National ties with Gennady Golovkin has urged some to put him in the same class as the Kazakh destroyer, though this a smaller percentage that I’m not a part of. The opposite stance says Bernard won as soon as he agreed to the bout.

Redemption against Kelly Pavlik leads the case. 

My friend will retrieve an ugly track record whenever I feel bold enough to predict, but a rare triumph fell on the night when Hopkins embarrassed Pavlik. The fact that Kelly had again beat Jermain Taylor over twelve rounds (a distance Kovalev hasn’t done) had my friend confident, for a couple of rounds. I proceeded to watch with a growing smile as Hopkins turned an interesting clash into an exhibition.

Detractors claim Pavlik was a one-dimensional accident waiting to happen. Perhaps. It’s eye-opening to note this bout took place a good six years ago – a time span which has traced an undisputable decline in Floyd Mayweather. Hopkins has blurted out that he is now in the “Garcia era,” two generations removed from previous contemporaries. How far removed from his prime that makes him may be harder to grasp than it is for him to give one word answers.

The hazard lights are on because of two cold facts; Kovalev does not have to be sensational to win, and he appears to have quite a bit more going for him than Kelly Pavlik.

It might not take a herculean effort to squash a tomato can, but one can’t hide how they do so, i.e., how well drilled they are. Case in point, Deontay Wilder is ragged. Kovalev is solid. He may even be dynamic.

Different to Pavlik he’s much lighter on his feet and a wider stance helps him dictate range. It also allows him to propel his weight from the canvas; finishing with a straight left is a nice trait and he’s decked a couple of opponents with this power jab. A clubbing right is thrown in singles, down the pipe, round the side, to the body. There’s a good deal of analysis going as he works. Sergey will give himself that bit of space when faced with a cagey opponent. Sound fundamentals guide the aggressive streak. Plenty of patience was displayed against Cedric Agnew and he didn’t care much for the cut caused by a clash of heads (always a possibility with Hopkins).

This guy doesn’t fall under the bracket of “robotic European,” at least, not to us.

Hopkins must have spied faulty gears. 

Knowing what you bring to a fight is the first stage in Bernard’s plan to frustrate. Skating around the ring can make one unsure about how to press. For a whole minute you might not have him, and then he’s in your face, clubbing the side of your head before the ref breaks it up. Repeat. It doesn’t matter if you know that right lead followed by a dip is coming. Everyone does. It’s the timing and superb understanding of body language that ensures it gets there. The big question is if Hopkins can find his irritating groove, can he maintain it? What Kovalev can’t destroy he’ll try to melt with pace.

Aside from the passage of time, a big difference with this bout and the Trinidad one is that Kovalev isn’t a bloated middleweight, and rather than merely threatening with a left hook he is firing high-caliber from both barrels. Some say he can deck you with a jab to the body. They’re not lying. 

The outcome feels as if it’s got to be definitive, like certain variables are hanging on a thread. Either one man is too clever, or the other is too powerful. The Russian will make an irreparable dent, or his efforts will further enmesh him in Hopkin’s web.   

The bulk of opinion has Hopkins failing to last the distance for the first time in a long career. It’s a strange thing to imagine. During his last five loses, from Roy Jones to Chad Dawson, never was Philadelphia’s wizard completely lost. He’s always been there, for the last 24 years, harassing and (mainly) baffling opponents with a museum’s worth of knowhow.

Logic is the best medicine for heartbreak. We could be moments away from an eyesore, though morbid curiosity was never the reason boxing first got my attention. The stage is set, once again, to be astounded. Sleep can wait till dawn.

I want to see a 49-year-old tear up another script, look past his doubters and stare a hole in Farther Time. 

I want to see that mask twitch.

Follow us on Twitter@boxing_com to continue the discussion

Bernard Hopkins vs. Felix Trinidad [Full Broadcast]



Bernard Hopkins vs Kelly Pavlik



► Сергей Ковалев - Цедрик Агнью! Сергей Кручитель! / Sergey Kovalev -vs- Cedric Agnew



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  1. bikermike 03:00pm, 11/10/2014

    OLD YANK…..always good to hear from you my friend…

    I’m a bit gimped up at the present time…due to arthritis and an industrial accident…but the BIKER will ride again !!

    I read any and all your posts I can.

    One of my bitches about Boxing…with all the weight/ half weight divisions…is the difference between weight of principles at weigh in ...and their weight at first bell.

    Move weigh in to the day before the fight…and it will loosen up the strangle hold many ‘title’ holders have on any/every weight division

    If a fighter cannot fight at the weight he is challenging/defending..then he should move up in weight..and unplug the flow

  2. Old Yank 11:18am, 11/10/2014

    Pavlik… What to say…Pavlik. Pavlik/Hopkins and the Arum mistake.


    Bob Arum truly thought he had something special with Pavlik—so did I – so did a lot of folks. Arum though him so special that he was willing to campaign him at 160, 168 and 175 all at the same time—or just about. After capturing the title at 160, the rematch with Taylor was at a catch-weight just below the 168 pound limit—not a title fight, just a chance for Taylor to redeem himself and stretch Pavlik while doing so. Pavlik won a clear decision that made him look more than one-dimensional. And so Arum, in his infinite wisdom decided to put the 160 pound Pavlik in the ring against Hopkins (who, by-the-way tipped in at 185 the night of the bout). Pavlik certainly proved to be unable to handle more than Hopkins’ 185 pounds—he was unable to recover from the loss or recover from his bad habits.

    This guy Pavlik gets knocked around a lot but we have scant few examples of champions fighting at three weight classes simultaneously—and those we can remember, we remember fondly.

  3. bikermike 04:28pm, 11/09/2014

    OK….Next big match up for public is to unite the titles…so…??

    ...or are now going to see once a year title challenges…and find the least worthy ...legal if not ligitimate opponent..and on and on and on..

    You give both of these ...‘world ’ champs a warm up match or twoi..and they go for the big one….WINNER TAKES ALL….
    ..as of last night…the biggest draw in LT HVYWEIGHT BOXING…WAS BERNARD HOPKINS…(not necessarily the best…but the biggest draw)..Without Hopkins…...the remaining title holders and contenders can only build good purses by giving public good fights….no more chopping wood for cupla hundred grand

  4. bikermike 04:18pm, 11/09/2014

    Old lion lost to a prime lion..(31 yrs old ain’t young)
    Hopkins ..at least decided to defend his TITLE against a worthy opponent…and went out on his shield…

    Hopkins has a lot of class…in the manner he conducted himself…he praised Kovalev and wished him well after the decision was announced(accurate decision ..I might add)

    In facing a worthy challenger…Hopkins still stands alone ...as he always has..in the manner he choses to conduct his career.

    Bernard Hopkins has given hope to the little guy….he’s an ICON..of hard work and determination..focus and discipline…

    ..and he ...at forty nine yrs of age..cupla weeks he’d be fifty…was still fighting the best…..

    Many of today’s ‘title holders’ never sign up to risk a loss…due to who shows up as the opponent…Exception being Pacquaio…Marquez..

  5. Darrell 10:02pm, 11/08/2014

    Round 7, I have Kovalev winning every round so far.

  6. Koolz 02:05pm, 11/08/2014

    Since you brought up GGG I would like people to know that Hopkins said he will fight Golovkin when he beats Kovalev!  What?!

    Kovalev said Golovkin hit’s harder them him.

    GGG who everyone thinks that he can beat beat by someone that can move and get away from him shifting into position to be hit hard.  GGG who can knock you out from less then a foot away. 

    Yea you know Geale he could move he could really show boat and move!  He was a top boxer with amazing movement and with his best punch he hit GGG square in the face…and it was over for Geale.

    Hopkins is getting a head of himself here.  Kovalev will go in there treat it like any other fight get a TKO and that will be that.

    If he fought Golovkin he would be hurt GGG would go in there and break ribs and completely destroy him with body shots as he tries and clinches a ton of times to slow the Rhythm of the fight.

    Enjoy the show Hopkins is good for boxing!

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