Bernard Hopkins made history on Saturday night. | Getty Images
WASHINGTON, D.C. -- He’s more magician now than pure fighter, more poised technician than brutal puncher. Above all, Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins remains defiant. He’s 49 years old, doing something most men his age are either dreaming of or reminiscing about.
Yet, the old man is in there against the world’s best. He controls pace, distance, punch output and fight outcome.
Hopkins dipped and ducked, sniped and countered, and reduced an aggressive Beibut Shumenov into a tepid, reluctant fighter in making more history Saturday night at the DC Armory, winning a split 12-round decision.
Entering the fight as the IBF titlist, Hopkins added Shumenov’s WBA title. Shumenov, self trained, was 11 years old when Hopkins won his first major title on belt on April 29, 1995. Hopkins became the oldest fighter in boxing history to unify the light heavyweight titles.
Everyone at ringside had Hopkins winning very easily.
The 19-year age gap never affected Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts), giving the 30-year-old Shumenov (14-2, 9 KO) his first loss since 2009.
With 2:06 left in the 11th round, Hopkins caught Shumenov with a perfectly timed overhand right to the jaw, dropping the Kazakhstan expatriate for the second time in his career. Shumenov gingerly regained his footing, but he was clearly hurt as referee Earl Brown counted eight.
In the last minute of the 11th, the capacity DC Armory began chanting “B-Hop, B-Hop, B-Hop!”
By then, it was already well over. Two judges confirmed it with scores of 116-111 on judges Dave Moretti and Jerry Roth’s scorecards, while Gustavo Padilla somehow saw it 114-113 for Shumenov.
Punch stats bore out Hopkins’ domination. Though Shumenov threw almost twice as many punches (608-to-383), Hopkins landed a total of 186 punches (49-percent) to Shumenov’s 20-percent (124-of-608). Hopkins used a steady mix of jabs (93-of-201) with power shots (93-of-182), while Shumenov struggled the whole night against Hopkins, landing 57 of 276 jabs (21-percent) and 67 of 332 power punches (20-percent).
Throughout the fight, Hopkins wore that familiar grin that connoted he knew something no one else knew. That was the punishment he was going to dole out on Shumenov.
“I’m a 15-round fighter, I’m a 15-round fighter,” Hopkins kept yelling after the fight. “Let’s go to Canada, let’s go to Canada. I’m special, I’m special. Boxing is a science, it’s an art. I keep telling the young guys that you don’t have to take punches. I’ll let the historians analyze about my legacy. It’s good to box all of these years and not be stuttering. I want to be the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world before I turn 50.”
That means taking on WBC champion Adonis Stevenson possibly sometime later this year.
If Hopkins fights the way he did Saturday night against Shumenov, he could very well do it.
“Stevenson, I’m coming to Canada, I’m getting my paperwork together to do it,” Hopkins said.
Shumenov was gracious in defeat. He admitted Hopkins was the better man. He admitted he used the wrong style.
“I have to watch the tape over and see what I did wrong,” Shumenov said. “I am angry I didn’t get the victory. It hurts. It wasn’t obviously my night.”
When asked if he was surprised it was a split-decision (though it clearly wasn’t), Hopkins was philosophical about it, saying, “It’s the commission’s job to regulate who made an improper scorecard, it’s not my job to deal with that, my job is get ready to unify all of these light heavyweight belts before I turn 50. I had a great night, I felt great. There’s no definition for special.”
Naazim Richardson, Hopkins’ trainer, had been on him in the weeks preparing for the fight to throw the six-inch right hand, which dropped Shumenov in the 11th. The professor in the old man surfaced, catching Shumenov over his jab. Shumenov ran right into it, Hopkins pointed out, because he likes to spin towards his left.
“It was there the whole fight, but Shumenov has an awkward style and I’ve seen everything, I’ve been around for so long,” Hopkins said, little twinkles in his eyes. “I made those adjustments. I’m like a Joe Frazier. I get knocked down, but I get back up. I can still go.”
No one is doubting the old man. Not anymore.