Bernard Hopkins overpowered Beibut Shumanov with crushing blows after the third round. (Luis M. Alvarez/AP)
WASHINGTON -- Three thoughts on Bernard Hopkins' split decision win over Beibut Shumenov:
A Hopkins clinic -- We’re running out of ways to describe Hopkins. At 49 years old --49!-- Hopkins put on a clinic, boxing circles around the 30-year old Shumenov. Hopkins is a surgeon in the ring. For two rounds Hopkins poked and probed Shumenov, studying his style, timing his punches. From the third round on, it was vintage Hopkins. He landed a big shot and tied Shumenov up. He dropped Shumenov with a crushing short right hand early in the 11th round and proceeded to calmly continue to pick him apart for the rest of it. He moved around the ring expertly, confidently showing the stamina of a man 20 years his junior. It wasn’t the most aesthetically pleasing fight -- per SHOstats, Hopkins landed 186 of 303 punches to 124 of 608 for Shumenov -- but it was one controlled by Hopkins throughout.
As it often does, the judging made it interesting. Two judges scored the fight 116-111 for Hopkins while a third inexplicably gave the fight to Shumenov, 114-113.
This was a historic moment -- Consider what Hopkins is doing: At an age where most athletes his age are long since retired, when most men his age are boasting a burgeoning beer belly, Hopkins is at the peak of of one of the world’s most violent sports. Since dropping a decision to Chad Dawson in 2012, Hopkins has systematically picked apart Tavoris Cloud (then the IBF champion), Karo Murat (the No. 1 contender) and Shumenov, a trio of quality fighters in the division. As he inches toward 50, Hopkins fights like a man in his prime. He plays the mental game better than anyone else in boxing -- witness the unraveling of Shumenov weeks before the fight -- and fights a defensive style that is extremely difficult to solve.
The list of the greatest individual accomplishments in sports is subjective, but what Hopkins has done ranks right up there.
“I’m special,” Hopkins said. “In a way that you believe is good. Special doesn’t mean bad. I don’t have to explain special. There is no definition for special. Special speaks for itself.”
History continues -- Hopkins has his future layed out: He wants to become the undisputed light heavyweight champion and next year, at 50, take on Floyd Mayweather. The next obstacle in his way is likely Adonis Stevenson, the lineal light heavyweight champion. Stevenson has a tuneup fight in May but is ready, willing and able to face Hopkins in the fall. Hopkins says he has no problem fighting in Canada -- where Stevenson is a big draw -- while Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer suggested the Barclays Center in Brooklyn as a possible venue.
Hopkins swears that if he wins the undisputed title -- and WBO titleholder Sergey Kovalev stands in his way after Stevenson -- he will vacate it, that he won’t push his boxing career past 50. But Hopkins once swore he would retire at 40. He is sharp, healthy and has shown none of the wear boxers half his age show. The end may be nowhere near. -Chris Mannix