Bernard Hopkins was in New York on June 5, promoting his since-canceled fight. (AP)
The July 13th light heavyweight title fight between IBF champion Bernard Hopkins and No. 1 contender Karo Murat has been cancelled due to Murat being declared ineligible to receive a visa from the United States, Golden Boy Promotions announced on Friday.
It is unclear if the fight will be rescheduled. On Friday afternoon, Hopkins tweeted that “it Looks like September I’ll be back!! Now, at least I can enjoy some of the summer.”
The 48-year old Hopkins (53-6-2) was scheduled to make his first defense of the title he won in March, when he outpointed Tavoris Cloud to become -- for the second time -- the oldest man to win a major title. Murat, 29, was originally the mandatory for Cloud. But the IBF granted Cloud an exception to fight Hopkins, with the stipulation that the winner would face Murat (25-1-1) in his next fight.
“I'm extremely disappointed about the fight being cancelled," said Hopkins. “I was already in the gym, sparring and preparing for the fight, but things happen. I know [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer and the staff at Golden Boy Promotions are already working on something bigger and better. I stay in shape so being ready is never a problem and I look forward to whatever fight is made for me in the near future.”
Said Murat, “Obviously I'm very disappointed, as I have been in training for almost three months now, but I understand that my promoter's representative, Chris Meyer, is in talks with Richard Schaefer to discuss possible alternatives.”
IBF Chairman Lindsey Tucker told SI.com that the IBF would wait to hear from Murat’s team that Murat would be unable to attend. According to Tucker, an ordered, agreed upon fight being cancelled is “a problem we have never had before.” Tucker says the IBF could order the two sides to negotiate again or could elevate the next contender. That spot will be determined tonight, when undefeated Sergey Kovalev takes on Cornelius White in Bethlehem, Penn. (NBC Sports Network, 8 p.m.) for the No. 1 position in the IBF rankings.
If the IBF allows Hopkins to make a voluntary defense, Hopkins has made it clear he would like to unify the 175-pound titles. That could mean a fight against titleholders Nathan Cleverly, Beibut Shumenov or Adonis Stevenson, who became the WBC -- and, more importantly, the lineal champion -- with a stunning first round knockout of Chad Dawson last weekend.
Hopkins could also pursue a fight with super middleweight titleholder Carl Froch. Hopkins has made it clear he is willing to fight Froch, who defeated Mikkel Kessler last month, in England, where Froch has become a huge box office attraction, and at a catch weight.
-- Chris Mannix