Dan Rafael: Bernard Hopkins

A few notes from around the boxing world:

• Golden Boy Promotions will celebrate the 50th birthday of company partner and future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins with a card at the 2300 Arena in his hometown of Philadelphia on Jan. 20 (Fox Sports 1/Fox Deportes, 8 p.m. ET).

"I'm so excited that Golden Boy has decided to honor my birthday in this way," said Hopkins, the former middleweight and light heavyweight world champion, who turns 50 on Jan. 15. "The best present that they can give me is to bring a great night of fights to my hometown and give Philly boxing fans something to celebrate."

In the main event, Philadelphia’s Eric Hunter (19-3, 10 KOs) will face Nicaragua’s Rene Alvarado (21-3, 14 KOs) in a 10-round featherweight bout. In the 10-round junior welterweight co-feature, Newark, New Jersey’s Michael Perez (21-1, 10 KOs) will face an opponent to be determined. The televised opener will feature junior lightweight Lamont Roach Jr. (5-0, 2 KOs), of Washington, D.C., in a six-rounder against an opponent to be determined.

• Promoter Sampson Lewkowicz announced Wednesday that he and junior lightweight contender Javier Fortuna (26-0-1, 19 KOs), 25, of the Dominican Republic, have renewed their promotional agreement.

"This is my gift for this year, to continue working with a budding superstar like Javier," Lewkowicz said. "He is on the verge of stardom and, like all my fighters, he is also like a son to me. I admire all of their loyalty and I wish them all a very Merry Christmas and happy holidays."

• The Main Events-promoted Jan. 30 edition of ESPN2’s “Friday Night Fights” at the Foxwoods resort in Mashantucket, Connecticut, will be headlined by lightweight prospect Karl Dargan (17-0, 9 KOs) taking on Tony Luis (18-2, 7 KOs) in a 10-round bout. The co-feature will pit junior middleweights Russell Lamour (11-0, 5 KOs) and Thomas Falowo (12-3, 8 KOs) in an eight-rounder.

• "The Hebrew Hammer” Cletus Seldin (15-0, 12 KOs) returns to “Friday Night Fights” on Feb. 27 at the Paramount in Huntington, New York. He will face Johnny Garcia (19-2-1, 11 KOs) in the junior welterweight main event of a Star Boxing card.

Pascal focused on Bolonti

December, 4, 2014
Dec 4
Pascal/ButeEric Bolte/USA TODAY SportsJean Pascal, right, could be headed for a showdown with Sergey Kovalev next year.
The day before light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev entered the ring to face Blake Caparello in August the fight took on even greater significance. That is because Kovalev had signed to face Bernard Hopkins in a Nov. 8 unification fight -- contingent on beating the little-known Caparello.

Caparello threw a scare into everyone hoping Kovalev would take care of business, including ringside observer Hopkins, when he dropped him in the first round. Kovalev was not hurt, got to his feet quickly and then drilled Caparello in a second-round knockout victory.

The point is every fight has an element of danger and often the best-laid plans can go awry.

Now it is Kovalev, fresh off last month’s wipeout of Hopkins to unify three belts, who will sit back to watch and hope for the outcome of a fight when former light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal tangles with former title challenger Roberto Bolonti (35-3, 24 KOs), of Argentina, on Saturday (Integrated Sports PPV, 8 p.m. ET) in a 10-round bout at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Pascal’s hometown.

That is because late last week -- well after Pascal-Bolonti was set -- Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) and Pascal, both blatantly avoided by champion Adonis Stevenson, made a deal for one of the best fights that can be made at light heavyweight. They are due to headline an HBO card on March 14 in either Montreal or Quebec City, but only if Pascal beats Bolonti (and the IBF grants Kovalev an exception for an optional defense, which is expected).

Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) is trying his best to keep his focus on Bolonti, even if that might be difficult to do. But he knows what is at stake.

"At this point in my career every fight is an important fight,” said Pascal, who will be fighting for the first time since routing former super middleweight titlist and fellow Quebec star Lucian Bute in a huge fight in January. “Nothing is really taken for granted. With each fight there is always a risk of my current position, not only in terms of rankings, but also with fans who support and follow me through the media and social networking.”

Bute was originally scheduled to headline the card against Bolonti with Pascal a late addition to the show against Donovan George. But when Bute dropped out because of a back injury and George was dropped when his team dragged its feet signing the contract, Pascal and Bolonti were matched for the new main event.

"My team and I have studied my opponent's style very carefully,” said Pascal, who will have Roy Jones Jr. in his corner as an assistant trainer. “We were excited when this fight came to light as a result of various negotiations. Bolonti was initially chosen for Lucian because of his high-quality record and his experience at the top level. Bolonti has traveled before to unfamiliar countries, as he did in Germany not long ago to challenge [titleholder Juergen] Braehmer. Make no doubt, Bolonti is a top-quality opponent and I welcome the chance to fight him in this important challenge.

"I predict a win Saturday night but this fight is going to be a challenge. If you look through the various fights on my record, they have always been exciting and I've always been prepared. This fight will not be an exception."

Kovalev-Pascal under discussion

November, 26, 2014
Nov 26
Bernard Hopkins, Sergey KovalevEd Diller for ESPNLight heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, right, could be back in the ring in March.

Following his one-sided thrashing of the great Bernard Hopkins in a three-belt light heavyweight unification fight on Nov. 8, Sergey Kovalev returned to his home in Los Angeles to meet his newborn son, Aleksandr.

Kovalev was deep in training camp for the fight when his wife, Natalia, gave birth. He didn’t want to break camp and waited until after the fight to meet the baby. Kovalev returned home with two more title belts to add to his collection and jumped into fatherhood, changing diapers and all.

“I already lost track of how many diapers,” Kovalev said. “Beating Hopkins is a little bit more dangerous than changing diapers, but he peed on my hand when I changed him. It is most important to be here with my family.”

While Kovalev will enjoy the next couple of months relaxing with his family, Main Events promoter Kathy Duva is already at work with HBO working on his next fight, which is supposed to take place in March.

The question is whom will he fight? He has a mandatory defense due -- which he inherited from Hopkins -- against France’s Nadjib Mohammedi (36-3, 22 KOs), who is also signed with Main Events and won on the Kovalev-Hopkins undercard. It is not, however, the kind of big fight Kovalev, HBO or boxing fans are looking for.

It is possible that the IBF could grant Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) an exception if he asks for one. It is also possible he could give up that belt, although that seems unlikely.

Whatever happens, Duva and InterBox promoter Jean Bedard are engaged in conversations about a fight between Kovalev and former champion Jean Pascal.

InterBox is pushing hard to have Kovalev come to Montreal, where Pascal is a big draw, to defend against him. Hopkins twice went to Quebec to face Pascal, drawing with him the first time and outpointing him the second.

“There have been some discussions,” Duva told ESPN.com regarding a possible Kovalev-Pascal fight. “But of course we have an IBF mandatory to consider as well.”

Pascal (29-2-1, 17 KOs) also has his own fight to deal with on Dec. 6 (Integrated Sports PPV) at the Bell Centre in Montreal, where he will face Argentina’s Roberto Bolonti (35-3, 24 KOs).

Pascal is the mandatory challenger for lineal champion Adonis Stevenson’s alphabet belt, so he has options. Talks for a Stevenson-Pascal bout have been very, very difficult, which is one reason Pascal is facing Bolonti, and Stevenson (24-1, 20 KOs), also of Montreal, is fighting Dmitry Sukhotsky (22-2, 16 KOs) on Dec. 19 in Quebec City. The sides are way far apart on the money, although if they can’t make a deal, it would go to a purse bid.

The matchup many want to see is Kovalev against Stevenson, which was the fight that was supposed to happen this month but fell apart earlier in the year when Stevenson walked away from the deal and went from HBO to Showtime.

Kovalev would still like to face Stevenson but wants whatever big fight can be delivered to him.

“I am ready for everyone if it is the right fight,” Kovalev said. “[Stevenson] is interesting fight for everyone. This is the job for my promoter and my manager [Egis Klimas]. I don't think about next fight. Right now I want to spend time with my family. I am going to fly to [my native] Russia for a couple weeks to be with my parents.”

Hopkins-Kovalev a viewership hit

November, 11, 2014
Nov 11

Despite starting at about midnight on the East Coast, Saturday night’s light heavyweight title unification fight between Bernard Hopkins, one of boxing’s most well-known fighters, and Sergey Kovalev, one of the sport’s fastest rising stars, still delivered a strong viewership number.

The bout averaged 1.328 million viewers for HBO’s live first-time airing, according to Nielsen Media Research.

That has to be music to the executives' ears, as it ranks as the second-most viewed fight in the United States in 2014, with little remaining on the schedule that would appear capable of threatening the mark. Only the rematch between super middleweights Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. and Bryan Vera had more viewers, averaging 1.390 for the fight on March 1.

Hopkins-Kovalev peaked at 1.397 million viewers, who saw Kovalev score a first-round knockdown and win a shutout decision against the 49-year-old legend to unify three 175-pound title belts.

The fight made a big leap from an audience tuned in for the opening bout of the telecast, a welterweight scrap between Sadam Ali and Luis Carlos Abregu, which averaged 882,000 viewers. Ali won by ninth-round knockout.

HBO has televised the top 13 most-watched fights of the year in the United States.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Golden Boy matchmaker Robert Diaz, here for Saturday night’s Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification fight, gave me a few updates on some fighters and fights he is working on:

• Lightweight contender Jorge Linares (37-3, 24 KOs), a former featherweight and junior lightweight titlist, will face Mexico’s Javier Prieto (24-7-2, 18 KOs) in a 12-rounder on Dec. 30 in Japan. Linares, who is from Venezuela but lives much of the year in Japan, is the mandatory challenger for titleholder Omar Figueroa. However, it remains to be seen whether Figueroa will continue to fight at 135 pounds or will move up to the 140-pound junior welterweight division for his next fight. Diaz said Linares very much wants to fight Figueroa.

• A featherweight fight between Houston’s Rocky Juarez (30-10-1, 21 KOs) and Robinson Castellanos (20-10, 13 KOs) of Mexico is in the works for a “Golden Boy Live” card (Fox Sports 1) in January. It will take place in Texas, probably San Antonio, Diaz said. Juarez, a one-time top contender, has won two fights in a row following a six-fight losing streak. Castellanos is coming off an impressive fifth-round knockout of Ronny Rios in an upset on Oct. 10.

• Japanese welterweight Yoshihiro Kamegai (24-2-1, 21 KOs) will face an opponent to be determined on Dec. 13 at the MGM in Las Vegas on the Devon Alexander-Amir Khan undercard. Kamegai made a lot of fans in a decision to Robert Guerrero in a hellacious fight of the year candidate on June 21 at the StubHub Center in Carson, California.

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Some look at light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev’s unification fight with Bernard Hopkins on Saturday night (HBO, 10:45 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall as a no-win situation for the Russian.

On the one hand, if Kovalev beats Hopkins, well, he was supposed to do it. After all, Kovalev is a 31-year-old destroyer in the prime of his career. Hopkins will be 50 in January and has been a pro for 26 years. Obviously, the end must be near.

On the other hand, if Kovalev loses, wouldn’t it be a complete disaster to lose to a guy old enough to be his dad, even if that guy happens to be a future Hall of Famer with two world title belts?

Kovalev said he hasn’t given it a moment of thought. His aim is simply to win whether Hopkins is 20, 40 or 50.

“I don't worry about who's saying these things,” Kovalev said. “I am just doing my job and doing the job for me, myself, not for them. This is my career. This is not other people's career.”

Main Events chief executive Kathy Duva, Kovalev’s promoter, said she doesn’t want to hear anything about Hopkins’ age being a reason for his loss, should he lose.

“I saw a poll, and basically the press is about 50-50 on this fight, so when this is over, I don't want to hear about how old Bernard Hopkins is, no matter what the outcome,” Duva said. “This is a great fight between two fighters. It is competitive, it's exciting.

“Bernard's never been stopped. Sergey has knocked out just about everyone he's fought. It is a tremendous, compelling fight, and I'm going to be very unhappy if the press decides that when it's over they're going to start raising the fact that Bernard is 50 years old, because they're not raising it now.”

Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins’ promoter and knockout victim to him in a 2004 undisputed middleweight world championship fight, agreed that it would be unfair to use Hopkins’ age as an excuse in the event he that he loses.

"People respect the fact that at 49 years old, he's still going strong,” De La Hoya said. “There's no sign of him slowing down. He's getting faster, he's getting stronger and he has more energy. He's toying with young fighters half his age. For Hopkins it starts outside the ring, he breaks you.

"I haven't counted Hopkins out since he beat me, even before that. Hopkins is a master at what he does.”

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- In Bernard Hopkins’ fourth middleweight title defense, he knocked out John David Jackson in the seventh round in Shreveport, Louisiana. Many years later, long after Jackson retired, he began training fighters and has become one of the sport's elite cornermen. In fact, he worked alongside Naazim Richardson for several fights as an assistant trainer for Hopkins, with whom Jackson developed a good relationship.

Jackson and Hopkins, however, are in opposite corners now. Jackson, a former world titleholder, is the head trainer of light heavyweight titlist Sergey Kovalev, who will fight Hopkins to unify their three belts on Saturday night (HBO, 10:45 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

On the one hand, Hopkins knocked out Jackson in a dominant performance years ago, so how can he teach Kovalev how to beat Hopkins? On the other hand, having worked with Hopkins in recent years -- including his upset victories against Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik -- Jackson is well-versed in the nuances of Hopkins’ style and knows his fighting style as well as anyone.

Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), who turns 50 – yes, 50 – in January, doesn’t think Jackson’s presence in Kovalev’s corner will mean a thing.

"John David Jackson says he knows everything there is to know about me,” Hopkins said at Thursday’s final prefight news conference at Caesars Atlantic City. “Sergey is the student. I'm not fighting John. But how can a teacher teach with credibility when the teacher has all F's? How can a teacher teach a student to have all A's when he has an F? I guarantee John did not show our fight to Sergey."

Jackson is not a big talker, but he has confidence in his ability to break down Hopkins’ style, regardless of that loss almost two decades ago.

"I warned Bernard's camp a few years ago, don't fight this Kovalev kid,” Jackson said. “I don't know what they told Bernard. But I told them please don't fight this kid. This is business at the end of the day. Bernard can talk about me all night long, but I don't have to get in the ring with him.”

Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs), of Russia, said he has confidence in Jackson, and has had confidence in him for all of their fights together.

“He has the keys to my victory,” Kovalev, 30, said. “I understand that everybody wants to hear what happened in my training camp with John David Jackson, but everything you will see [on Saturday].”

Perspective on the ageless B-Hop

November, 5, 2014
Nov 5
Bernard Hopkins is 49 years old. He will turn 50 in January. Yet, he is still fighting at a very high level, owns two light heavyweight world titles and will step into the ring on Saturday night (HBO, 10:45 p.m. ET/PT) to face a man -- 18 years his junior -- who is young enough to be his son in powerful knockout puncher Sergey Kovalev.

Hopkins calls himself "The Alien" because of how he has defied the athletic norms. Maybe he is one? Of course, there are some who cannot believe he is doing what he is doing at such an advanced age, so there have been quiet accusations of performance-enhancing drug use. But there has never been a shred of proof or any hint of it (not to mention that he does not have a single knockout since 2004).

The crazy thing is that many are picking Hopkins to win the fight, myself included. In one poll of 23 boxing writers, 12 picked Hopkins and 11 Kovalev.

Perhaps he is not loved by the masses -- he is anything but warm and cuddly -- but he must be respected. His records may last for a long, long time.

Hopkins has been around seemingly forever and has pulled upset after upset as he was often discounted, mainly because of his age.

He was born in 1965. How long ago was that?

The world's population has more than doubled since, from 3.3 billion to more than 7 billion. When he was born gas was around 31 cents a gallon.

When Hopkins turned pro at age 23 in 1988, Ronald Reagan was president. That was five presidents ago. When Hopkins turned pro Kovalev was 5.

When Hopkins fought for a world title for the first time, a vacant middleweight belt against Roy Jones Jr. in 1993 (a fight Hopkins lost by wide decision), Julio Chavez Sr. was pound-for-pound king. That's the same year I got my first job as a part-time sportswriter after college.

Hopkins won the undisputed middleweight title in 2001, two weeks after 9/11. That was eight years before Kovalev turned pro.

Kovalev has 26 pro fights. B-Hop has participated in 35 world title fights. In fact, Hopkins had almost as many middleweight title defenses (a division record 20) as Kovalev has fights.

In 2004, when Hopkins knocked out Oscar De La Hoya to become the first fighter in the four-belt era to unify all of them, Manny Pacquiao and Juan Manuel Marquez had just fought to a draw in their first of four fights. Barack Obama was still months shy of being elected -- to the U.S. Senate. LeBron James was an NBA rookie.

In 2009, when Kovalev turned pro, Hopkins already had 56 pro fights.

In 2011, Hopkins beat Jean Pascal in their rematch to become, at age 46, the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title, breaking former heavyweight champ George Foreman's record (20 years ago Wednesday when he knocked out Michael Moorer at age 45).

Hopkins broke the record again in 2013 when he won another belt by easily outpointing Tavoris Cloud at 48. Later in the year Hopkins became the oldest fighter to defend a world title against Karo Murat.

In April, Hopkins outpointed Beibut Shumenov to become, at 49, the oldest fighter to unify titles as well break his own record as the oldest to defend a title.

They are both records the ageless one can break yet again on Saturday.

Hopkins-Kovalev officials announced

November, 4, 2014
Nov 4

A few notes from around the boxing world:

• The officials for the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification bout Saturday night (HBO, 10:45 ET/PT) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, were announced Tuesday. The referee will be New Jersey’s David Fields. The judges will be Carlos Ortiz Jr. of New York, Clark Sammartino of Rhode Island and Lawrence Layton of New Jersey.

• Sadly, former light heavyweight champion Glen Johnson (54-19-2, 37 KOs) will continue fighting at age 45 and coming off a knockout loss. Long known as the “Road Warrior,” Miami’s Johnson hits the road yet again as he is headed to Albertslund, Denmark, to face Sweden’s Erik Skoglund (21-0, 11 KOs) in a light heavyweight bout on a Dec. 13 undercard. In June, Johnson was stopped for only the second time in his career, suffering a ninth-round TKO against Ilunga Makabu in Congo.

• The heavyweight rematch between former world title challenger Tony Thompson and Odlanier Solis, initially slated to take place Oct. 18 in Dusseldorf, Germany, has been rescheduled for Jan. 24, according to Thompson adviser Mike Borao. When they first met March 22 in Turkey, the native country of Solis promoter Ahmet Oner, Thompson pulled an upset by winning a split decision. Thompson (39-5, 26 KOs), 43, of Washington, D.C., who has twice been knocked out challenging world champion Wladimir Klitschko, lost his next fight in France to contender Carlos Takam. Solis, 34, the former Cuban Olympic gold medalist now living in Miami, has not fought since the defeat. He was stopped in the first round (knee injury) challenging then-titleholder Vitali Klitschko in 2011.

• Russian junior welterweight contender Anton Novikov (29-1, 10 KOs), 26, is slated to appear on the undercard of a Top Rank card in Glendale, California, on Dec. 6. Novikov, who will face an opponent to be determined, will be fighting for the first time since dropping a decision in a spirited fight against titleholder Jessie Vargas on Aug. 2 on HBO in the Brandon Rios-Diego Chaves co-feature.

BHop-Kovalev undercard unveiled

October, 24, 2014
Oct 24
Main Events and Golden Boy Promotions on Friday announced the full undercard that will support the Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification bout and the welterweight co-feature between Sadam Ali and Luis Carlos Abregu on Nov. 8 (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

French light heavyweight Nadjib Mohammedi (35-3, 21 KOs) will face Demetrius Walker (7-7-1, 4 KOs) of Kansas City, Missouri, in a 10-rounder. Mismatch on paper, perhaps, but Mohammedi’s presence on the card is part of what enabled Hopkins-Kovalev to be finalized. He beat Anatoliy Dudchenko by seventh-round knockout in June to become one of Hopkins’ mandatory challengers and Golden Boy is taking care of him with this fight since he didn’t cause a stink about Hopkins facing Kovalev first, although Hopkins was well within his rights based on IBF rules.

Main Events’ main undercard fight involves heavyweight contender Vyacheslav "Czar" Glazkov (18-0-1, 11 KOs), a 2008 Olympic bronze medalist from Ukraine. Glazkov, who owns a win over Tomasz Adamek, will face Miami's Darnell "Ding-A-Ling-Man" Wilson (25-17-3, 21 KOs), a former cruiserweight world title challenger and big puncher.

The rest of the card includes:

• Los Angeles-based Ukrainian light heavyweight Vyacheslav Shabransky (10-0, 8 KOs) versus Puerto Rico’s Emil Gonzalez (11-8-1, 8 KOs) in a 10-rounder.

• Philadelphia featherweight Eric Hunter (18-3, 9 KOs) versus William Gonzalez (27-5, 23 KOs) of Nicaragua in a 10-rounder.

• Miami-based Cuban light heavyweight Sullivan Barrera (13-0, 8 KOs) versus Rowland Bryant (18-3, 12 KOs) of Almonte Springs, Florida, in an eight-rounder.

• Russian super middleweight Andrey Sirotkin (4-0, 1 KO) versus Michael Mitchell (3-4-2, 1 KO) of Paterson, New Jersey, in a six-rounder.

• Lightweight Ryan Martin (8-0, 4 KOs) of Chattanooga, Tennessee, versus Isaac Gonzalez (17-3, 12 KOs) of Tucson, Arizona, in a four-rounder.

Hopkins-Kovalev media picks

October, 23, 2014
Oct 23
Hopkins-Kovalev Jeff Fusco/Hoganphotos/Golden BoyA media poll sees Bernard Hopkins, who is closing in on 50, as a slight favorite to beat Sergey Kovalev.
The Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev light heavyweight unification fight, which takes place Nov. 8 (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, is unquestionably one of the biggest matches of the year.

There is a very diverse opinion among media members on who will win the fight: the 49-year-old living legend Hopkins or the gargantuan-punching, 31-year-old Kovalev, who has been destroying opponents fight after fight. As the fight approaches, 23 media members were asked for their picks for inclusion in the fight night program that will be for sale at the arena and SPBoxing.com.

For all of those who think Hopkins is a big underdog, think again. He edged Kovalev 12-11 in the media poll.

Here's a sampling of some of the picks:

• Dan Rafael (ESPN.com): Hopkins has been in this exact position many times, and he pulled an upset. I've learned my lesson. It's a tough fight, but Hopkins' ring intelligence, experience and chin trump a Kovalev whose opponents have not been much to write home about. Hopkins W12.

• Bob Velin (USA Today): Kovalev might be the hardest puncher Hopkins has faced, and there is no doubt Hopkins is the smartest boxer Kovalev has faced. That should make for a fascinating matchup. Hopkins is older than old for a fighter, but is probably in better shape than the Russian destroyer, and he has avoided damaging punishment. That said, I don't think he will escape Kovalev's ample power and Kovalev will not lose patience like so many of Hopkins' most recent victims. Kovalev KO10.

• Dave Weinberg (Atlantic City Press): Hopkins will frustrate and confuse Kovalev for the first few rounds, but Kovalev's power will eventually be the difference. Kovalev late KO.

• George Willis (New York Post): Hopkins has proved me wrong plenty of times. He hasn't had too much trouble with punchers. He beat Trinidad and ruined Pavlik. He'll have to prove me wrong again. Kovalev KO10.

• Mitch Abramson (New York Daily News): Hopkins is just too crafty, too smart and still possesses the necessary athleticism to beat a top fighter. Insane that a near-50-year-old can win? No, it's not. Hopkins W12.

• Ron Borges (Boston Herald): Hopkins will do what he does best. He'll mystify Kovalev into a fog of inaction and find a way to outpoint him. Hopkins W12.

• Graham Houston (British Boxing Monthly): I think Kovalev will outwork
Hopkins; don't think he will try to blast out the old ring general. Kovalev W12.

• Lem Satterfield (RingTV.com): Hopkins will be completely relaxed in this fight. He once told me that Kovalev is the virtual mirror image of Pavlik. However, I don't think that this will be as easy, but I do believe that he'll find a way to be victorious. Hopkins W12.

• Robert Morales (Los Angeles Daily News): I rarely go against Hopkins because of his defense and trickery, but have to go with Kovalev in this one because he'll be unfazed by the stuff that lulls others to sleep when they are in with Hopkins. Kovalev late KO.

• Jake Kaplan (Philadelphia Daily News): The ageless Hopkins will defy the odds again -- against an opponent young enough to be his son. Like many opponents before him, Kovalev will have trouble handling Hopkins' mind games before and during the fight. Hopkins W12.

• Tim Struby (ESPN The Magazine): Once again, Hopkins will defy conventional thought. He'll stay out of range, trash-talk, hold and frustrate Kovalev. Hopkins will also pick precise spots to stick and move; it won't be pretty. Hopkins W12.
Juergen Braehmer will make the third defense of his light heavyweight belt on Dec. 6 at the EWE Arena in Oldenburg, Germany, promoter Sauerland Event announced. However, Braehmer does not yet have an opponent.

He is coming off a decision win against Argentina’s Roberto Bolonti in June.

“I’ve kept in great shape since my last fight,” said Braehmer, 36, of Germany. “I’m looking forward to getting back into the ring and defending my title for a third time. It is not just about the victory for me. I want to prove that I am the best fighter in my weight category. I will put on a great show for the fans in Oldenburg and show everyone that I am the man to beat at 175 pounds.”

Braehmer (44-2, 32 KOs) holds a secondary belt. The organization’s main titleholder is the great Bernard Hopkins, who is set to meet Sergey Kovalev in a title unification match on Nov. 8 (HBO) in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Braehmer recently signed a contract extension with promoter Sauerland Event.

“We are very happy to continue our work with Juergen. He became a world champion (for the second time) in late 2013 and now we want to feature him in career-defining fights so that he can cement his legacy as one of Germany’s great champions,” promoter Kalle Sauerland said.

Adonis Stevenson all talk in 2014

October, 8, 2014
Oct 8
Adonis StevensonAP Photo/The Canadian Press, Jacques BoissinotLight heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson wants the winner of Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev.
Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson could be getting ready to fight titleholder Sergey Kovalev next month. That was the fight we all wanted to see as the year began.

But when Stevenson bailed on the bout and went from HBO to Showtime, he did it -- so he says -- to facilitate a fall fight with unified titleholder Bernard Hopkins, who was fighting on Showtime at the time.

While most would have preferred Stevenson-Kovalev, it was at least understandable why Stevenson would prefer a Hopkins fight. Hopkins is not a puncher like Kovalev, he has a much bigger name than Kovalev, and Stevenson likely would have made the same or more money against Hopkins.

But then Stevenson, who struggled severely to hang on to his title against unheralded Andrzej Fonfara in May in what was supposed to be a tuneup for whichever big fall fight he was going to have, also blew off the fight with Hopkins.

So what happened? Hopkins and Kovalev, having both been snubbed by Stevenson, got together and made a fight for Nov. 8 as Hopkins makes his return to HBO. It’s one of the biggest fights of the year.

And what of Stevenson? Not only did he skip out on fights with Hopkins and Kovalev, but he also turned down a fight with fellow Montreal star Jean Pascal, the former champion, leaving Stevenson with nothing this fall. Sure, he might fight again before the end of the year, but the three most significant and interesting matchups are all off the table.

With no fight set and all the momentum from his huge 2013 down the toilet, Stevenson apparently has a lot of time on his hands. So he took to his Facebook page and announced, “I will be ringside on November 8 for the fight of Bernard Hopkins vs. Sergey Kovalev. I will fight the winner for the unification.”

Ummmm, yeah. OK.

Didn’t he already have the chance to fight both of them in a unification fight?

If he really intends to fight the winner -- and I’ll believe it when I see it -- why didn’t Stevenson sign the deal that had been agreed to for the Kovalev fight? You know, the one that led to Stevenson, Al Haymon (Stevenson’s adviser), Showtime and others getting sued by Kovalev promoter Main Events? That lawsuit was dropped when Hopkins-Kovalev was made.

If Stevenson really wanted to fight Hopkins, why not finalize the fight when it was sitting in his lap? There was plenty of time to get it done. It was the entire reason, supposedly, that Haymon steered Stevenson to Showtime in the first place and blew off the Kovalev deal.

Stevenson has been awfully good at talking this year but not very good at fighting. I hope he enjoys Hopkins-Kovalev. His ringside seat will probably the closest he will get to either of them for the foreseeable future.
Sergey Kovalev Scott Heavey/Getty ImagesSergey Kovalev is training in the mountains of Big Bear while waiting for the birth of his son.

Light heavyweight titleholder Sergey Kovalev is deep in his training in the mountains of Big Bear, California, getting ready for his highly anticipated unification showdown with the great Bernard Hopkins. But as focused as Kovalev is on training for the Nov. 8 fight (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, his thoughts are also with his wife, Natalya.

She is due to give birth to their first child, a boy, on Oct. 17. As important as the baby is to Kovalev, he said the biggest fight of his life is his priority right now, and he knows he might miss the birth.

Kovalev is doing the strength and conditioning part of his training in Big Bear until Thursday, so he is not far from Los Angeles. But then he is due to return to his home base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for the sparring part of his training camp. Meanwhile, his wife will remain in Los Angeles, since she is not traveling at this late stage of her pregnancy.

"Right now, she's very afraid she will stay alone in L.A. She's most worried that I won't see him after [he is born] for one month. She says that for her it's very important. I said, ‘Why? I will see a picture,’” Kovalev joked at his media day a few days ago.

More seriously, Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) said training in order to ensure that he wins the fight is the most important thing he can do for his family.

"I have in my body, I have in my face, I have in my mind the motivation that I need to get this win because it's my future,” he said. “My goal still is to be undisputed in this division. This fight is two more titles; it's my goal. I want all four."

He faces the savviest fighter in boxing in Hopkins, who turns 50 in January but is still fighting at a very high level.

"Our styles are different. American and Russian boxers are from different boxing schools,” Kovalev, 31, said. “Hopkins' style is old-school. He's doing some things that nobody does. Nobody does it how he does it. This fight for me will be a big test. Hopkins is very good fighter. He is a very tough fighter and very smart. It will be a very good fight.

“His defense is incredible too. We're working on everything. I have prepared for 12 rounds because I understand his strategy, what he wants to do, and we'll be prepared for anything. I don't have any strategy. I just go into the fight. What will happen, will happen. I'm not scared to lose, I'm not scared to win. This is a sport. But Hopkins is a legend. He's a professor of boxing. He's a very proud man as a boxer. He's very smart, he's very technical. It will be very difficult to fight him, and for me it will be very big test. I'm ready for any test in my life. I have prepared for this test."

Kovalev will be making the third defense of his 175-pound belt. Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs) outpointed Tavoris Cloud in March 2013 to claim a title, defended it against Karo Murat by lopsided decision last October, and then outpointed (and dropped) Beibut Shumenov to unify two belts on April 19.

Big opportunity for Abregu, Ali

October, 3, 2014
Oct 3
The peace accord between Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank has quickly yielded its first fruit -- the first non-purse bid fight the companies have done together since 2011: an interesting welterweight match between 2008 U.S. Olympian Sadam Ali, still looking for his breakout fight, and battle-tested contender Luis Carlos Abregu.

They will hook up Nov. 8 (HBO) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey, in the fight that will open the broadcast, which will be headlined by the much-anticipated light heavyweight unification match between the great Bernard Hopkins and offensive machine Sergey Kovalev.

"The cold war is officially over, but that peace will now extend to the ring when two of the top contenders in the 147-pound division go head to head in Atlantic City," Golden Boy president Oscar De La Hoya said. “I have made a promise to the fans that nothing will stand in our way of putting on the best fights our sport has to offer. Consider this monster matchup between a Top Rank fighter [Abregu] and a Golden Boy Promotions fighter [Ali] another example of making good on that pledge.”

For Ali (20-0, 12 KOs), it’s a chance to finally be on the big stage as he makes his HBO debut; Golden Boy returns to HBO after an 18-month exile.

"This is the big fight I've been asking for, and I'm ready to perform on Nov. 8," Ali said. “Abregu is a seasoned veteran. He hits hard and he comes to fight. It's the type of win that will put me in the title picture, and I can't wait to put on a great fight for the fans and bring the win back to Brooklyn."

Argentina’s Abregu (36-1) has had his HBO opportunities, suffering his lone defeat on points to Timothy Bradley Jr. in 2010 and scoring a seventh-round knockout of highly touted prospect Thomas Dulorme in 2012.

Now Abregu aims to put himself in the same conversation as some of his talented countryman.

"I've been sitting back watching my fellow Argentinian brothers Marcos Maidana, Lucas Matthysse and Diego Chaves all get their opportunities to fight in the U.S., and now it’s my time to show the boxing world the best fighter from Argentina is me," Abregu said. “I have been avoided by Manny Pacquiao, Brandon Rios and Ruslan Provodnikov, so I thank Sadam Ali for stepping up to fight me. Nov. 8 I will show the fans why I am the best and most exciting fighter from Argentina. Viva!"