I didn't want to be rude, or a know-it-all, like one of these pundits who signs off on all boxing matches and comes off as if they think they know better than the promoters, the matchmakers and sometimes the fighters themselves. But I had to admit to Bernard Hopkins, the ageless wonder from Philadelphia who flies under the radar somewhat in the whole-of-sports spectrum, but is still a stunning performer at an age where he has no business being active, let alone fighting at a Hall of Fame level, that I wasn't excited with his July 13 fight.
No disrespect intended to Karo Murat, the man who will glove up against Hopkins at Barclays Center, but I just think that at this stage of his career, he deserves nothing but meaningful fights. Hopkins (53-6-2 with 32 KOs) has earned, with his excellence and longevity, to face only the best and brightest boxers ... or, frankly, to fight whoever the heck he wants to at this juncture. If Hopkins made it clear on the down low that he wants to ease back some, take an easier schedule, not try to climb Everest and set his sights on shorter mountains, who am I to quibble?
So, with that in mind, I gingerly told Hopkins that I was a bit bummed that he wouldn't be facing off with another person who the smart money thinks will beat him. I braced for blowback...
"You sound like me," he answered, referencing his Wednesday media luncheon in NYC, which I couldn't attend, because my oldest daughter needed to get her conjunctivitis treated. "I've been craving one of those fights I haven't had since I fought my now partner, Oscar De La Hoya [in 2004]. That's not one hundred percent why I'm in the game but..."
Hopkins explained that he didn't have his sights set on Murat, a 25-1-1 German resident whose resume doesn't suggest he should be getting a crack at the legend. But all the logical suspects were booked up, or otherwise detained. So he kept his promise to the IBF, whose light heavyweight belt he holds, after snagging it from Tavoris Cloud in his last outing, at Barclays, on March 9. The IBF asked him nicely to please fight the mandatory tittle defense in timely fashion if he should beat Cloud, and that he did, confounding yet again many folks who should know better, who should by now know that to bet against Hopkins is like practicing your karate kicks on a beehive: you might get away with it once, but it just ain't wise.
Hopkins, who has become an indispensable consigliere to Golden Boy day-to-day boss Richard Schaefer in the last few years, showed his promoter chops when he told me that Murat is a not a gimme opponent. He said that anytime a 29 year-old fights a 48 year-old, the younger man has a solid chance to win. I'm dubious, as I saw no reason on March 9 to think Hopkins has slipped an iota. But his promoter-speak does pass the sniff test when he notes that the joint will be fairly filled with folks on July 13 who will attend to see if Father Time has finally laid his greedy hands on Hopkins, and removed the force field which keeps him from deteriorating.
I'd be engaging in false hype if I told you that there was a possibility that Hopkins looks past Murat, and that is one reason to hit Barclays on July 13. He knows that a loss to this pretty mediocre man messes up his plan to have at least one more superfight -- I am a one-man drum-band lobbying for it to be against Andre Ward at a catchweight -- and won't fall prey to that.
"The stakes are raised, because if I lose, then a superfight is out the window," he said, in closing.