- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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WASHINGTON -- There are few superlatives left to describe Bernard Hopkins, the nearly half-century old living legend still going strong at 49. But brilliant works.
He added yet another piece of history to his bulging résumé that makes him a shoo-in first-ballot Hall of Famer as he outpointed Beibut Shumenov to unify light heavyweight world titles before a crowd of 6,823 on Saturday night at the D.C. Armory.
Two judges had it 116-111 for Hopkins while the third, Gustavo Padilla, had it 114-113 for Shumenov, a scorecard that will go down among the worst in modern boxing history. Even Shumenov didn't think he won the fight.
Nonetheless, it was another masterful Hopkins performance against a man who was 5 years old when Hopkins turned pro in 1988.
"I'm special, in a way that is good," Hopkins said. "I don't have to explain special. There is no definition for special. Special speaks for itself. I had a great night. I am a great champion."
In his third reign with a 175-pound title, Hopkins, who dropped Shumenov in the 11th round, retained his belt for the second time and added another strap, making him the oldest fighter in history to unify titles.
"Another page of history that I hope you don't get bored with," Hopkins said. "Money is great, but history is something that you can never get rid of and act like it didn't happen. I'm glad to [unify titles]."
It was yet another record for Hopkins. As a middleweight, he set the division record with 20 title defenses and also became the first fighter to unify all four major alphabet belts. In recent years, he has also set various age-related records, including oldest boxer to hold a world title (49), oldest to win a world title -- he did that twice, at age 46 and 48 -- and oldest to successfully defend a world title (49).
"Absolutely amazing," Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer said of Hopkins' masterpiece. "He keeps on turning back the clock and making history. Bernard Hopkins should be in the top 3 pound for pound. He turns in these performances against guys who could be his son."
Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs), of Philadelphia, now wants to seek more history by further unifying titles against lineal champion Adonis Stevenson of Montreal, a fight on the drawing board for the fall in the wake of Stevenson's defection from HBO to Showtime to last month.
"I want to be undisputed light heavyweight champion this year," Hopkins said. "The best fighter pound for pound is Floyd Mayweather and behind him is Andre Ward, but I ain't too far from the top three. I feel my age and the way I'm doing it, I'm not fighting cream puffs and I'm not done yet.
"I must be the undisputed light heavyweight champion before I leave. We are with Showtime until I end my career and whatever fight it is I want to be light heavyweight champion before 50. Stevenson, I'm coming to Canada. I'm getting my papers together."
Stevenson first has to win his own title defense against Andrzej Fonfara on May 24.
"I think it's a terrific matchup," Schaefer said. "I believe this is a big fight for Bernard and for Stevenson and I will get it done."
Hopkins-Shumenov began extremely slowly with neither fighter doing much in the first two rounds, although Shumenov appeared to have a slight edge. But Hopkins, a notoriously slow starter, began to pick things up and had a strong third round, landing a hard overhand right that got the crowd to begin chanting "BHop! BHop!"
Hopkins continued to find a home for his right hand in the fourth round and although fighting at a measured pace, landed some hard jabs and also cracked Shumenov with a clean right hand to the jaw in the fifth round.
Shumenov, often a volume puncher, was nothing like that, giving Hopkins too much respect. He was throwing one punch at a time and was wide open for Hopkins' left-right combination. In the seventh round, Hopkins stepped hard into a series of punishing jabs that rocked Shumenov.
Hopkins continued to pound Shumenov with counter right hands and then hurt him badly in the 11th round.
Hopkins, who hasn't had a knockout since stopping Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the ninth round of a middleweight unification fight in 2004 and hadn't had a knockdown since dropping Joe Calzaghe in the first round of a light heavyweight title fight in 2008, feinted with a jab and followed with a powerful overhand right that nailed Shumenov on the side of the head and dropped him with less than two minutes left in the round.
"I wanted to be patient and not overshoot the runway and get overexcited but I knew he was hurt," Hopkins said. "He went down to one knee and bought some time. Then he started grabbing me and the bell rang.
"But [trainer] Naazim [Richardson] was begging me to throw that six-inch right hand over the jab. I didn't get it off earlier. It was there the whole fight. But he has an awkward style. I've been around 26 years, seen everything and I made the adjustments.
"I was having fun. I wanted to show that I can stand in the pocket. I got hit with some good shots but I never wavered. I tried to stop him. He's tough but I was going for it."
After the knockdown, the crowd erupted into chants of "BHop! BHop!" again and he continued go after Shumenov. Although clearly ahead in the 12th round, Hopkins was still on the attack in the last round and the crowd cheered his every move.
Padilla's scorecard could not be overlooked despite Hopkins' victory.
"Listen, when you get into all that about the judges and all that stuff, they go to school. They have commissions to regulate all that," Hopkins said. "I don't like to get into all of that. It's not my job to deal with that. It's my job to get ready to unify the championship before 50."
Said Schaefer, "That was complete bulls---. I'm speechless. That's another judge who should retire."
The 30-year-old Shumenov (14-2, 9 KOs), a 2004 Olympian from Kazakhstan who lives in Las Vegas, was making his sixth defense and didn't think he won the fight, either.
"To be honest, I wasn't thinking about the scorecards," Shumenov said when asked about the split decision. "Obviously, I chose the wrong strategy. I'm kind of angry I lost the fight. I am a true warrior. I couldn't get the victory. I wanted to fight the best and tonight it was not my best."
Hopkins, however, was at his best, at least as best as a 49-year-old could be.
"I trained so hard. One thing I want people to know before I leave this game is I gave it my all," Hopkins said. "I set out to be the best in the light heavyweight division. I'm thirsty for it like I was at the middleweight division.
"I describe my legacy like a Joe Frazier. We get knocked down but we get back up. I'll let the historians analyze and debate over the years as I grow a deeper gray beard watching soap operas. I'll let them break down my legacy and how it compares to someone else."
And like that, Hopkins left with yet another belt wrapped around his waist, on his way to have a celebratory slice of chocolate cheesecake.
There are few superlatives left to describe Bernard Hopkins, the nearly half-century old fighter still going strong at age 49. But brilliant works.