Hopkins to defend title against Murat
Light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins will continue his storied career at age 48 by facing mandatory challenger Karo Murat of Germany this summer, Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Wednesday.
"History is marching on," Schaefer said. "Bernard is up for the challenge. Karo Murat is 29, young enough to be Bernard's son. He's a good fighter and he has been waiting for this kind of opportunity."
Schaefer said he and Chris Meyer, the general manager of Murat promoter Sauerland Event, have agreed to all terms. Schaefer said he is working on the date, location and television outlet but said the fight would take place in July or August with either the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., or Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., as the likely venue.
"It's an obligation I have to do now," Hopkins told ESPN.com while taking a break from a training session at the Joe Hand Boxing Gym in Philadelphia. "If there was a better option, maybe I'd do it. But there is no real option that's better right now with all the other [top] guys fighting other fights right now. So there's no other better option right now financially or historically than doing this fight and getting it out of the way, and at least you don't get stripped of the title. But I got bigger fish to fry after I execute this guy. After this I want a superfight."
Hopkins outpointed Tavoris Cloud on March 9 at the Barclays Center to win a light heavyweight belt for the third time and become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title, breaking his own mark set at age 46 against Jean Pascal in their 2011 rematch.
In beating Cloud, a man 17 years his junior, Hopkins looked energetic and fresh and vowed to continue fighting. However, Hopkins knew he was going to have to face Murat next or give up the belt.
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In order for the IBF to sanction Cloud-Hopkins, Cloud had to get an exception because his mandatory defense against Murat was due. The IBF granted the exception -- and Murat's team did not protest -- with the stipulation that Cloud and Hopkins both agree that the winner would next face Murat or forfeit the title.
When Cloud-Hopkins was put together, Schaefer worked out a deal with Meyer in the event that Hopkins won and decided to keep the belt. But Schaefer still had to get the OK from Hopkins to go forward and finalize the fight.
"I had already made a deal and agreed on the purse and everything with Chris, but I had to wait to sit down face-to-face with Bernard," Schaefer said. "He came to Los Angeles and we met on Friday, and Bernard made it clear to me that he feels great and that history will march on. I told him, 'Great, looking forward to it, now let me get it done.'
"I needed to know from Bernard if he wanted to fight or if he wanted to fight but fight somebody other than Murat. He could have said, 'I am calling it a day' or he could have given up the title to fight someone else or he can defend the title. The IBF has always been supportive of Bernard, and he has a good relationship with the IBF, and he said, 'I'm not giving up the title.'"
The only loss Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs) has suffered came via 10th-round knockout to Nathan Cleverly of Wales in a 2010 title elimination bout. Cleverly went on to win a world title, and he and Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) have been calling each other out. But with Hopkins owing Murat a mandatory and Cleverly making his own mandatory defense against Germany's Robin Krasniqi in London on April 20, that potential unification showdown could not be made for their next bouts.
"From what I've seen of Murat, he's a durable guy and a 'B' fighter, but I have to look at him like he's an 'A' fighter," Hopkins said. "He fought Cleverly and he got some experience. He's rough and tough, so you got to come up with a game plan, especially at age 48. People want to tune in and see, 'Is tonight the night Bernard Hopkins gets old?'"
The only other blemish on Murat's record was a split draw with former titleholder Gabriel Campillo in October 2011. Murat won his only fight since, a seventh-round knockout of Sandro Siproshvili last June.
"We have come to an agreement," Meyer said. "We at Sauerland and Karo are exited about this. We expected that Bernard would prefer to fight Cleverly in the U.K. or even resign from boxing. But he is what he is -- a warrior, a fighter. He does now what he always did -- do his mandatory, even against a fighter who is virtually unknown in the USA. Karo is delighted that after a very long wait of more than 12 months he has now his go, his shot at the world title.
"I have to give credit to Richard, who is one of the toughest negotiators in this industry. But he is a true professional and knows the business inside-out. We were able to close a deal within a very short time. We are happy to work with Richard and his whole team."
Hopkins said his goal is take care of Murat and move on to a super fight. He said he is interested in unifying light heavyweight titles with Cleverly or defending against super middleweight titlist Carl Froch of England, should he defeat Mikkel Kessler in their May 25 rematch.
"Those are both huge fights over there in the U.K., and I'd go over there for those fights, no problem," Hopkins said. "I love when the crowd is against me. I love shutting them up."
Hopkins also mentioned a possible future fight with former super middleweight titlist Lucian Bute should he defeat Pascal in their May 25 fight. Hopkins also said he would be willing to go to Bute's turf in Montreal, which is also Pascal's home region and where Hopkins beat him in their rematch.
"Listen, these guys have fights coming up and nobody is banging the door down to fight Bernard Hopkins," he said. "I talked to Richard along with [attorney] Eric Melzer, and I know I had a duty after the Cloud fight to fight the mandatory, so we decided to get Murat out of the way, and then I can go on and unify the titles before I turn 50."
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