Hopkins otherworldly in decision win
Light heavyweight titlist defies age (48) and reason in successful defense
ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- Light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins, known for fighting at a measured paced and usually being in -- let's be honest -- boring fights, was forced into a bit of a brawl with mandatory challenger Karo Murat. And at age 48, Hopkins was more than up to the task.
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In one of the most fan-friendly fights in recent years for Hopkins -- the second half of it, anyway -- boxing's resident living legend outslugged Germany's Murat to retain his 175-pound title en route to a clear unanimous decision before 6,324 on Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall.
"The plan was to let the dog follow the bone into the dark alley," Hopkins said. "He doesn't know what he's about to get into, but he's waiting. You stalk him. He doesn't know what he has gotten himself into."
Hopkins, of Philadelphia, was making the first defense of the belt he won in March by easily outboxing Tavoris Cloud to become the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world title.
It was the second time that the ageless Hopkins had broken that record. He also did it in 2011, at age 46, when he traveled to then-light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal's turf in Montreal for a rematch of a controversial draw and outpointed him to break heavyweight legend George Foreman's record.
In beating Murat, Hopkins added to his historic legacy by becoming the oldest fighter to defend a world title, winning easily on the scorecards, 119-108, 119-108 and 117-110. ESPN.com also had Hopkins winning, 116-111.
To see Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 KOs) -- in his third light heavyweight title reign after making a middleweight division-record 20 title defenses -- do what he is doing at his age was very impressive. After a seemingly close first half of the fight, Hopkins took over. He was stalking Murat, out-landing his opponent and beating him to the punch. Hopkins won most of the exchanges, swapping punches like he hadn't done in years.
For the fight, Hopkins landed 247 of 565 punches (44 percent), according to CompuBox statistics, while the 30-year-old Murat landed 147 of 486 (30 percent). Considering the age gap, most would figure Murat would be the busier fighter.
"I'm a freak. I'm an alien," Hopkins said, referring to the new nickname -- "The Alien" -- that he gave himself for this fight, after years of being known as "The Executioner."
"Aliens don't have years, months, days or minutes," he said. "We're aliens."
Alien or human, Hopkins did not appear to be three months shy of 49.
"He was so far ahead in the last round and he still went for it," Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer said. "Bernard is amazing. He's an alien, and those were alien moves. The man from Mother Earth [Murat] did not like it to the body. I was thinking like I was watching Bernard from back in 2008, when he took apart Kelly Pavlik right here in this arena, and he's still performing at that level."
The fight began in typical Hopkins style, with a slow pace and Hopkins initiating clinches -- although Murat tried to fight him. Murat complained about Hopkins sneaking a low blow around him when Murat had his back turned in the second round, another frame with very little action.
Hopkins-Murat Punch Stats
|-- Statistical support from Showtime|
But Murat continued to bull forward and landed a very solid right hand in the third round. Hopkins came back moments later with a stiff right hand of his own, although Murat was clearly outworking him.
Hopkins got the crowd excited in the fifth round, but not from punching. When Murat was turned around during a clinch, Hopkins kissed him once on the neck and once on the back of his head.
Hopkins slipped to the mat in the sixth round and Murat hovered over him, hitting him twice while he was down. But the infraction elicited only a warning from referee Steve Smoger rather than a point deduction for the clear foul.
As slowly as the fight had begun, the second half was action-packed. Hopkins had a big seventh round, hurting Murat with a right and a left hand followed by a body shot, and then got a bonus when Murat fired a left hook at Hopkins on the break and Smoger docked him a point for the foul in a round that featured as much action as the rest of the fight had to that point.
Hopkins continued to dominate in the eighth, landing a series of left hands and hurting Murat with a right hand. As Hopkins was taking it to Murat, who bled from a cut over his left eye, he was yelling at Murat's cornermen.
"I was telling his people to stop the fight," Hopkins said. "He was cut and he wasn't going to win the fight. I was using psychology, saying they should stop the fight, but it didn't work."
Hopkins hurt Murat (25-2-1, 15 KOs), who was 5 when Hopkins turned pro in 1988, in the 12th round with a clean right hand and had him leaning near the ropes and trying to cover up. All the offense Murat could mount in the final round was to twice hit Hopkins low and to hit him on the break in an apparently desperate move. He also tried to head-butt Hopkins at the end of the round, to no avail. It was the last gasp of a beaten man.
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"Bernard is a good boxer," Murat said, "but I know if it was not due to these cuts, I would have been in better shape and I could have won."
Hopkins, who hasn't had a knockout since he stopped Oscar De La Hoya in an undisputed middleweight championship fight in 2004, wanted one badly. He was clearly going for it.
"I really wanted to get the knockout," he said. "I have a [nine]-year drought. He was really tough. He was a slow puncher but a good puncher. He wouldn't back down. When you go for a knockout, you have to take some punches. But this is what they want to see. I wanted a knockout, so you take risks. Don't ever take your mandatory lightly. That guy would give anybody in the light heavyweight division problems."
With the mandatory out of the way, Hopkins is hoping for a big-time fight. He has talked of a showdown with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. -- at welterweight or junior middleweight -- but that fight is probably more fantasy that reality. Hopkins' problem is that he is affiliated with Showtime, and most of the top light heavyweights and super middleweights -- such as Adonis Stevenson, Sergey Kovalev, Pascal, Lucian Bute and Andre Ward -- fight on HBO.
"Showtime has the best light heavyweight in the world, but I'm game to fight anybody," Hopkins said. "The fans need to protest.
"Floyd is the best boxer on the planet for the last 10 years. That's a big challenge for me, and I like challenges like that. I'd definitely do it. I could make 160."
What Hopkins does next is something to discuss later. For now, he should revel in what he did, at age 48, to a solid contender.
"Incredible," is how Murat promoter Chris Meyer of Sauerland Event described Hopkins. "Very simple."
And Hopkins had a simple answer for why he remains so good at his age.
"Aliens," he said, "never get old."
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