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Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Bernard Hopkins, a boxing artist

By Kieran Mulvaney
ESPN.com

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- They say Father Time is the one opponent whom no fighter can defeat, but Bernard Hopkins is doing a good job of bloodying the old man's nose on his ongoing march toward ring immortality. He became the oldest boxer to unify world titles with a win over Beibit Shumenov at the DC Armory (even though one judge bafflingly scored the fight for the Las Vegas-based Kazakh) on a three-fight Showtime card that featured a welterweight changing of the guard and a middleweight title defense by Peter Quillin. Here are five things we learned on Saturday night.

1. It Isn't Just About His Age ...

Yes, yes, Hopkins is old. We know that. But he doesn't keep winning because of his age. His years of experience give him an advantage, of course, but only because he is able to ally them to a remarkable ring intelligence. He is, it is fair to say, no longer blessed with especially blistering hand speed, and yet he is able to disguise his movement so well, and steer his opponents into positions that are so disadvantageous for them, that once he has figured out his punch of choice for the evening, he is able to land it repeatedly and almost at will.

Against Shumenov, as it so often is lately, that punch was the lead overhand right, thrown from behind a high left shoulder time and again and landing with a thud against Shumenov's jaw so often that it eventually put him down. Early on, Hopkins identified his opponent's left hand as a weakness, both because Shumenov carried it low in defense and because when he threw it, he brought himself into position for the right hand. And once Hopkins had dialed in his plan, Shumenov had no Plan B of his own to counter it.

In Hopkins, and especially late-career Hopkins, we are seeing a man who is not so much old as old school, someone who carries in his head a lifetime of perfecting the fine art of pugilism and who uses that knowledge to analyze, break down and neutralize one foe after another. Adonis Stevenson, the next target on his radar, would do well to spend a lot of time in the classroom watching film of the master in action.

2. ... But It Also Really Is

Having said all that, while the "Bernard Hopkins is really old" storyline is undeniably somewhat repetitive, it's also inescapable. Remember when he was considered over-the-hill before he fought Felix Trinidad? That was almost thirteen years ago. It has been almost a decade since he made his record twentieth middleweight title defense, when he reached the age -- 40 -- at which he had promised his mother he would retire. For many men in their mid-to-late forties, even comparatively fit ones, physical activity that once was relative painless is now accompanied by lingering aches and pains; with increased maturity comes gray hair, an expanding waistline and ever-more-regular 3 a.m. trips to the bathroom. And yet there was Hopkins, closing in on 50, clowning and taunting Shumenov, causing the crowd of almost 7,000 to scream his name as he scored an 11th-round knockdown, and looking as if he could keep going for years.

3. Is the Magic Over?

There have been a few occasions in the career of Paulie "Magic Man" Malignaggi when it seemed the end might be near, most notably after his stoppage losses to Ricky Hatton and Amir Khan. But each time, he rebounded with performances -- twice against Juan Diaz, a rare stoppage win over Vyacheslav Senchenko -- that hinted at reserves yet to be tapped. This one, though, felt different. Even into his relative dotage, Malignaggi has been able to draw upon a speed advantage against almost every opponent. Against Shawn Porter, not only was he not the faster man, he was demonstrably not the bigger or stronger one.

There are undoubtedly still plenty of boxers whom Paulie could beat, but few of them are at championship level. While it is, of course, entirely his choice whether or when to retire, the shockingly emphatic nature of this defeat, and the fact that he now has a broadcasting career that relies on his being sharp of mind and fast of wit, suggests that the time has come to hang up the gloves.

4. Showtime Launches Himself into the Big Time

Only four fights and 16 months ago, Shawn "Showtime" Porter was reeled in over the second half of a contest against veteran Julio Diaz and was arguably slightly fortunate to leave the ring with a draw. His talent was clear, as was his natural speed and physical strength, but his boxing acumen seemed a little suspect. The thought occurred that Porter might end up as another strong young prospect who wouldn't fulfil his substantial promise.

Well, so much for that. After seizing a welterweight title in dominant fashion against the experienced Devon Alexander, he defended it in a star-making performance against Malignaggi. In none of Malignaggi's previous 38 professional contests -- not even in his lopsided losses to Miguel Cotto, Hatton or Khan -- had Malignaggi been so overwhelmed and dominated as he was by Porter.

There are nits that can be picked. At times, Porter remains surprisingly raw and reliant on his natural gifts. But after a slightly wild round 2, he showed composure to reload in the third on his way to scoring the stoppage. There are few things in boxing more primal than a young contender annihilating a respected veteran. This was one of those moments -- like Lucas Matthysse annihilating DC's Lamont Peterson -- that cause eyes to widen and pulses to race in anticipation of what may yet be to come.

5. Just How Sweet is Kid Chocolate?

Peter "Kid Chocolate" Quillin is clearly a very talented prize fighter and one of the best middleweights in the world. There were times in his bout against Lukas Konecny when he threw combinations that were things of beauty: hooking behind his challenger's high guard to land to the side of the head, dropping down to the body, firing a right hand to the head and launching a pinpoint short uppercut. It is also, it must be said, often extremely hard to look good against an opponent with a good chin and a tight defense who does little-to-nothing in terms of engaging.

And yet, it feels as if we've been waiting a while now for Quillin to take a step up to another level, to show that he isn't just very good, but very, very good, to give us that reason to tune in the next time and recommend him to our friends as a fighter to watch. And it just isn't happening. Quillin dominated Konecny, as he dominated Gabriel Rosado the last time out, but as was the case in his previous title defense, he managed the seemingly impossible task of laboring his way to a one-sided victory. There are times, as against Hassam N'Dam, when Quillin fights can be fun to watch. But there have been a few too many times of late when they haven't. Quillin is still looking for a signature performance to show he belongs in the class of his more celebrated contemporaries, such as Gennady Golovkin and Sergio Martinez. On the plus side, a mooted matchup with Danny Jacobs should provide the kind of challenge, and fireworks, for which we yearn.