When former RING light heavyweight and middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins returns to the ring on Saturday night at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., against rugged and unbeaten IBF 175-pound titleholder Tavoris Cloud, it will be against a man who is 17 years his junior.
“I know I’m the better fighter. I know I have the better fighter’s IQ, and I am also the better-conditioned fighter. I believe that when I go in that ring, and Cloud is thinking something else, he’s going to be very, very surprised,” said Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 knockouts), who turned 48 in January, of the 31-year-old Cloud (24-0, 19 KOs).
“He’s in his early 30s, I believe, fighting someone that’s almost double his age. I mean, it’s natural. It’s natural that a person will say ‘Whoa, hey man, you know, this isn’t going to happen to me. He’s a couple years younger than my father or mother.’ So that is the reality of numbers, yes, you can’t mess with that.'”
With a win, Hopkins can eclipse his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown, a feat the Philadelphia native accomplished at the age of 46 with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal for the WBC’s light heavyweight belt in May of 2011.
Hopkins rose from knockdowns in the first and third rounds to salvage a disputed majority draw with Pascal in December of 2010, and was later dethroned as the WBC’s light heavyweight beltholder by Chad Dawson in April of last year.
Cloud appears to be mindful of the older man’s tricks, even though he believes Hopkins to be past his prime.
“I mean, he could be [past his prime.] To me, right now he’s the most dangerous fighter in the world,” said Cloud. “But he could be ripe for the picking. We’ll know once he gets hit a couple of times.”
While Hopkins will have been out of the ring for 11 months since facing Dawson, Cloud will have been out of action for more than a year since winning by disputed split-decision over southpaw Gabriel Campillo on Feb. 18 of 2012.
So Cloud is aware that anything less than a spectactular performance against Hopkins will be down-played by members of the boxing community.
“I know that people will try to take my credibility away even after I beat him,” said Cloud, during a recent interview with RingTV.com.
“They’ll say ‘You’re nothing,’ and that he was past him prime when you beat him and stuff like that. But it’s not that he’s a nobody, I’m just going to make him look that way.”
Cloud not only talks as if he’s going for the stoppage win against Hopkins, but he has made the move to trainer, Abel Sanchez.
Sanchez’s well-known pupil is Kazakhstan-born WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin (25-0, 22 KOS), scored his 13th consecutive knockout win in the seventh round over Philadelphia-based Hopkins mentoree Gabriel Rosado.
Asked if he could stop Hopkins, Cloud said, “I could,” adding, “it’s possible. It’s highly possible.”
“I did everything that I could possibly do to get that type of victory,” said Cloud. “Nobody can guarantee knockouts, but I can guarantee a victory.”
But Hopkins has heard that sort of talk many times before against younger fighters, often, prior to their demise.
“When you step in there I think that’s when, as a matter of fact, not think, I believe that’s when I know that he’s going to have to go ahead and adjust mentally and then adjust physically,” said Hopkins.
“That’s when a fight really begins. I mean, this isn’t the first time a fighter ever froze up like that in the ring when you start seeing something a little different than what he was speaking about prior to the fight.”
After he lost to Taylor, and then endured an immediate rematch loss, Hopkins rose into the light heavyweight division for triumphs over Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Ornelas and Roy Jones, his lone defeat prior to Dawson in the division being by split-decision against Joe Calzaghe.
“Bernard Hopkins has displayed inexhaustible resilience,” said Norm Frauenheim of www.15rounds.com. “At 48, he’s older than old school.”
But the guile of Hopkins, who has gone by the nickname, “The Executioner,” was not enough against Dawson. So there are some who question whether it will suffice against Cloud.
“Tavoris Cloud is exactly the type of bad ass who won’t be bothered or mentally undone by the extracurricular tactics of Bernard Hopkins,” said Jeffrey Freeman, www.KODigest.TV. “At age 48, that’s really all BHOP has left.”
Frauenheim and Freeman are among 20 boxing insiders who offered their thoughts concerning who will emerge triumphant between Hopkins and Cloud, with their opinions being listed below.
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Tavoris Cloud: Bernard Hopkins looked bad in his last outing against Chad Dawson, but that style was all wrong for him.
While it is hard to argue that age didn’t have something to do with it, Tavoris Cloud will offer a far more accommodating style. Cloud will seek to press Hopkins and bully him around the ring.
But he will run into the wily veteran’s bag of tricks. Hopkins will outwork Cloud on the inside and counter the hard-charging titleholder to a close decision victory.
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I favor the youth, physical strength and stamina of the younger man in what will be a somewhat ugly distance fight that features of moments of sustained action and drama.
We all know Tavoris Cloud has trouble with boxers who give angles, as proven in his last fight against Gabriel Campillo, and we all know that Bernard Hopkins is a master boxer-technician.
However, Campillo’s fast, fluid, high-volume punching was a big part in his ability to bewilder Cloud in many rounds.
Hopkins is not that kind of boxer. He’s not that busy or fluid, and his willingness to grapple and engage in close — something Campillo avoided — might cost him against Cloud. Hopkins will will trouble Cloud with his jab and lateral movement.
He will also score with uppercuts in close, but so will Cloud, who will also have success with his right hand and left to the body. I think Hopkins will hold his own over the first half of the bout but he’ll gradually look to merely survive as the fight goes into the late rounds.
I think he’ll last the distance, which is a victory in itself for a 48-year-old veteran, but I believe Cloud will have a clear edge on the scorecards.
Bernard Hopkins SD 12 Tavoris Cloud: Bernard Hopkins has displayed inexhaustible resilience. At 48, he’s older than old school. It’s hard to see how he wins by much against the younger Tavoris Cloud.
Then again, Hopkins doesn’t figure to beat anyone by much anymore. Cloud will be there, right in front of Hopkins, who is at his best against exactly that kind of fighter.
The early rounds are dangerous for Hopkins. But he’s been there, done that. His ability to adjust on the fly and frustrate Cloud early, late and just about all of the time should be just enough in an ugly fight.
Tavoris Cloud UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Tavoris Cloud is exactly the type of bad ass who won’t be bothered or mentally undone by the extracurricular tactics of Bernard Hopkins. At age 48, that’s really all BHOP has left. Against a throwback fighter like Cloud, it won’t be enough and it won’t work.
Against Cloud, BHOP finally gets eaten up in the ring by a young hungry lion and even if Hopkins can somehow avoid catching a beating, he can’t avoid the fact that he’s going to lose this fight. Nobody stops Hopkins but Cloud will come as close as anyone ever has.
Don’t let Cloud’s performance in the Gabriel Campillo fight fool you into thinking that he’s an easy mark for Hopkins to outbox. Focus instead on how awful Hopkins looked against Chad Dawson.
That was a case of one fighter having a bad night as opposed to another being all out of good nights. Cloud will stave off execution to pound out a wide and convincing unanimous decision win. .
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: If Bernard Hopkins wins this fight, he can make a strong case for being the greatest over-40 boxer in the sport’s history.
To break the record for oldest fighter to win a major title not once, but twice, would be an incredibly powerful statement in his favor. While he has continually amazed us with his ring intelligence, his ability to keep up with younger fighters has eroded.
That was evident in his rematch with Chad Dawson, a fight which also saw Hopkins absorb a higher percentage of his opponents’ punches — an indication of slowing reflexes.
Tavoris Cloud has shown himself capable of generating great volume but he does slow down against the craftier fighters, a huge red flag against the ultimate craftsman in Hopkins.
If the series of long layoffs haven’t compromised Cloud’s ability to maintain a fast pace, and if he takes a page out of the Joe Calzaghe playbook and ignore Hopkins’ tactics, he has enough youth and stamina to take the hop out of “B-Hop.”
Bernard Hopkins SD 12 Tavoris Cloud: Bernard Hopkins, although in his later years, still is a man with tricks that I don’t think Tavoris Cloud will be able to handle. Hopkins wins a close split decision.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud: If Bernard Hopkins can keep the distance and frustrate Tavoris Cloud, then he can win a close decision.
Cloud’s only hope is being able to overwhelm and swarm Hopkins in the manner that Pascal did in parts during their two fights.
Cloud looked poor against Campillo and in Hopkins is facing a huge step up, regardless of age. Hopkins to win by decision.
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Tavoris Cloud: Bernard Hopkins has proven to be crafty time and again while giving younger fighters fits with his veteran experience.
Tavoris Cloud will try to force the pace. If he can force a fast one, Cloud will be successful. But the Gabriel Campilo fight shows he can be frustrated.
Hopkins to frustrate Cloud by unanimous decision and break his own record as oldest fighter to win a world title.
Bernard Hopkins D12 Tavoris Cloud: The irony with this match up is that although age and inactivity are always the lingering questions with Bernard Hopkins, he’s finally found himself an opponent in Tavoris Cloud who has actually fought one less time than B-Hop since 2010.
A prime Hopkins would outbox Cloud to a wide decision. But this version is coming off what I thought was a clear loss to Chad Dawson.
Meanwhile, Cloud got a gift against Gabriel Campillo and will be hungry to prove that performance was a fluke. I’m going to go out on a limb and call a draw, with several difficult rounds to score being the theme of this fight.
Tavoris Cloud UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Every time I have picked against Bernard Hopkins he has proven me wrong and laughed at me later.
He has a way of finding out who says what about him. I was wrong in the fights against Felix Trinidad, Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik.
In each case, I felt the younger man would be too much for Hopkins. Since then I have always picked Bernard. But probably to my regret, I am going the other way this time.
Its simply an age thing: 48 is 48. I’m going with the younger guy. I don’t really think Tavoris Cloud is special, but feel he’ll simply outhustle Bernard, who can’t go a full three minutes a round.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud: Could it be shut down night for either man? Tavoris Cloud proved in his last outing that he has limited skills, and in the past, Bernard Hopkins has schooled such underlings.
How long can he go on? I say at least one more fight. In a “do enough to win affair,” Hopkins takes home another belt by decision, 115-113?
Tavoris Cloud UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: This is a real tricky one. On the one hand, you have the legend that is Bernard Hopkins clearly on the slide judging recent displays.
But at the same time, he is up against a long-standing titleholder in Tavoris Cloud, who many suspect is only that because he has persistently fought lesser talents.
Eighteen years, however, is a lot for Hopkins to give up when he is no longer the force of yesteryear. Hence when push comes to shove, I’m siding with Cloud, somewhat reluctantly, to nick an ugly, probably unanimous, points decision.
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I’ve gone back and forth on this one a lot. Picking a Bernard Hopkins fight is a fool’s errand, and anyone who tells you differently is lying.
When I think he will win, he loses — see Jermain Taylor, twice — and when I think he’s going to lose, he wins — see Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, etc.
Tavoris Cloud is the exact type of fighter Hopkins would normally beat in his prime; a guy who is not to hard to hit, isn’t especially quick, and one who won’t be too hard to find.
But Hopkins isn’t in his prime anymore. In fact, he’s not even close. Yes, Hopkins would have beat Cloud, even just a few years ago. But I doubt he can now.
To beat Cloud, Bernard needs to throw — and land — a lot more shots than I think he can. I know he sees the openings, but I don’t think he can make those connections anymore.
I wouldn’t be shocked if I were wrong, but I believe this really is the end of the amazing Bernard Hopkins era. Call it Cloud by late stoppage or decision win.
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Tavoris Cloud: I’m at the point where I simply don’t pick against Bernard Hopkins, even when it appears that his opponent has many of the advantages.
I think Tavoris Cloud is a strong guy and a decent hitter. But I just think Hopkins is a bit too crafty and experienced for him.
I like Hopkins to once again find a way to defeat a younger foe in Cloud. I just think Hopkins is too crafty for him and I like him to pick his spots on his way toward a unanimous decision.
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: It’s hard to pick anyone to stop Bernard Hopkins, though it was almost the choice here. Against Jean Pascal, Hopkins was rocked in both fights.
Pascal is faster than Tavoris Cloud, but he’s not as consistent or relentless. Cloud is too easily discounted for his struggles with Gabriel Campillo, but Campillo beat him up with voluminous offense as much as defense.
Hopkins beats guys by making them slow their offense down. This fight could have some serious mauling, but Cloud’s short punches and steady work rate will be too much for the judges to ignore.
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: This is a difficult decision, as in every recent Bernard Hopkins fight. I always hate to pick against the ageless one, who remains a better boxer than Cloud.
But I think Trout — more athletic, quicker, stronger — is a slightly better all-around fighter at this point. I think Cloud wins by a close decision.
Tavoris Cloud W 12 Bernard Hopkins: Bernard Hopkins is still a great talker, but not a great world-champion caliber fighter anymore.
He’s shocked the boxing world many times, and there have been numerous times when I was wrong about him. But lately, I’ve been on a nice streak in knowing where Bernard is at this stage of his Hall of Fame career.
He’s at best an eight-round fighter against someone like Tavoris Cloud, who won’t fade like Jean Pascal did against him. Cloud may have even hurt him a few times. Maybe this is what Bernard needs to be convinced it’s over.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud: I honestly believe Bernard Hopkins still has the guile and the timing and the movement and, of course, the intelligence, to pull this off. I think Tavoris Cloud might actually be the perfect guy for him to exploit.
I guess it all depends on how much he actually does have left but in my opinion he does have enough left and will capture a suspenseful 12 round decision.
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Tavoris Cloud: I think we will see an old-school Bernard Hopkins domination of Tavoris Cloud. Yes, we know, Hopkins is older, but there’s no substitute for knowing every trick in the game.
Cloud is a physically strong guy, but his lack of variety will play right into Hopkins’ hands. I don’t expect any drama, and I think Hopkins could stop Cloud if he so desired. He probably won’t, though.
Tavoris Cloud UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Bernard Hopkins is obviously not the fighter — at least physically — that he was even a few years ago. But he’s still king of the mind games among all boxers, and will have to rely on that part of his game against Tavoris Cloud.
Physically, Cloud has all the advantages over B-Hop: Strength, speed, power, quickness. And Cloud has vowed he will not fall into Hopkins’ mind trap. If he can do that, and I believe he can, Cloud will win a unanimous decision against the ageless one.
The experts are virtually split, but at 10-9-1, they slightly favor IBF 175-pound titleholder Tavoris Cloud to successfully defend his belt against former RING middleweight and lightheavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins.
[Note: Martinez-Burgos was a draw, meaning all who selected otherwise received a loss]
Photos by Rich Kane, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by Tom Hogan, Hogan Photos, Golden Boy Promotions
Photo by David Martin Warr, Don King Productions
Photo by David Martin Warr, Don King Productions
Photo by Ed Mulholland, Fightwireimages.com
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]