ATLANTIC CITY — On Nov. 30, HBO will televise a doubleheader featuring hard-hitting light heavyweights as Sergey Kovalev make the first defense of his WBO title against Ismayl Sillakh on the undercard of RING and WBC champion Adonis Stevenson vs. Tony Bellew in Quebec City, Canada.
The card will feature Kovalev (22-0-1, 20 knockouts), who dethroned previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly with a fourth-round stoppage in his last fight in August, opposite Sillakh (21-1, 17 KOs), a winner of four bouts since suffering an eighth-round stoppage to Denis Grachev last April.
Meanwhile Stevenson (22-1, 19 KOs) is undefeated with 10 knockouts in his past 10 fights heading into his match with Bellew (20-1-1, 12 KOs), who is 4-0-1, with two knockouts since falling by majority decision to Cleverly in October of 2011.
On Showtime on Saturday, 48-year-old Bernard Hopkins brawled his way to a virtual rout of Karo Murat in defense of the IBF belt he won by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March to extend his own record as the oldest man to win a significant crown.
A former undisputed middleweight champion with a division record 20 defenses, Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KOs) first set the record at the age of 46 by outpointing Jean Pascal for the WBC’s title in May of 2011 before being dethroned following a majority decision loss to Chad Dawson in May of 2012.
In victory over Murat, Hopkins said he longed for a megabout at 160 pounds against RING No. 1-rated pound-for-pound fighter Floyd Mayweather Jr., who is also THE RING’s 147- and 154-pound champion.
Meanwhile, Dan Goossen, promoter of RING super middleweight champion Andre Ward (26-0, 14 KOs), said he is interested in matching Hopkins against Ward, who is scheduled to face Edwin Rodriguez (24-0, 16 KOs) on Nov. 16 on HBO.
“I’ve been trying to get that fight for the two years,” said Goossen. “I hear that Hopkins is making some waves, or Schaefer was, about fighting at 168, too.”
Hopkins indicated that he would prefer unification bouts against either Stevenson or Kovalev, were it not for HBO’s refusal to work with his promoter, Golden Boy.
“Truthfully, to be honest with you, I’d rather unify the titles. I’d rather be the guy that has all of the titles, like I proved in the middleweight division,” said Hopkins, during Saturday night’s post-fight press conference.
“But there’s a cold war going on, and that cold war going on is that HBO don’t want to do business with my family, and my family is Golden Boy Promotions, and I ride and die with people that ride and die with me.”
Hopkins took a shot at HBO during his post-fight interview with Showtime’s Jim Gray.
“Trust me, anybody else who says that they think they’re champion because they might have a belt?” said Hopkins, in the ring. “They’re frauds. Showtime’s got the best light heavyweight in the world.”
Asked by RingTV.com if he would consider a fight with WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs), who will face Tamas Kovacs (23-0, 14 KOs) on a Dec. 14 card promoted by Golden Boy, Hopkins said, “Not really.”
“I don’t think nobody really knows Shumenov,” said Hopkins. “I want a big, super fight. Shumenov is not a super fight.”
That leaves Mayweather, a matchup Hopkins touted during the aftermath of Mayweather’s majority decision victory over Canelo Alvarez last month. Mayweather has said that he plans to return to the ring in May.
“I’d rather have Floyd than that other guy [Shumenov.] I’d rather have Floyd Mayweather,” said Hopkins of Mayweather, whom he said ranks third, all-time, behind Sugar Ray Robinson and Muhammad Ali, and ahead of fighters such as Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns and Marvelous Marvin Hagler.
“If I have time between now and May, I walk around only five, six pounds over my fighting weight. You give me May of next year, 2014, to make 160? Oh, that fight is on. That’s Hagler and Hearns. That’s Hagler and Leonard. That’s Leonard and Hearns. I mean, we haven’t had that type of urban [matchup between] two fighters in many years. We have a guy that’s almost 37 in February, and a guy, myself, that’s 49 on Jan. 15, a couple of months.”
Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer has toyed with the monicker, “50-50,” if Mayweather-Hopkins ever comes to fruition.
“I don’t see that happening right now, but do I see it potentially happening? It could. I like the promotional story. I really do. With Bernard approaching 50, and Floyd Mayweather approaching 50-0. We all know that Rocky Marciano retired as 49-0. So Floyd is approaching a 50 number, and Hopkins is approaching a 50 number, and that sort of gets my promotional juices going. So we’ll see…I have a plan. There are a lot of names out there,” said Schaefer.
“I’m not going to go and tell you guys what I’d like do to or who it’s going to be., because that would be pretty stupid negotiating on my part. I know how to get big fights done, and I like to get big fights done, and I enjoy it, and the fans enjoy it and that’s what gets me going. We want a big fight, and there are some big names out there, and so we’re going to have to see who is going to step up. Maybe some of those youngsters changed their minds after tonight’s performance.”
Schaefer did mention to ringside media members that he would broach the subject of a fight with Hopkins with Mayweather.
“Floyd is the No. 1 fighter, pound-for-pound, and he’s going to decide who he wants to fight and when he wants to fight, and where he wants to fight,” said Schaefer. “So it’s not up to me, it’s up to Floyd. I’ll have to have a conversation with Floyd and his team and see what he wants to do.”
Photo by Naoki Fukuda
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]