Hopkins: After Murat, then Froch, Bute, Cleverly?
NEW YORK — Although IBF light heavyweight titleholder Bernard Hopkins has agreed to make the first defense of the belt he won from Tavoris Cloud last month against mandatory challenger Karo Murat of Germany, the 48-year-old legend isn’t like to stop there if he is successful against Murat.
The win over Cloud extended Hopkins’ 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 in Pascal’s country of Canada for the WBC’s light heavyweight belt in May of last year.
If he defeats Murat in a bout that is being targeted for July at a site to be determined, Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 knockouts) will likely continue to push the limits of the remarkable legacy of a man who is the former RING lightheavyweight and middleweight champion and who made a record 20 title defenses at 160 pounds.
Beyond Murat, Hopkins has expressed interest in fighting IBF super middleweight beltholder Carl Froch or ex-168-pound titleholder Lucian Bute.
As part of an HBO-televised split-site double-header May 25, Froch have a rematch with Mikkel Kessler, who decisioned Froch in April of 2004, and Bute will be involved in an all-Canadian clash with Pascal.
Hopkins spoke to RingTV.com while in attendance at Thursday night’s Boxing Writers’ Association of America dinner in New York, where RING junior featherweight champion Nonito Donaire was named Fighter of The Year, his trainer, Robert Garcia, Trainer of The Year, and Juan Manuel Marquez and Manny Pacquiao were honored for the Fight of The Year in the wake of Marquez’s sixth-round stoppage of Pacquiao in December.
“There are a lot of guys in my weight class, and there are guys who are a few pounds under the weight class. There are some 168- and 175-pounders who are fighting at around the same time that I’m fighting,” said Hopkins on Thursday night.
“So if we all do what we have to do with our opponents, then we have some options. Then it would be better if, hopefully, everybody wins, especially Froch. I’m biased, so I’m going to tell you who I want to win. I want Froch and Bute to win. To fight either one of them, I would go to their countries, and, you know, they love me in Canada.”
During an earlier interview on Thursday, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said promoter Frank Warren has also inquired about a match between Hopkins and WBO light heavyweight beltholder Nathan Cleverly, who must first get beyond an April 20 defense agaisnt Robin Krasniqi.
With Hopkins already set to face Murat, Schaefer was asked about a potential double-header featuring Hopkins-Murat and Cleverly against WBA counterpart Beibut Shumenov.
“I think that a potential Nathan Cleverly fight is certainly something that could fit within that history making run, because it would basically lead to a unification bout,” said Schaefer. “When I talked to Frank Warren on Monday, and he asked me if Bernard would be open to facing Nathan Cleverly later on in the summer. I told him that it was certainly something that we would look at if it is in the best interest to go and fight Nathan Cleverly. Frank then (asked) ‘If you be open to having Nathan Cleverly on the same card as Bernard,’ and I said, ‘Yes, I would be open to that.’
“I said, ‘One interesting fight would be maybe Nathan Cleverly against Beibut Shumenov to unify those titles, and then, Bernard fighting the winner of that fight. So it would really be something quite historic starting the roads to undisputed.”
Hopkins was approved to face Cloud only after agreeing to make his first defense against Murat (25-1-1, 15 KOs), who is 3-0-1 with two knockouts since being stopped in September of 2010 by Cleverly.
“I prefer it to be somebody that would make it a super fight, but I understand that to get the super fights, you have to live up to the obligations and part of the obligations to fight Cloud was that I agreed to do my No. 1 mandatory that had been waiting to face Cloud for a year. So I can’t get the opportunity to fight Cloud, and then, back out and say that I don’t want to fight the mandatory,” said Hopkins.
“If I had not have done that, then I wouldn’t have had my opportunity to face Cloud, so I couldn’t have my cake and eat it too. The No. 1 contender had been waiting for a long time, so I had two choices: Give the belt up and hope that somebody would fight me without the belt when it’s already a risk to fight me at the age of 48, or, to me, which made the best sense, was to fight the man who I had agreed to fight.”
In New York, Hopkins returned to the site of one of his greatest victories.
On Sept. 29, 2001, at New York’s Madison Square Garden, Hopkins’ 12th-round stoppage of previously unbeaten Felix Trinidad added Trinidad’s WBA title to his IBF and WBC belts, unifying the 160-pound division for the first time since 1987 and tying Carlos Monzon with his record 14th defense.
After winning the IBF middleweight title from Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1995, Hopkins went on to defend it a record 20 times before losing to Jermain Taylor by a split decision on July 16, 2005.
Hopkins’ milestone run included knockouts against the likes of Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya, Robert Allen, Simon Brown, Glen Johnson, John David Jackson and Carl Daniels.
By defeating De La Hoya by ninth-round knockout in September of 2004, Hopkins held the IBF, WBA, WBC and WBO middleweight belts — the first fighter in boxing history to do so.
After he lost to Taylor, and then endured an immediate rematch loss, Hopkins rose into the light heavyweight division for triumphs over Tarver, Winky Wright, Kelly Pavlik, Enrique Ornelas and Roy Jones, suffering his first defeat in the division by split-decision against Joe Calzaghe.
Hopkins became a light heavyweight titlewinner for the third time by defeating Cloud, having also vanquished Antonio Tarver by unanimous decision in June of 2006 for THE RING title.
“History will be marching on with Bernard Hopkins defending his IBF 175-pound light heavyweight world championship. Bernard is going to go in against a guy who could be his son and who obviously wants to capture that moment,” said Schaefer.
“Karo Murat wants to capture that moment and beat the legend and start his own legacy. The question is going to be is whether Bernard is going to be able to hold off, yet again, a guy who is almost half his age.”
After defeating Cloud, Hopkins, whose birthday is Jan. 15, indicated that he would retire prior to turning 50.
“I’m here to stay, but not until I’m 50… I’m looking for the names and I’m looking for the big reward,”said Hopkins. “Because I feel that I want to continue to do what I’m doing to a point and set history so deep that it will take 30, 40 or 50 years for somebody to top me.”
At the rate he is going, however, Schaefer is not quite sure when Hopkins will call it quits.
“I think that that might actually have been a misprint, that he might not fight until the age of 50. Because what I actually heard was that he was not going to fight until the age of 60,” said Schaefer.
“I think that people may have misunderstood that he was saying he would not fight until the age of 50. I think that he actually meant the age of 60. But at this point, 10 years, give or take, with Hopkins, who cares?”
Lem Satterfield can be reached at [email protected]