Who wins Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev?
The fact that Bernard Hopkins still is performing at an optimum level in the “Sweet Science,” despite the fact that he turns 50 in January, is indeed an otherworldly accomplishment befitting his nickname, “The Alien.”
Even Saturday’s hammer-fisted 31-year-old rival, Sergey Kovalev, admits “It is not easy to overlook Hopkins,” adding, “I think when he’s 60 years old, he’ll be in the same condition.”
The IBF/WBA light heavyweight titleholder, Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) has twice become the oldest man to win a major title, following that up by becoming the oldest fighter to unify the belts.
If successful against Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, his WBO counterpart, Hopkins could rival what he accomplished as a middleweight in 2001, when he unified the IBF, WBA and WBC belts in that division.
Hopkins was last in action in April, dethroning Beibut Shumenov as WBA beltholder by unanimous decision to become the oldest man to unify. Hopkins won the IBF title by unanimous decision over previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March 2013, extending his record as the oldest man to win a major title.
Hopkins first set the record at the age of 46 with a unanimous decision over Jean Pascal for the WBC title in May 2011 before losing it by a majority decision to Chad Dawson in April of 2012.
Nicknamed, “The Krusher,” Kovalev is perhaps the most devastating puncher Hopkins will have faced, given the fact that he is 13-0-1 with 13 knockouts in his past 14 fights. Kovalev was last in the ring for a second-round stoppage of Blake Caparello in August, rising from a first-round knockdown to drop Caparello twice in the final round.
Caparello represented the third defense of the belt Kovalev won by fourth-round stoppage over previously unbeaten Nathan Cleverly, flooring the now-cruiserweight twice in the third round in August 2013.
Kovalev intends to do the same to Hopkins as he has prior opponents.
“He’s an alien,” said Kovalev, “but I have to send him to the moon and maybe from there, he’ll go by himself to Mars.”
The following is the result of RingTV.com’s poll of 27 insiders regarding Hopkins-Kovalev.
Bernard Hopkins SD 12 Sergey Kovalev: I like Bernard Hopkins by a close split decision. I think Hopkins, as only Hopkins can, will befuddle Sergey Kovalev and take him into the deep rounds that Kovalev has yet to see. I see Hopkins taking over late to the tune of a 115-113 kind of fight.
Record: 2-0 [Last pick: Nicholas Walters KO Nonito Donaire]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: I like Bernard Hopkins to win an ugly decision. What does Sergey Kovalev do when he realizes that he can’t knock out Hopkins? What’s his plan B?
I’m not sure if he has one, which is why I think Hopkins will win a unanimous decision. It will be boring and likely foul-filled but it will also be pretty impressive for a 49-year-old.
Record: 1-0 [Last pick: Floyd Mayweather Jr. UD 12 Marcos Maidana]
Sergey Kovalev W 12 Bernard Hopkins: Temptation all along has been to pick Bernard Hopkins by decision but I believe Sergey Kovalev recognizes what he’s up against and John David Jackson should have him well-prepared for any scenario. Wouldn’t bet any money on it though.
Record: 21-6 [Last pick: Walters UD 12 Donaire]
Sergey Kovalev W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I think Sergey Kovalev overcomes a shaky, somewhat careful start and begins making things uncomfortable for Bernard Hopkins when he hurts the living legend to the body in the middle rounds. Kovalev’s smart pressure and heavy but accurate combination punching takes over in the late rounds and puts Hopkins into survival mode.
Record: 6-3 [Last pick: Walters W 12 Donaire]
Sergey Kovalev UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: Here’s hoping Bernard Hopkins proves me wrong all over again. He is everything boxing should be and isn’t any more. He wins, no matter what happens. In the court of public opinion, he’s already scored a unanimous decision. But that intangible won’t matter.
It’s called a 50/50 fight but I can only think those marketing odds reflect Hopkins’ approaching birthday. Sergey Kovalev’s power is proven. Hopkins has shown again and again that he can elude that danger, nullify it, with inexhaustible tricks and tactics. The question is how Kovalev reacts. He’ll have to show he’s not a one-trick pony.
Hopkins will take away what [Kovalev] does best. But the guess here is that Kovalev has yet to display that there’s more to him than a knockout ratio. He’ll have to be smarter than Kelly Pavlik, who grew confused in losing to Hopkins. He’ll have to sustain attacks longer than Jean Pascal, who fought sporadically in a draw and loss.
Kovalev’s youthful energy will allow him to make adjustments we’ve yet to see. Hopkins will adjust as only he can but will Hopkins have the energy to execute critical counter-moves over the late rounds? Senior citizens, including this one, can hope. But it’s hope-against-hope, a 50/50 proposition more about age and than chances.
Record: 23-7 [Last pick: Walters TKO 10 Donaire]
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Sergey Kovalev: This fight has many critics truly fearing for Bernard Hopkins’ health and I can understand the reasoning. You only have to look at Sergey Kovalev’s knockout percentage and Hopkins’ advancing years. But I am still going with “The Alien.”
Hopkins, approaching 50 years of age, is by far the best opponent that Kovalev has ever faced.
The IBF/WBA titleholder has forgotten more about the rudiments of his craft than the Russian’s combined opposition will ever know. Hopkins rarely absorbs flush power punches and he is a master at removing a fighter’s advantages and exploiting weak spots. I think he can take Kovalev’s right hand out of the fight, exploit slow feet and control distance for the majority of the rounds.
Critics seem convinced that Kovalev will have the mental strength to cope with falling behind and being taken into deep water. I remain unconvinced. Why? He has never done it before and Hopkins is a remarkable strategist. Speed, athleticism and volume have given Hopkins trouble during his career. How many of those attributes does Kovalev have in his locker? Conversely, Kovalev is a power-punching aggressor and the sum of his parts equals Hopkins’ favored prey. There’s a reason this fight was made.
Record: 22-8 [Last pick: Donaire UD 12 Walters]
Sergey Kovalev W 12 Bernard Hopkins: The X-factor here is Sergey Kovalev’s chief second, John David Jackson, who knows Bernard Hopkins like no other person. He fought with him inside the ring, sparred with him countless rounds and spent considerable time in day-to-day training situations as Naazim Richardson’s assistant.
If Hopkins has any vulnerabilities, Jackson will forward them to his fighter. As for the fight itself, the first three rounds will tell the tale. If Kovalev treats Hopkins like a 49-year-old man and imposes his superior strength, volume and power, he will pound Hopkins to a pulp.
If Kovalev chooses to stand at long range and try to out-think the master, the fight is all but over. My guess is that Kovalev will choose the former strategy and if that happens, Hopkins’ wiles will enable him to last the distance.
Record: 15-5 [Last pick: Walters KO 7 Donaire]
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 Sergey Kovalev: This pick defies all conventional wisdom for me as Sergey Kovalev’s power and Bernard Hopkins’ age should be a recipe for disaster for “The Alien.” However, picking against the sly veteran is something I just can’t do.
As long as Hopkins is crafty and clever enough to keep the punching window for Kovalev’s debilitating power as small as possible, I anticipate Hopkins finding a way to come out on top – or stink it out.
Hopkins’ experience and superior technique should frustrate Kovalev, who will struggle to land anything clean. Hopkins won’t be an offensive dynamo but he’ll score enough to squeak out a narrow unanimous decision by way of 115-113 scores.
Record: 19-6 [Last pick: Floyd Mayweather UD 12 Marcos Maidana]
Bernard Hopkins UD 12 over Sergey Kovalev: Bernard Hopkins is approximately a 2-to-1 underdog because he is 49 and the 31-year-old Sergey Kovalev has knocked out 23 of his 26 professional opponents. But Hopkins took this difficult fight because he sees flaws in the heavily-hyped Kovalev he knows he can exploit.
Hopkins has never been stopped either and the smart veteran’s vast experience advantage over Kovalev in 12-round fights will serve him well enough to earn a decision and another remarkable victory.
Record: 11-4 [Last pick: Donaire UD 12 Walters]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: I’ve had an up close and personal look at Sergey Kovalev for a while now, beginning with his rise on NBCSN. He’s as powerful as any light heavyweight in recent memory and a far better boxer than most give him credit for.
That said, I can’t bet against Bernard Hopkins here. He knows every trick in the book and will show Kovalev looks in the ring he simply can’t prepare for. Take Hopkins by close decision.
Sergey Kovalev UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: I think Bernard Hopkins has stepped over the line in this one. I am picking Sergey Kovalev by a unanimous decision. Kovalev is aggressive but he is also patient.
The Russian’s very formidable power will make the ever-wary Hopkins even more wary. Kovalev will not be tied up by “The Alien.” Kovalev is going to keep busy and he will push Bernard into retirement.
Record: 2-0 [Last pick: Mayweather UD 12 Maidana]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: All logic points to a Sergey Kovalev victory and I’m not ruling that out. He is younger, more powerful, a relentless pursuer who figures to put tremendous pressure on Bernard Hopkins. That, in my opinion, is exactly how you defeat Hopkins.
Hustle, bang and make him fight three minutes a round. However, something happens when guys face Hopkins. They get lured somehow by this master into a slower fight and end up fighting Hopkins at Hopkins’ tempo. Once Hopkins gets it to that tempo, he turns it into his style of fight as well.
I made a promise to myself and publicly stated after his fight against Kelly Pavlik – whom I picked to defeat Hopkins – that I would never pick against him again. He figures out a way to win. Although I believe Kovalev SHOULD win, Hopkins won’t let him and will take a close decision.
Record: 21-9 [Last pick: Donaire UD 12 Walters]
Sergey Kovalev TKO 10 Bernard Hopkins: In the past few years, Bernard Hopkins has proved that boxing is not all about speed and power. He has managed to put experience, ring IQ and strategy at least one step above those two virtues, redesigning and reshuffling the pieces of the puzzle that he presents to his opponents in each one of his fights with the ability of a wizard.
But against a rangy, powerful, skilled and motivated fighter like Sergey Kovalev, he’ll need much more than that. So far, few fighters have been able to land more than two meaningful punches in a row against Hopkins or at least one with enough power to unsettle him. My bet, unfortunately, is that Kovalev will be able to execute either one of these feats – or both – to bring The Alien’s career to a halt, once and for all.
Record: 10-6 [Last pick: Donaire W 12 Walters]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: Bernard Hopkins hasn’t lost a fight in over two years. Sergey Kovalev is undefeated. Hopkins has one foot in the Hall of Fame. Kovalev might be the hardest puncher he’s ever faced. Something’s gotta give. I have a feeling that the cunning Hopkins will survive some tough opening rounds to win the fight by decision.
Record: 22-8 [Last pick: Donaire TKO 11 Walters]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: Picking a Bernard Hopkins fight is like predicting the weather. Sometimes you’re right and sometimes you’re completely wrong. I usually fall in the second category when it comes to the “Old Man.”
When I think he’s going to win, he loses – see Jermain Taylor, twice. And when I think he’s going to lose, he wins – see everyone from Felix Trinidad to Tavoris Cloud. Sergey Kovalev is a very good, hard-punching fighter but he’s not the type of boxer who typically beats Hopkins.
Hopkins, in his prime and even now, has difficulty against quick, slick boxers. That’s not a description I would apply to Kovalev. Plus at nearly 50 years old, I think Hopkins is smart enough to know who to fight and who to avoid.
I don’t think Hopkins would have taken this fight if he didn’t see enough flaws to exploit en route to victory. Again, this could be like predicting rain on what turns out to be a beautiful day but I’ll go with Hopkins to pull yet another upset.
Record: 20-6 [Last pick: Donaire W 12 Walters]
Sergey Kovalev KO Bernard Hopkins: Eventually the sand runs out of the hourglass. Sergey Kovalev isn’t just a good puncher. He’s a smart boxer. With youth, that will be too much for the old man.
This isn’t like Tavoris Cloud or Jean Pascal, where age was the deciding factor in wrong picks. This is more like Chad Dawson or Joe Calzaghe. Right style, right talent, right time to knock off The “Executioner” Bernard Hopkins.
Record: 18-11 [Last pick: Walters KO Donaire]
Sergey Kovalev KO 10 Bernard Hopkins: I suspect Bernard Hopkins bit off more than he can chew in this case. Sergey Kovalev isn’t the boxer Hopkins is but I believe his skills are better than some might realize, certainly good enough to give Hopkins trouble. That, combined with the Russian’s unquestioned punching power, will be too much for Hopkins to handle.
Record: 16-5 [Last pick: Walters KO 9 Donaire]
Bernard Hopkins SD 12 Sergey Kovalev: I think this a 50/50 fight. The key will be if Sergey Kovalev boxes Bernard Hopkins and creates opportunities, then he has a chance. But if he attacks recklessly, Hopkins may TKO him late or win a points decision. My prediction: Hopkins, split-decision.
Record: 6-4 [Last pick: Mayweather UD 12 Maidana]
Sergey Kovalev W 12 Bernard Hopkins: I hate to pick against Bernard Hopkins. I am not fully confident in doing so because his bag of tricks is so deep. But looking at everything as objectively as possible, I am going to lean toward Sergey Kovalev now.
I think Kovalev will have his troubles with Hopkins and may even look clumsy at times but I just have the feeling his overall strength and tenacity as well as his somewhat underrated boxing skills will push him through.
Record: 13-9 [Last pick: Donaire W 12 Walters]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: I like Bernard Hopkins by decision and the reason why is because logic tells me that the bigger, stronger, younger man should win and that’s when Hopkins usually pulls off his age-defying gimmick and makes fools of everyone.
I learned a long time ago that Hopkins knows his body better than anyone else and he’s probably seeing more in Sergey Kovalev’s style than most people are willing to accept.
I think Kovalev will give problems to Hopkins with his physicality at times but when Hopkins adjusts and starts making Kovalev pick his feet up and find new angles, he’ll have the advantage.
Record: 6-1 [Last pick: Mayweather W 12 Maidana]
Sergey Kovalev UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: There are so many variables that will affect the outcome of this fight between Sergey Kovalev and Bernard Hopkins that it’s the most difficult to predict in recent memory.
In fact, this poll will probably be close to a 50/50 split. I believe that the most important aspect is Kovalev’s fight-changing power, quite possibly power that Hopkins has never felt.
At some point, after hitting the canvas, Hopkins will be fighting to go the distance rather than to win the fight. I predict that he will be cagey enough to go the distance but Kovalev will have a fairly easy time once he is able to hurt Bernard. Kovalev by fairly easy decision.
Record: 15-5 [Last pick: Donaire UD 12 Walters]
Bradley Starks, guest/fan, Novato, Calif.
Sergey Kovalev KO 9 Bernard Hopkins: I’ve gone back and forth on who wins this fight numerous times and each time, my pick is different. And while I don’t think I’ve officially picked against Bernard Hopkins since his bout with Oscar De La Hoya in 2004, that changes with this fight.
To beat “The Alien,” one must possess excellent technique and athleticism, because heavy hands alone won’t do it. Sergey Kovalev excels in all of those areas. If Hopkins had more power, I’d probably tab him to win as that would help him keep Kovalev honest and force him to start questioning his abilities.
But he doesn’t and I don’t think there’s anything in the old codger’s deep bag of tricks that is going to bring him the win this time. It won’t be easy by any stretch but I do see “The Krusher” beating up and knocking out the legendary Bernard Hopkins.
Record: 10-1 [Last pick: Walters UD 12 Donaire]
Sergey Kovalev mid-rounds KO Bernard Hopkins: One thing that seems to have evaded training camps over the past couple years when preparing for Bernard Hopkins is a body attack.
With Sergey Kovalev being a natural body puncher, I have to go with Kovalev in this bout. I really think “B-Hop’s” age is gonna show up and show up soon. Kovalev by KO in the mid-rounds.
Record: 1-0 [Last pick: Manny Pacquiao UD 12 Tim Bradley]
Sergey Kovalev TKO 10 Bernard Hopkins: Sergey Kovalev might be the hardest puncher Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins has faced in his Hall of Fame career and there’s no doubt Hopkins is the smartest boxer Kovalev has or probably ever will face.
That should make for a fascinating match-up. Hopkins is older than old but he’s probably in better shape than the Russian destroyer and has avoided damaging punishment in the last decade or so.
That said, I just don’t think he will escape Kovalev’s power and Kovalev will not lose patience like so many of Hopkins’ most recent victims. And he won’t lose this fight. I see a 10th-round TKO victory for Kovalev and the end of the road for one of the great fighters of all time.
Record: 13-5 [Last pick: Mayweather SD 12 Maidana]
Sergey Kovalev W 12 Bernard Hopkins: Bernard Hopkins-Sergey Kovalev is a fight for the ages as well as the ageless. For as “The Alien,” Hopkins does defy his own age of 49.
Kovalev has demonstrated both the power and the knowledge of how to set up knockouts and the guess here is that on Nov. 8, Father Time – and Kovalev – will catch up to Hopkins.
Record: 20-7 [Last pick: Walters TKO 0 Donaire]
Sergey Kovalev UD 12 Bernard Hopkins: You’ve heard it echoed ever since his trademark win over Felix Trinidad: “I’m not gonna bet against B-Hop.” Whether it was Oscar De La Hoya or Antonio Tarver or Kelly Pavlik or Jean Pascal and on and on, Bernard Hopkins continues to beat the odds at an astonishing 49 years of age.
He’s taken on young, come-forward sluggers, embarrassed them over 12 rounds and seemingly wrecked careers because of his unlikely prowess in this incredibly late stage of his career.
But Hopkins has to get old sometime. While there were no signs of slowing in recent wins over Beibut Shumenov and Karo Murat, Sergey Kovalev is a different fighter. Hopkins has faced power punchers before but Kovalev almost exclusively throws combinations with each punch having knockout intentions.
I doubt we see B-Hop out for the count but Kovalev should have the power and activity to put the old man on the canvas a couple times. Hopkins will use his endless bag of tricks – clinching, mostly – to smother Kovalev’s attack.
But with John David Jackson in the corner, they should have a game plan to control the distance required for Kovalev to work. There’s part of me that hopes I’m wrong; Hopkins is an incredible technician and his longevity is an incredible feat. But at the end of 12 rounds, Kovalev should have his hands raised with a UD.
Record: 14-9 [Last pick: Donaire W 12 Walters]
Bernard Hopkins W 12 Sergey Kovalev: The ageless wonder versus the wrecking machine. Just a couple months shy of his 50th birthday, Bernard Hopkins faces the very real threat of one of the most feared fighters in the game, the 175-pound version of Gennady Golovkin. Sergey Kovalev hits very, very hard.
Hopkins is very aware of that and he’ll be every bit as cute as he’s ever been. Kovalev’s trainer, John David Jackson knows B-Hop better than any other trainer in boxing not named Naazim Richardson. JDJ will have Kovalev marching forward and trying to outwork Hopkins, which I see him doing in the early going.
But as the rounds go by, Hopkins will pot shot away and slow the pace considerably, using his excellent jab to put himself in position to win the fight. Down the stretch, the Russian will take chances but will get countered. I see Hopkins winning a close, competitive but deserved decision.
Record: 20-7 [Last pick: Donaire W 12 Walters]
By the margin of 15-to-12, the insiders have granted the edge to Sergey Kovalev to defeat Bernard Hopkins, adding the 49-year-old’s IBF and WBA belts to the WBO title he already holds.
Note: Doug Fischer, Mike Rosenthal picks collected by Jack Obermayer.