There are so many titles and championship belts which litter the sport of boxing in this day and age that nobody really knows who the true champ is.
But make no mistake, one title is unquestioned: Bernard Hopkins is without a doubt the undisputed “Ol’ Man River” of boxing. At age 49 and a pro since 1988, the current light heavyweight titlist will lace up the gloves once again on April 19 at the D.C. Armory in Washington, D.C. when he engages in a title unification match versus 30-year-old Beibut Shumenov who hails from Kazakhstan.
Hopkins, who recently began calling himself the “Alien” because of his geriatric prowess and accomplishments, is the oldest man to ever win or hold a world boxing title. 45-year-old George Foreman previously held that distinction after he bested heavyweight champion Michael Moorer in 1994. Foreman engaged in his last fight at age 48 and joked the supplement Geritol aided him in his quest. Prior to that it was the great Archie Moore, nicknamed the “Ole Mongoose” who was the best old age fighting machine boxing had ever seen. Moore fought his last bout at age 49.
“I am blessed to be here through hard work and discipline,” said the always impeccably conditioned Hopkins at yesterday’s press conference at a downtown Washington, D.C. hotel. “Everyone is not knocking the door down to get in the ring with me – even at 49. I think I am the most feared fighter in the world over the last 15, maybe 20 years, in spite of my age.”
Hopkins is nearly 19 years older than Shumenov and when his opponent was born in 1983, Hopkins had already begun a 56-month stint behind bars at Graterford State Prison in Pennsylvania for a variety of crimes that included strong-arm robberies.
Hopkins, who has always craved the respect of the public and the press, claims he continues on in order to ensure his legacy in boxing is secure. A veteran of 64 bouts with nearly 500 rounds under his belt, he successfully defended his middleweight championship a record 20 times between 1994 and 2005. He then moved up 15 pounds to the light heavyweight division and successfully annexed two 175-pound titles. He hopes to win a third against Shumenov.
“Love me or hate me, people understand how dangerous I can be to a fighter’s career going forward after having a date with the ‘Alien’”, he said. “I’m looking to put a great performance on. I’m looking to put on something special.”
Hopkins is destined to one day to be inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. But in order for a fighter’s name to be placed on the ballot they must be retired from competition for five years. At this rate, Hopkins will be well into his fifties before that takes place. He will turn the magical 50 in only ten months and he may do so with two (or more) light heavyweight championship belts strapped around his waist. That would be a remarkable accomplishment for anyone, let alone a man that is nearly half a century old.
At the end of the press conference, the old sage who will be eligible for an AARP card in January, wanted to leave the assembled group with one last bit of wisdom and advice.
“My thing is you’re only as good as your last fight. You’re only as good as your last deal. If you’re in D.C. you’re only as good as your last vote”, he chuckled. “So at the end of the day this is something that I realize, that is so important: Is that you can remember yesterday, but if you dwell on yesterday you will never move forward.”
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