"Yea I seen a UFO/ You heard I'm the big 5"0" leader of this here whole shi-bo/CFO without a foe God's chosen one most beautiful/ 2nd to like no one in pole position let donuts go"
Alright I know I'm crazy - but not nearly as crazy as Hopkins. And I mean that in a cool, street vernacular kind of way. Just when I think he's done something that he can't possibly outdo, he goes and gets even more ridiculous the next time out (and this again, in the coolest terms possible).
How many 50 year-old men can upstage a young strong upstart on HBO in Kovalev, and have far more relevance than a certain "fighter" (is he still that?) and member of their broadcast team named Andre Ward? This is the same Hopkins I seriously flirted with betting against in his last outing with Beibut Shumenov before deciding against it.
"Nah, this slick bastard has a Joker card on this guy," I sighed. "He saw something he can exploit and I'll be damned if he won't."
Hopkins had me spilling orange juice on my shirt a few weeks ago when I saw his nude shot for ESPN and their Body Edition. He actually had the balls to do this (he uh, he actually didn't show us "those" Thank God) and maintain street credibility, while seriously trumping Miguel Cotto's rather bootyesque and tool driven romp on HBO's 24/7 in early June.
If that wasn't enough, he decided to add a little bit more zest on his already spicy 2014 agenda, by getting Kovalev to sign papers to fight him right before his bout this past weekend against Blake Caparello. Hopkins essentially tried to freeze Kovalev and win a few rounds before the fight.
Savvy veteran that he is- it put instant pressure on Kovalev; who as relative novice to these things, came out cold under lights Hopkins had now made red hot. He not only got a personal ringside scouting report on Kovalev, but he got a free surge in initial publicity for this fight with his tactics, and froze Kovalev again when Max Kellerman got the two of them in front of the camera.
Kovalev's limited English with his shaky interpreter was no match for "The Alien" and his other-worldly mouth full of sardonic wit. Another bizarre (but true) twist to this fight is, Bernard actually beat up his trainer John David Jackson 17 years ago. Certainly Kovalev knows this, probably courtesy of a gift wrapped video Bernard sent him in the mail. Talk about losing psychological warfare.
Which begs the question, just wtf is he supposed to learn from Jackson about how to beat Hopkins?
So, with all that being said, I already scored rounds 1, 2 and 3 as 10-9 for Hopkins. But can he actually put the majority of the other 9 in the basket? Or better yet, can he survive to the distance at all against the feared Russian product?
Experience really is the best teacher in a very unique way in this fight on both sides. Hopkins has seen the likes of Kovalev before, and knows how to vaporize offense. He is an absolute master of subtlety in the ring, particularly when it comes to space and crowding.
Kovalev is a better and more powerful fighter than his trainer was 17 years ago, and I think Jackson is a better trainer now than he was a fighter. His experience with an earlier Hopkins should actually help Kovalev with this much older version, and it would surprise me if it didn't.
The last time Hopkins really didn't surprise me was way back in 2001 against Felix Trinidad. In one of my better moments in predicting the outcome of a fight (and with Las Vegas), I had Hopkins doing exactly what he ultimately did to Trinidad. "Tito" had a certain rhythm he would settle into each time if you watched him. He would almost give away what he was throwing - and when he was throwing - by the way he would hitch his launching foot and position his gloves before striking.
He did almost the same things every single time.
Kelly Pavlik had similar issues that were even more glaring. So too did the likes of Antonio Tarver, the green Jean Pascal, and even greener Tavoris Cloud, as Hopkins knew he was dealing with waiters who would "Tip". Kovalev won't really offer such gratuity.
He wasn't himself in the 1st round against Caparello, coming out dry and unfocused which resulted in poor foot positioning and a flash knockdown. But his special, sudden striking ability was on display before the round was over, and it didn't take him long to dispatch Caparello in the 2nd. The most impressive aspect of this fight was the straight right hand to the body he used to floor Blake.
I never thought Jermaine Taylor or Chad Dawson were good match-up for Hopkins, and I think this is a far worse one. Jermaine and Chad properly advanced Hopkins with lots of aggression, and didn't allow him pockets of space to dig into his sizable bag of tricks. They hid it from him with volume.
Kovalev has way more iron in his will and in his chin than those two and is a few years better now, just as Hopkins is a few more years removed from quicker reflexes.
The spartan approach he lives and trains by is truly remarkable, and worthy of some sort of DNA inspection to see if he is indeed comprised of non-human elements. To say he is an anomaly is a profound understatement, but no matter his array of skills and vast mental capacity, he's exceeded physical limits this time.
And that's why I'm not going to hesitate in betting against him this time.
I think Hopkins decided to take this fight after liking what he saw in Kovalev during his previous bout against Cedric Agnew. The Chicago native made things ugly in there at times, using headbutts and smothering tactics to mute Kovalev while launching timed attacks.
This is Hopkins all day.
But the part Hopkins really isn't considering is how special a puncher Kovalev is to the body, which will help to end his night. Bernard is going to take more punishment than he has ever taken in his entire ring life. While he's still quick with shots and very sneaky - he's lost a huge amount of speed, flexibility, agility and dexterity, and has gained rigidity in certain movements.
Ultra tough as he is, I see him getting struck at will as this fight progresses, and he'll probably look like an actual alien before being abducted in the 10th round and taken to God knows where.
We'll look for you in the telescope Bernard.