Even though the scorecards told us of split decision, there was nothing close in the fight between Bernard Hopkins and Beibut Shumenov, as Hopkins unified the Light Heavyweight title in another dominant display, despite his advanced age of 49, which doesn’t seem to be slowing his appetite for the sport and titles down.
Like most Hopkins fights, it wasn’t a pretty one. Both fighters started out slowly, as it seemed like Shumenov, usually a volume fighter not saving on his punches, gave the aging champion too much respect, throwing one punch at a time. Hopkins started taking over in the third round with some hard hits, followed by a fourth that was dominated by his jabs and a fifth with a clean right hand to the jaw.
Shumenov kept leaving himself open for two-punch combinations from Hopkins, increasing the power behind his jabs once he saw his opponent not really looking like someone who was going to do something special in the ring. That pace and the same kind of punishment carried on until the 11th round, when Hopkins did something he hasn’t done in almost ten years since his 2004 fight with Oscar De La Hoya.
Two minutes left in the round and smart feint from Hopkins opened up an opportunity to hit Shumenov on the right of the head, dropping the Kazakh fighter to the ground and continuing to go for the knockout in the final round as well. The final scorecards showed 116-111, 116-111 and a shocking 113-114 in favor of Shumenov. Even Shumenov didn’t think he won the fight, and that decision by Gustavo Padilla made everyone scratch their heads.
Hopkins retained his IBF title, adding to it the WBA (Super) and IBA belts as well. He is now the oldest boxer to hold a world title (49), oldest to win a world title — he did that twice, at age 46 and 48 — and oldest to successfully defend a world title (49). He almost had his first knockout in a decade, but bringing Shumeonv down was also his first knockdown since that famous win against De La Hoya.
What now? Hopkins wants to unify all the Light Heavyweight belts, which means fighting with Adonis Stevenson of Canada, where Hopkins has won himself a few haters over the years and especially after his win over Jean Pascal in Montreal. Stevenson, the WBC and Ring Light Heavyweight champion, has a May fight with Andrzej Fonfara. If he wins that one, and thanks to his defection from HBO to Showtime, the biggest fight this unattractive division has to offer can become a reality.