Bernard Hopkins doesn’t back down from fights, which is what cost him a brutal beating in the hands of Sergey Kovalev, becoming a Light Heavyweight champion for the WBO, IBF and WBA (super), beating the 49-year old journeyman who simply refuses to retire with a unanimous decision.
Perhaps it should have ended sooner, but Hopkins has an iron chin. He went down in the first round and got shelled through the 12 rounds, getting hit 166 times to the 65 punches he connected with. This wasn’t a fight of accuracy on behalf of both fighters: Hopkins connected on just 33% of his shots, Kovalev on 28%. But amount amounts to something. Hopkins never once looked like someone who might come out of this fight as a winner.
His usual tactics don’t work against someone much younger and so much more skilled than him at this point. Kovalev looked a lot better than anyone expected and made Hopkins look like a man out of his time and era. It was Hopkins’ 7th career loss, but he has never looked so bad and so beaten after a fight while trying to escape, duck and grab on almost every occasion. He was hoping his talking and mind games would give him some sort of edge, but Kovalev, “only” 31, is that much better than him at this point.
The cards weren’t even close: 120-107, 120-107 and 120-106. Hopkins pushed Kovalev to the ground once, but that was his best. Kovalev countered whenever Hopkins found some reserve strength in him to fight. He sent Hopkins into the ropes on the fourth round, and was able to avoid any solid punches from Hopkins, who has rarely looked like a big, damaging boxer in recent fights.
Kudos to Hopkins for staying relevant for so long, but there comes a point when’s enough is enough. He might be too proud to admit it, but his place isn’t in a boxing ring anymore. Not when he’s fighting champions 18-20 years his age and more. It could have ended a lot worse for Hopkins in Atlantic City, but his chin and durability kept him on his feet for the finale of the 12 rounds. But even those things fade away. Mental strength and stubbornness can’t keep sustaining a fading physical situation forever.
Hopkins wants to fight the best fighters but now that he doesn’t have a belt, there’s really no reason for them to pick him except for a pay day, which also is no longer such a strong selling point for a legendary middleweight fighter who simply refuses to go away.