ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Bernard Hopkins had a long awaited meet and greet session with Father Time Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. The 49-year-old Hopkins, also known as The Alien, had put off this meeting for as long as he could.
At the site where he’d performed so well in the past, recording upset victories against Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver in 2008 and 2009, respectively, Hopkins’ Hall of Fame career may have come to an end after he was pounded into submission in a unanimous decision loss to Sergey Kovalev.
In losing his light heavyweight championship belts, Hopkins appeared old. Before a crowd of 8,545, Kovalev pummeled Hopkins at will with a barrage of punches.
Without blinking, Father Time boldly told Hopkins that the time has come to leave the fighting to others. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that Hopkins is ready to accept that fate. He said he’s unsure about his next move.
“It’s 50-50,” he said. “I don’t really want to say anything. Everybody will have a long time to talk about my career when it is over. It’s been 50-50 for the last nine years. I’ve done what I had to do. I’m fine. Really, I’m fine.”
Kovalev (26-0-1, 23 KOs) was relentless. He began his dominance early, knocking down the living legend with a right to the head in the first round. In the third, Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) pushed Kovalev to the canvas but there was no doubt that the Russian was in charge.
“He was a really tough opponent,” said Kovalev. “ He is very good at keeping distance. I really respect him for the fight, but he needs to stop his career, I think, because he’s already done a lot in the boxing world and he needs to give an opportunity to younger fighters to be champions.”
Ego will play a big part in Hopkins’ future decision. The 31-year-old Kovalev tried, but couldn’t, knock out Hopkins. Like a sponge, Hopkins, who will turn 50 on Jan. 15, absorbed punishment. In his mind, that’s proof that he’s still competitive.
But after reviewing his performance in the privacy of his spacious home, it should become obvious that he should gladly fill out his AARP application.
It’s difficult for the great ones to walk away. Watching Willie Mays fall down on routine plays was painful. Watching the loquacious Muhammad Ali turn into a punching bag was disheartening. Watching the late great Joe Frazier hang around longer than he needed to was agonizing. Watching a legend like Hopkins get knocked down and take a vicious beating without retaliating was brutal.
Oscar De La Hoya, whose Golden Boy Promotions promoted the fight, believes Hopkins will fight again. De La Hoya, who was knocked out by Hopkins in 2004, thinks the old man can drop weight and regain another title.
“One thing I know for sure is that he is not going to retire,” said De La Hoya.
In 2011, at 46, Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a major world championship when he defeated Jean Pascal. He dropped the WBC version of the light heavyweight belt to Chad Dawson in 2012, but he broke his own record of oldest fighter to win a championship in 2013 with a unanimous decision victory over Tavoris Cloud.
Hopkins was 48 when he beat Cloud. He won his next two bouts to set up the unification fight with Kovalev.
His best round against Kovalev was the 12th round and he lost that. Kovalev landed 38 punches in the round. That was the most ever against Hopkins in 41 fights tracked by CompuBox.
The time has come for Bernard Hopkins, who once was known as The Executioner and B-Hop before becoming The Alien, to retire. His life story, which is still being played out, would make for an interesting movie. From juvenile delinquent, to prisoner, to pugilist, to law-abiding citizen, to world champion, to becoming the oldest boxing titlist of all time, his life chronicle could be a money maker on the silver screen.
He has had a brilliant career. There was a division-record 20 middleweight title defenses, and three title reigns at light heavyweight. Also along the way were several momentous upsets.
He has nothing left to prove in the ring. He’s been a model champion and an impressive role model for many.
Father Time has spoken. Hopefully, Bernard Hopkins is listening.