48-year-old Muslim boxer Bernard Hopkins won a unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud this past weekend to capture the International Boxing Federation light heavyweight title. In the process, Hopkins surpassed his own record as the oldest fighter in history to win a major world championship. He moved his record to 53 wins, 6 losses, and 2 draws, with 32 knockouts.
The 31-year-old Cloud hails from Tallahassee, Fla., and he entered the bout with an unbeaten record and a reputation as a big puncher. He had 24 victories, with 19 knockouts. But the much elder Hopkins taught him quite a lesson. â€œI have a history of destroying young champions,â€ Hopkins said afterward. â€œNot sure if youâ€™ll see Cloud again.â€ Cloud could not be seen after the fight, as he was too emotional to even stay for questions from the press.
Hopkins, known as â€œThe Executioner,â€ was the clear crowd favorite among the 12,293 at Brooklynâ€™s sparkling new Barclays Center. Perhaps this was due to him being from nearby Philadelphia. Hopkins came in as a 2-1 underdog. By the end of the fight, two of the judges at ringside scored it 116-112, while the third judge scored it 117-111, all in Hopkinsâ€™ favor.
â€œIf I threw combinations, we knew he wouldnâ€™t be able to adjust to that style of fighting,â€ Hopkins said. â€œIt took me a while to get in my rhythm, but I found it in the fourth or fifth round and things became easy.â€ By the seventh, the crowd was completely behind Hopkins, whoâ€™d opened a cut above Cloudâ€™s left eye as chants of â€œB-Hop! B-Hop!â€ echoed through the arena. â€œHeâ€™s fading!â€ shouted Hopkinsâ€™ trainer Naazim Richardson as the bell rang to start the ninth. He was right. Incredibly, the 48-year-old looked like the fresher fighter. Hopkins, whoâ€™s never been beaten up and never been cut in a fight, stays in fighting shape 365 days a year and keeps a 30-inch waist. And he looked as fresh in the final round as he did in the first. Hopkins landed 169 of 417 punches (41 percent) — including more combinations than heâ€™s thrown in recent memory — compared to 139 of 650 for Cloud (21 percent).
â€œWe knew that a 30-year-old guy was not going to run from a 48-year-old guy, so it wasnâ€™t hard to figure out their plan,â€ Hopkins said, referring to Cloudâ€™s offensive approach. â€œWe knew this guyâ€™s style. If a burglar is coming to the house and if he calls you and tells you heâ€™s coming, youâ€™re going to wait for him. And youâ€™re going to make sure youâ€™re going to be in a big chair with a big gun and when he comes through the door, youâ€™re going to get him. I knew he was coming in. We trained differently than we normally do because of it.â€
And what lies ahead for the soon-to-be 50-year-old champion? Well, even he hasnâ€™t decided that yet. But he gave some good advice for the time being. â€œEnjoy me while Iâ€™m here,â€ Hopkins said.