By Joseph Santoliquito
Philadelphia, PA (CBS) — Bernard Hopkins has always prided himself on being defiant. The Philadelphia future boxing Hall of Famer has needed the doubters. He embraces them. He covets their words and criticism, locks them away in his own personal vault for safe keeping and rolls them out conveniently when needed.
Like Saturday night.
Like Archie Moore and George Foreman before him, Hopkins doesn’t like to be defined. So he’s 48. Not many gave him an authentic chance to beat 31-year-old, and previously undefeated Tavoris Cloud, when the two fought at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center for Cloud’s IBF light heavyweight title.
Hopkins is supposed to be too old—by normal standards, he is. But Hopkins keeps defying. He doesn’t fit neatly into normal standards. Call him “Old Man,” that’s fine with him. Call him ancient. That’s fine, too. But you also have to include historic with every fight he wins at this stage of his career.
At 48, Hopkins eclipsed his own record by becoming the oldest fighter to win a major title by dominating the more powerful, the younger Cloud with a unanimous decision that left no doubts on the three judge’s scorecards. Hopkins held the previous mark, when at 46, he shocked not only the boxing world but the sports world when he beat Jean Pascal—in Pascal’s backyard, Montreal, Canada—in 2011 for Pascal’s WBC light heavyweight belt.
Hopkins has emerged on the pantheon with Moore, known as “The Old Mongoose,” who didn’t get a chance to fight for the world light heavyweight title until he was 39, and Foreman, who with one punch to Michael Moorer’s chin in 1995 became, at 45, the oldest fighter to ever win the heavyweight world championship. The 19-year age gap between Foreman and Moorer was the largest between champ and challenger in a heavyweight title fight.
Like Archie Moore, Hopkins career has now spanned four decades, beginning in the late-1980s, through the 1990s and 2000s, and now into the 2010s.
“I have to throw a lot of substance into fights,” Hopkins said. “I’m fighting old-school in a new world. I have to learn to adapt to what [the judges] are looking for. We knew a 30-year-old guy was not going to run from a 48-year-old guy. I might go until I’m 50.”
Then he thought about it … “I’m here to stay, but I won’t be in the ring at 50 years old. I just think there’s an opportunity for me to prove I’m different.”
Naazim Richardson, Hopkins’ trainer, isn’t amazed. He also wouldn’t be surprised if Hopkins keeps going until he’s 50.
“Nothing about him surprises me anymore,” Richardson said. “He’s an all-time great, he lives a good, clean lifestyle, and that’s why he’s able to do what he’s done. He trains all year round, which is something a lot of guys don’t do today. We’ve decided we’re going to keep going until he can’t go anymore. Who knows when that will happen now.”
Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) is savoring each historic step. And he’ll keep going, despite what anyone says. “Tonight was one of the bigger fights of my career,” Hopkins said. “Because I’m older, it’s more gratifying.”
Joseph Santoliquito is a contributing sports blogger for CBS Philly.