By Joseph Santoliquito
WASHINGTON, D.C. (CBS) — There’s a little salt in the stubble that specks his jutting chin and an old man’s twinkle in his eyes when Bernard Hopkins speaks. His words spill out in measured passages now, not in the spewing monologues they once did.
Boxing’s old man is 49 and remains defiant. He’s also well-preserved, a tribute to years of a Spartan lifestyle and commitment to his craft. And perhaps no one is as versed in the craft of boxing than Hopkins.
His experience, confidence and superior skill set reduced WBA light heavyweight champion Beibut Shumenov to a hesitant, unwilling combatant, becoming the oldest fighter to ever unify light heavyweight titles with a split-decision victory Saturday night on Showtime’s Championship Boxing at the DC Armory in Washington, D.C.
Hopkins entered the fight as the IBF titlist, beating a man 19 years younger. Shumenov was 11 when Hopkins won his first major title on April 29, 1995.
Everyone at ringside agreed Hopkins won easily. Two judges confirmed it with scores of 116-111 on judges Dave Moretti and Jerry Roth’s scorecards, while judge Gustavo Padilla somehow saw it 114-113 for Shumenov.
Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) gave the 30-year-old Shumenov (14-2, 9 KO) his first loss since 2009.
With just over two minutes left in the 11th round, Hopkins caught Shumenov with a perfectly timed overhand right to the jaw, dropping him for the second time in his career. Shumenov gingerly regained his footing, but he was clearly hurt as referee Earl Brown counted eight.
In the last minute of the 11th, the capacity DC Armory began chanting “B-Hop, B-Hop, B-Hop!”
Punch stats proved Hopkins’ domination. Though Shumenov threw almost twice as many punches (608-to-383), Hopkins landed a total of 186 punches (49-percent) to Shumenov’s 20-percent (124-of-608). Hopkins used a steady mix of jabs (93-of-201) with power shots (93-of-182), while Shumenov struggled the whole night against Hopkins, landing 57 of 276 jabs (21-percent) and 67 of 332 power punches (20-percent).
Hopkins’ next aim could be WBC light heavy champ Adonis Stevenson, who fights out of Canada, possibly sometime later this year.
“I’m a 15-round fighter, I’m a 15-round fighter,” Hopkins repeated to the crowd after the fight. “Let’s go to Canada, let’s go to Canada. I’m special, I’m special. Boxing is a science, it’s an art. I keep telling the young guys that you don’t have to take punches. I’ll let the historians and let them analyze about my legacy. It’s good to box all of these years and not be stuttering. I want to be the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world before I turn 50.”
Shumenov admitted he may have used the wrong style against the slick Hopkins.
“I have to watch the tape over and see what I did wrong,” Shumenov said. “I am angry I didn’t get the victory. It hurts. It wasn’t obviously my night.”