By Joseph Santoliquito
PHILADELPHIA, PA (CBS)— Bits of salt whiskers dotted the day’s growth of beard on Bernard Hopkins’ chin as he sat there with a whimsical grin, addressing the gathered media that arrived Tuesday at Temple’s Liacouras Center.
Hopkins was there to announce his upcoming megafight against dangerous puncher Sergey Kovalev on November 8, at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall.
Hopkins was also there to trumpet yet another rebirth. The 49-year-old living legend and future Hall of Famer has re-invented himself more times than any other athlete in the history of sports. He went from a puncher early in his career, to a patient boxer, to a defensive wizard, to someone counted out too many times to mention.
But what Kovalev has done is rekindle a new fire in “the old man.” It’s brought Hopkins back to 2001, to the time he faced Felix Trinidad in the signature victory of his career—back when he was 36 and Hall of Fame announcer Larry Merchant called Hopkins, “a geriatric wonder.”
Now that “geriatric wonder” will be 60 days from turning 50 the night he faces Kovalev. He’s gone from someone who hadn’t had much fanfare or support a decade ago to being a beloved figure in a rough sport that eats both its young and its old.
In round eight of the memorable Trinidad fight, the Puerto Rican star grew so frustrated that Hopkins wasn’t bending to his will that he did a brief foot shuffle. Hopkins, unmoved, kept stepping forward and picking apart a fighter many believed was unbeatable.
“It’s why I’m ‘The Alien,’ I was considered old back then when I fought Trinidad,” Hopkins said. “I think this fight with Kovalev is the biggest fight of the year as far as interests, mine and Kovalev’s. I’m just glad to be on this stage at this time of the year. I know he’s a powerful puncher. From someone who’s been in this game for almost three decades, I look for more than what a guy brings to a gunfight other than bullets. I am an alien. I can block out the distractions. I understand you all, you don’t understand me.
“It’s his job to do what others have tried to do [and that’s stop Hopkins for the first time in his career], and it’s my job to continue to do what I’ve been doing. I continue to make history and I don’t think there has been a time in boxing history when someone has completely rewritten his own history. I’m not trying to be cocky about it. Kovalev’s record shows he can punch. But I’m no gatekeeper for anyone. They might want to categorize it as that. Humans have a timeline when you’re supposed to be old when you’re 35–and I was 36 the night I beat Trinidad. It’s why I’m the alien.”
Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts) will be defending the WBA and IBF light heavyweight titles, while Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) is the WBO light heavyweight champ and has stopped his last nine opponents within the distance. The last time Hopkins stopped anyone was over 10 years ago, when he knocked out Oscar De La Hoya in the ninth round on Sept. 18, 2004. Kovalev was five years away from his first pro fight then.
Throughout his career, Kovalev has gone the distance only twice. The longest he’s ever fought was an eight-round split decision win over journeyman Darnell Boone in October 2010.
“This is what boxing is all about, because fights like this don’t happen very often,” said De La Hoya, President of Golden Boy Promotions, the company that promotes Hopkins. “Bernard Hopkins is making history every single fight. He keeps proving people wrong and here we are again. We’re here to witness a tremendous fight.”
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