Father Time has got another one. It would be disingenuous for anyone to claim that Father Time is “undefeated.” For the last 10 years, Bernard Hopkins has been regularly thumbing his nose at age and racking up milestone after milestone. But Saturday night, there was a mountain too steep to climb in the form of Sergey Kovalev, who dropped B-Hop in the first and dominated the rest of the way in route to a resounding, shut-out unanimous decision (120-107 twice, 120-106).
Hopkins’ trainer, Naazim Richardson, was fond of saying in recent years that Hopkins had done everything in the sport but “lose badly.” Now that he’s achieved that distinction, the only question remains is if Hopkins himself has realized the end is here.
PUT ON NOTICE IN ROUND ONE: We all wondered if deep down if Kovalev was another Kelly Pavlik, a power-puncher that would be befuddled by Hopkins’ bag of tricks. That comparison was erased in the first round when Kovalev brought Hopkins to his knees off a counter right. That shot was beautiful in that it eliminated one of Hopkins’ pet moves of lunging in (head-first) with lead rights and left jabs. It showed that Kovalev had perfect command of distance, forcing Hopkins to take chances while Kovalev could rely on his precision punching to catch the Philly legend coming in.
Even with the two knockdowns vs. Jean Pascal, Hopkins still looked composed. But last night, His eyes showed geniune concern at Kovalev’s power.
ISOLATED AND INEFFECTIVE: Hopkins landed a few solid counters, most notably in rounds, 3, 7, 10 and 12. The fact you can count those pockets of good offense on one hand should tell you how bad it was for Hopkins. Kovalev took every punch well, and immediately began firing back. This usually plays into Hopkins’ hands by letting him hold and maul, but Kovalev did it at mid-range which forced Hopkins to retreat.
“He fought a great technical fight,” Hopkins would concede in his post-fight interview. “He stepped back every time I tried to engage. He fought on his terms.”
Hopkins would briefly try to walk down Kovalev behind a high guard, only to get moved backward by the power. He almost went down again in the 8th after tasting a counter right which buckled the legs.
A MORAL VICTORY AND BRAVE STAND: After Hopkins smacked Kovalev with a good right hand in the 12th, the Krusher finished the round with the sole intention of knocking the old master out.
He nearly succeeded. Hopkins was in dire straits in the final 30 seconds, getting his head snapped back and languishing on the ropes. Credit has to go to referee David Fields — he looked very closely several times, but allowed Hopkins the dignity to finish knowing the old man’s toughness and temperment. Many referees would have stopped it within the last 20 seconds or so with B-Hop staggering on the ropes and a puncher like Kovalev right on him.
UNIFIED CHAMP > LINEAR TITLE: At least for the light-heavyweight division, Sergey Kovalev should be viewed as the man. Adonis Stevenson has wiped away his great 2013 with a 2014 filled with blatant avoidance of the top guys in his division. His fight next month is a disgrace to the title and legacy of the 175-pound division. No one, fans and media alike, should give him any passes until he gets in there with Kovalev. Until then, his linear title is secondary to the unified (WBO, WBA, IBF) belts Kovalev holds.
HOPKINS MARTYRS HIMSELF: 2014 has been the “Year of Political Bullshit” in boxing. We’ve talked more about why major fights didn’t happen. Hopkins emphasized afterward that the Cold War is over between promoters and how important it will be to bring compelling matchups between the best fighters in 2015. Hopkins showed tonight how fans will turn out for marquee matchups across promotional lines, and in a way it’s sad a 49-year old fighter had to be the one to show that.
ALI ARRIVES WITH ABREGU KO: In a shocking outcome, Sadam Ali proved myself and most critics wrong with an upset 9th round TKO of veteran Carlos Abregu. Ali banked a lot of early rounds with movement and a keep away jab, making most believe he’d eventually make a crucial mistake (Abregu did tag him with a few good left hooks in the rounds 1 and 2). But it never happened, and Abregu found himself on the canvas in round six off a right cross. It wasn’t a balance knockdown — Abregu was legitimately getting hurt by Ali’s counter shots and giving ground.
Abregu was hopelessly behind and came out firing in the 9th. At times, he had Ali pinned on the ropes and gave himself the best opportunity to land a miracle shot. Unfortunately for him, Ali had a home run shot of his own and put Abregu back on the canvas with a left hook.
Abregu got up in a daze, and Ali quickly ended his night with more power shots to complete the big win.
Abregu was ranked #2 by the WBC, so Ali stands to leap right into the Top 10 rankings. Potential options include Josesito Lopez (#10) and Robert Guerrero (#8).