When we talk about living legends in the world of boxing few can rival the 49 year old Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2-2, 32) who once again showed his skills and class as he became the oldest boxer in history to unify world titles as he unified the IBF and WBA "Super" titles at Light Heavyweight.
Hopkins, fighting against Kazakhstan's Beibut Shumenov (14-2, 9), was masterful in a display that may not have been hugely exciting but was the perfect example of what skills can do in the ring.
The fight started slow. It started very slowly. The first 4 rounds saw very little action from either man and could well have gone either way. We, like we expect many others, had it even through 4 rounds with neither man having assumed control. It could have been 40-40 with each of the rounds scored evenly such was the lack of action.
From round 5 we began to see Hopkins go through the gears. He went from not throwing a great deal to landing at will with either his jab, his left hook or, more regularly, the straight right hand that tattooed Shumenov's face time and time again. It was clear that Hopkins was now in charge and Shumenov had no answer. Early on, when nothing was happening, things were even but with Hopkins letting his hands go it really wasn't even close.
Through rounds 6, 7 and 8 it became more and more one sided as Hopkins manage to evade what little Shumenov threw as the Kazakh seemed to spend too much time waiting and not enough time working. It was incredibly frustrating to to watch Shumenov, who usually lets combinations go, fight in such a restrained way. It seemed that he had picked the wrong tactics and been lulled into Hopkins's pace of bout, it was a double whammy and Kazakh simply couldn't adapt as the fight began to slip away from him.
Round 9 finally saw Shumenov letting some combinations go. Unfortunately it wasn't as much a change in tactics but more a feeling of desperation as the Kazakh began to realise his reign as world champion was coming to an end. Unfortunately for Shumenov it was too little too and much of the work was easily avoided and countered by Hopkins who saw much of the assault coming and fired back with solid shots in return. A similar pattern followed in round 10 as the desperation got ramped up again and Hopkins became even more dominant with his counters. It starting to look like a genuine schooling by Hopkins who looking like a teacher to the powerful but limited Shumenov.
Going in to the championship rounds it was obvious that Shumenov was going to need knock downs to cut down the difference on the scorecards. Surprisingly though it was Hopkins who would score a knockdown in round 11 as he effectively put the bout beyond any doubt. Hopkins didn't seem satisfied with just the knock down however and instead tried to end Shumenov's fight with some follow up shots after Shumenov got to his feet. The Kazakh saw off the storm but by then it was merely a question of whether or not Shumenov would make it through the final round.
The 12th was mostly a continuation of the previous round as Hopkins made Shumenov pay for his lack of speed, his poor defence, which included his left hand being kept low through the entire fight, and his lack of work rate. It seemed at one point that Hopkins rattled Shumenov though soon afterwards he let Shumenov off the hook, preferring to stick his tongue and pull faces rather than trying to close the show.
With Hopkins bossing much of the bout through the middle and later rounds the decision seemed an obvious one. At best you could have made a case for 5 rounds to Shumenov, and that was being polite, though with the knockdown against him and at least 7 rounds going to Hopkins there was no doubting the winner...or was there...
When it came to the the scorecards Jimmy Lennon Jr was forced to read that the bout had been scored a split decision. The first scorecard was 116-111 to Hopkins, about what we'd had it, the second however was a mysterious and frighteningly bizarre 114-113 card in Shumenov. Thankfully 2 of the judges got the right guy with the third card reading 116-111 in favour of Hopkins who made a comment about the judges before talking up a potential bout with the hard punching Adonis Stevenson and claiming he wanted to clean up the Light Heavyweight division.
Whilst Hopkins may dream of cleaning up the titles at 175lbs he is unlikely to be able to claim the WBO belt as WBO world champion Sergey Kovalev is signed to rival network HBO and this would prevent a Kovalev/Hopkins bout. It's unfortunate but that bout is likely to go down as one of those classic "what would have happened if..." bouts. One thing is for sure, Kovalev wouldn't have been as tame as Shumenov was here with the Kazakh effectively giving his belts to Hopkins due to his incredible low out put which suited Hopkins down to the ground.
For what it's worth, Asianboxing.info scored the bout 117-110 Hopkins
(Image courtesy of http://www.goldenboypromotions.com)
World Title Results
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