Tonight history will be made as Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins, 55-6-2, 32 KO’s, just 2 months shy of his 50th birthday will be taking on one of the most feared punchers in all of boxing, Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev, 25-0-1, 23 KO’s, in a light heavyweight championship bout. This is a great matchup because it is one where anything can happen and wouldn’t be very surprising. In most fights, if you speak to many boxing fans or check gambling odds it quickly becomes apparent that one man is clearly favored, or that it will be unlikely that either fighter will score a knockout, decision, etc… That is not the case in this fight. While Kovelev is a slight favorite, it seems that more boxing insiders have been picking Bernard. When examining the fight closely it becomes clear that the fight can play out many different ways and even a draw or a disqualification would not be very shocking.
Usually one of the biggest differences between a top professional in his prime and at an advanced age is that it is more difficult to be consistent. To clarify, despite training and preparing the same way a fighter always has he probably will not know if he will have his A game until the bell rings on fight night. Bernard can show up and feel like a million bucks or he may get into the ring and quickly realize he is not the best he can be. The beauty of being Bernard Hopkins is that he will have a game plan either way and if he doesn’t he will quickly make the adjustments that he needs to give himself the best chance to win the fight under circumstances whatever the circumstances are.
Everyone knows that Bernard likes to slow the pace of the fight and take control of what happens in the ring, where it happens and when it happens. Knowing that, and considering his advanced age, it sounds like it would be easy to make Bernard uncomfortable and seize control of the fight early. However, Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat, and Beibut Shumenov all had the same thing in mind when they entered the ring with Bernard and they still became victims.
In the build up to this fight Hopkins has said, “I don’t fear anybody, and when you don’t fear anyone…..they fear you…..they feel it.” If Kovalev isn’t strong enough mentally to deal with Hopkins psychological warfare, he will lose. However, he seems like the kind of fighter and man that will not fall into that trap, but Bernard always has a lot of backup plans.
To win the fight Kovalev only has to be himself. However, he has never been beyond the 8th round in a professional fight, hasn’t fought in a fight of this magnitude and has never fought a living legend. He needs to start strong, stay aggressive and not let Hopkins get comfortable. Hopkins will surely want Kovalev to come in looking for a knockout, and then use that to his advantage. Bernard knows he can win rounds while Kovalev is looking for the knockout punch and if Kovalev isn’t staying sharp and throwing punches in bunches the final bell may ring while he is still seeking that one big punch.
Kovalev needs to be busy, but not careless, and to concentrate on winning the fight one round at a time. At the same time he needs to use his youth and strength to his advantage, but not get baited into fouling and losing points or risking a disqualification. If the knockout is there for him it will come, on the other hand, Hopkins will be dangerous for as long as the fight goes on, especially if he is losing. If Hopkins is outgunned, he may not look dangerous, but if the fight is going Kovalev’s way Bernard may resort to trying to set Kovalev up for a knockout much like the 45 year old George Foreman claims he did when he stopped Michael Moorer in the 10th round after being dominated for much of the fight.
The common sense pick is that the younger, big punching Kovalev just has too much for Bernard to deal with at this point of his career, but after watching him prove people wrong time and time again for years…..as much as you believe you should…..how can you pick against him? He has proven everyone wrong so many times; it is clearly what drives him to compete at his age. Whoever wins the first few rounds should win the fight, while both men are very capable of turning the tide with a big knockout look for the winner of the first few rounds to seize the advantage and win the fight…but this is a fight where you never know. Just be sure to tune in to FREE HBO at 10:45pm EST.