Still the same: Hopkins preps for another unlikely conquest
By Lyle Fitzsimmons, Boxing Editor
(SportsNetwork.com) - Somehow, the "wow" factor is almost no longer apparent.
Bernard Hopkins has been at this "I'm in my 40s and still beating guys" thing for so long, that it's become more and more difficult to generate excitement when he prepares for another conquering.
Now 48-years old, the Philadelphia wunderkind enters the ring Saturday night for the 64th time in a pro career that began during the second term of President Ronald Reagan.
He'll face 30-year-old Iraqi-born challenger Karo Murat in the first defense of the International Boxing Federation (IBF) light heavyweight title belt he won seven months ago with a unanimous 12-round defeat of another youngster - 31 year-old Tavoris Cloud - in Brooklyn.
The Murat fight takes Hopkins two hours to the southeast alongside the New Jersey seashore, where he'll headline a card at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City that'll be broadcast by Showtime beginning at 9 p.m. (ET). The show also includes unbeaten heavyweight prospect Deontay Wilder in a 10-round bout against Nicolai Firtha and World Boxing Organization (WBO) middleweight champion Peter Quillin risking his title for the second time against ninth- ranked contender Gabriel Rosado.
It's the 18th career appearance in the East Coast gambling mecca for Hopkins, who dropped a four-round decision to Clinton Mitchell in his 1988 pro debut at Resorts International and was beaten by Chad Dawson to lose his WBC light heavyweight title at Boardwalk Hall in 2012.
In between, he won 15 consecutive fights at the Sands, Trump Tower, Convention Hall, Resorts, Trump Taj Mahal and Boardwalk Hall, including three defenses of the middleweight titles he held from 1995 to 2005 and subsequent career- enhancing defeats of Antonio Tarver and Kelly Pavlik.
Even Hopkins himself underwent a gimmick change for this go-round with Murat - the IBF's second-ranked contender - changing his longtime "Executioner" nickname to "The Alien."
"Coming to Atlantic City brings out a lot of emotions in me," he said. "To be back here, healthy with a legacy and doing historic things is a blessing. I am motivated by being in a place where it all began. There is extra energy for me to give serious beatdowns here. Karo Murat is hoping, like others before him, that he is lucky enough that I got old in the gym."
Hopkins, now 53-6-2 with 32 knockouts, was assumed by many to be past his best upon losing consecutive decisions to a then-unbeaten Jermain Taylor in July and December of 2005. But, six months after the second loss to Taylor, at age 41, he rose to light heavyweight and easily out-pointed Antonio Tarver to win the International Boxing Organization's (IBO) championship.
He announced his belated retirement afterward in keeping with a promise he'd made to his mother to give up the game by age 40, but was back in the game 13 months later for a unanimous decision defeat of former 154-pound champion Winky Wright in a 170-pound catchweight match
Nine subsequent fights have yielded a 5-2-1 record with one no-contest, a WBC title belt he won from Canadian Jean Pascal at age 46 and the IBF crown he wrested from Cloud at the Barclays Center with one-sided judges' scores of 116-112 (8-4 in rounds), 116-112 (8-4) and 117-111 (9-3).
"There's no magic spell that hits you over the head that says, 'You're old.' As far as I'm concerned, old to me is not old to the average person. What is old?" Hopkins said. "My fight is another page of my legacy. We want people to think this is a tough fight, but it's a fight that is going to lead to bigger things."
The 6-foot-1 Hopkins has scored no wins inside the distance since a ninth-round stoppage of Oscar De La Hoya in 2004, while Murat, who stands 5-10 1/2, has two straight victories by TKO. He stopped American veteran Otis Griffin in 11 rounds in Germany in May 2011 and halted Czech Republic-based journeyman Sandro Siproshvili in seven rounds in his last fight 16 months ago.
His last loss was in 2010, when he was stopped by Welshman Nathan Cleverly in 10 rounds.
The match with Hopkins is his first championship fight.
Hopkins is 23-3-2 with two no-contests in 30 title fights.
"This is a fight against a legend, but I can handle it. I think it is a sign from God that I am here to end Bernard's career. He is an old man and needs to stop now," Murat said. "I don't have a strategy. I will see during the fight what I can do to beat Hopkins."
10/25 15:36:07 ET