By Rudy Mondragón
Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2) made history again at age 48 capturing the IBF light heavyweight title. Hopkins took the belt from Tavoris Cloud (24-1), who appeared to be star struck and was never really able to find his rhythm.
Hopkins started the fight with his usual pace. Given that he is close to age 50, pacing himself against the 31 year Cloud was a necessary part of the Hopkins game plan. Although the crowd booed early in the fight for lack of action, Hopkins stayed composed as he set traps and dictated the speed of the fight.
Commentators stated that Hopkins was fighting like he was 40 tonight. I disagree, Hopkins fought the way a 48 year old needed to. Pacing himself, making his opponent miss, setting up quick combinations, carefully picking his shots, and smothering Cloud. Hopkins wisely set up his punches and gave Cloud zero space to counter. In a way, you can say Hopkins knows how to use the referee to his advantage. By making his opponent to tie up with him, it restricted Cloud from throwing any dangerous punches, and forced Earl Brown to step in and separate the two fighters. Hopkins is a boxing wizard and he demonstrated that tonight.
Lately, Hopkins has not been the most exciting fighter to watch. His last KO victory was in 2004 when he dropped Oscar De La Hoya with a nasty body punch. Tonight however, was a more exciting performance by the elder. Bernard had the crowd chanting “B-Hop, B-Hop!” He amazed his fans by drawing Cloud in and making him miss foolishly. At one point, Cloud swung and missed like the mighty Casey at the Bat. With Cloud’s back turned, Hopkins raised his right, thought about punching Cloud, then laughed and let Cloud turn around only to throw two humorous jabs. No doubt Hopkins was enjoying himself.
The final round came and went. Hopkins went out doing what he knows best. His 25 years of boxing experience were on display. Cloud appeared to have his spirit broken, somewhat frustrated. Overall, Cloud didn’t come out to try to win the 12th round. The final bell rang. Hopkins was pumped as he jumped on the ropes to address his fan and raise his hands in the air. He went over to the HBO table and called out Andre Ward. B-Hop had some words with Cloud and then directed his thoughts to his former promoter, Don King. No doubt tension still exist between the two.
The cards were in and all favored the ageless warrior:
HBO’s Max Kellerman interviewed Hopkins after the fight. “The 40 and up club still rules” said Hopkins in enthusiastic fashion. And to the kids, Bernard had this to say: “You can do it clean and still be good like myself and never take drugs.” Ring manifestation and realness from a professor of the boxing game.