Friday, November 7, 2014

Hopkins vs Kovalev: Wisdom Battles Youthful Power

Ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins (left) could face his toughest test in over a decade against the brutal Sergey Kovalev (right).
By Warren Rodriguez (@RodrigWM)   

In other sports we often hear about youth vs experience. Which one is better to have? Front offices do their best to find the right balance for their team. Youth and athleticism mixed with experience and age to turn their team into a championship contender.

Sometimes in boxing, however, it's one or the other, as is the case this Saturday when 49-year old WBA/IBF champion Bernard Hopkins (55-6-2) meets 31-year old WBO champion Sergey Kovalev (25-0-1) in a light heavyweight unification bout in Atlantic City.

The bout features two men similar in ideology, but very different in style. Both men are looking to become the undisputed king of the light heavyweight division, but both are going about it in different ways.

Hopkins hasn't knocked out an opponent in over 10 years, back when he was still in his 30's, while Kovalev has stopped his last nine opponents by way of knockout, and 13 of his 14 fights have not gone the distance. It's nothing short of remarkable when an opponent goes the distance with the Russian known as the "The Krusher," but then again, so much about Bernard Hopkins' career is remarkable.

Hopkins became the oldest man in boxing history to win a world championship last year when, at age 48, he defeated Tavoris Cloud to win the IBF championship, breaking the previous record held by none other than himself when, at age 46, he defeated Jean Pascal to win the WBC title.

Now, just two months shy of his 50th birthday, he's showing no signs of slowing down, even going so far as to suggest he is otherworldly.

Hopkins, who earlier in his career enjoyed an incredible run at middleweight, was known as "The Executioner," but last year started referring to himself as "The Alien," and now instead of making his ring entrance with his traditional executioner's hood, he enters entrance with an alien mask on.

"I'm an alien because I am of this world, but I'm not from this world," Hopkins said. "At 40 plus years old I reached my peak late in the game, in of the most active sports of all sports, it's called boxing. What did that tell us? That tells us that he's different, it's not only because of lifestyle, it has to be something else, well you don't understand me but I understand you."

Not everyone is buying Hopkins' extraterrestrial claims though. Kovalev's Trainer John David Jackson is one of them. Jackson, who use to be an assistant trainer in Hopkins' camp, and even squared off against Hopkins when he was a professional fighter himself, knows Hopkins' tactics all too well.

"He might tell the general public he's in great shape and what he's been doing, no you're an old man, I don't care what you say, you're an alien," Jackson said. "No, you're an old man and we have to treat him like an old man. I tell Sergey all the time don't get caught up in the hype, go in there knock this motherf***er out and let's go home."

To say Kovalev has power is an understatement, he is one of the premier seek and destroy fighters today and boasts one of the highest KO percentages in the history of the sport at 88%. In his 2011 bout with Roman Simakov, Simakov paid the ultimate price at the hands of Kovalev, after being knocked down in the sixth round and starting to absorb too many punches the fight was stopped in the 7th.

After the fight Simakov slipped into a coma and died three days later, further adding to the legend that is becoming Kovalev and making it tough to find top-tier competition willing to get in the ring with him. Kovalev has been waiting for an opponent of Hopkins' caliber for a long time and this will be his chance to prove that he belongs in the ring with the best of them.

If Kovalev wants to beat Hopkins he needs to keep the pressure on him and stay active. Hopkins doesn't rely on speed or power to win fights, rather he slows down the pace of the fight, counts on his ring generalship, and often questionable tactics to win. In Hopkins' recent fights he seems to slow the pace down so much that it almost looks like it lulls his opposition to sleep, by the time they wake up and get into a groove it's often too late and Hopkins has already done enough to secure victory.

That is why it is imperative for Kovalev to stay active. If the fight goes into the later rounds it will favor Hopkins, as Kovalev has never gone past the 8th round, while Hopkins has done it 35 times in career.

Bernard Hopkins shows what it means to work so hard for so long while Sergey Kovalev is a man that wants something so badly. One man has boundless desire while the other has astounding discipline. Although many pundits are picking Hopkins to win the fight, I predict this Alien is going to get knocked into outer space.


Anonymous said...

You certainly do your homework and you know your boxing.

Anonymous said...

Very informative! Wow I never knew he killed someone in the ring. Sad, but it's good know how fierce this Russian truly is. Enjoyed the article. A great read!