By Marc Livitz: Bernard Hopkins has been one of the most recognizable faces in boxing for the greater portion of the last two decades. His numerous championships, accolades and astounding ability to remain highly competitive while just south of the age of fifty are but a scant few examples of the legacy etched by the Philadelphia fighter. There was a time not so long ago when “The Executioner” Hopkins held every major middleweight title and rattled off an astonishing ten year, twenty defense run of his crowns. After he found himself on the questionable losing end of two straight bouts to Jermain Taylor in 2005, Hopkins made the jump upwards into the light heavyweight division.
Since doing so in the summer of 2006, Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2, 32 KO’s, 2 NC’s) has grabbed seven victories (over such names as Antonio Tarver, Ronald “Winky” Wright and Kelly Pavlik), suffered two losses (Joe Calzaghe and Chad Dawson) and one draw (Jean Pascal). In May 2011, the prizefighter from Philly became the oldest man to win a world championship when he defeated Pascal in a rematch. He went on to top his own record last spring with a shutout win over Tavoris Cloud for the IBF light heavyweight title in Brooklyn, New York.
A week from Saturday, “The Executioner” will find himself in a ring just a few hours south of Brooklyn when he meets challenger Karo Murat (25-1-1, 15 KO’s) at the famous Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. A seven year professional of Armenian descent, Murat now calls Germany home and will certainly be looking for the upset against the legendary Hopkins. The scheduled 12 round contest for the IBF light heavyweight title will be televised in the United States on the Showtime network (Saturday, October 26, 9PM ET/PT). The two gentlemen took part in an international conference call with the media this afternoon. Selected highlights below.
Kalle Sauerland, Sauerland Promtions: “Karo Murat is not well known yet, but he’s been around since 2006. He comes from a very tough background. He’s earned his chance and has long waited for this moment. For him, there’s not a lot to lose, but the world to gain. We have respect for Bernard Hopkins, but Karo has promised me the respect will go out the window when the opening bell rings. He’s the underdog, but of course, every dog has his day.”
Karo Murat Opening Statements: “I want to derail Hopkins from his world title. I’m happy to finally have a crack at a world title after such a long time and this will be a great and intense fight.”
Murat on Bernard Hopkins: “I have followed his career since I was about twelve years old. I appreciate his contributions to the sport. He was a middleweight champion and of course now, he’s the light heavyweight champion. He’s had some tremendous fights. I respect him for winning the world title at the age of 48. I have to say though, that I have seen the mileage on him and he looks like a 48 year old. He’s used his experience to get past other fighters, but I’ll try to get past him.”
Karo on his U.S. debut: “I’m in great shape and I’m happy for this chance. I’m 30 years old and I’m physically and mentally on top of my game. The time is now for me to beat Hopkins. When he fought (Tavoris) Cloud, there were a lot of people who had picked him to lose, but he showed the world that he’s still ready. I’m going to surprise a lot of people and as I see it, he had his first pro fight in 1988. He has to see that his time has come. We’ll be in Atlantic City and this will be a great place for him to close his career.”
Murat on the age and fighting style of Hopkins: “You can see that he’s getting old because of his gray hair and gray beard. You could see in his fight with Cloud that he was just looking to get in one punch and then clinch. When he was the middleweight champion, he didn’t fight that way. He may say that he still has the edge in conditioning, but I am in great shape, too. I know how to break his habits.”
Karo on 16 Months of Inactivity: “There was no problem at all. I have the mental edge and nothing could break me from my world. I relaxed a bit just as if I had a fight. I started over again without any problems. I can say, though that it could have made me crazy to have to wait that long for a championship fight.”
Murat on finding boxing: “I started at the age of 13. To be honest, I went to school but I didn’t know what I wanted to do with myself. One day. Some friends took me with them to the gym. I started winning and eventually began a professional boxing career. The hard work has paid off because I never thought I’d face a legend like Bernard Hopkins. “
Bernard Hopkins Opening Statements: “I’m here and I’m ready to go. It’s good to be back in Atlantic City. That’s where my first fight took place. It’s pretty exciting and it never gets old for me. You can’t do this all your life, but it doesn’t get old. I’m looking forward to next Saturday and to continue to add pages to my book.”
Hopkins on Mandatory Challengers: “I know that there’s light at the end of the tunnel. In this case, there is a super fight at the end of the tunnel. I know that you have to do a lot of licking before you get to the center of the tootsie roll. You have to get through these things whether you like it or not. I know that I have to be on my “A” game at his stage in my career, especially when you fight someone who is not well known in the states. I’m now in the second era of my career, while many are still in their first.
I’ll always be ready and I would never go into the ring without being prepared. This may not be a super fight in boxing, but it’s a super fight to me. This may be an obstacle and they may be nagging, but I had twenty title defenses as a middleweight. There were obstacles there in the form of mandatory challengers.”