By Danny Winterbottom
When Karo Murat travels to New York City in July he does so in readiness to battle a legend of the game and the scourge of father time.
At aged 48, and with a record 20 middleweight title defences under his belt, Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is a bone-a-fide living legend of the sport and the current incumbent of the IBF light heavyweight title he annexed from the previously unbeaten Tavoris Cloud in March.
That Cloud was 17 years younger than the grizzled Philly veteran, and unbeaten in 24 fights, was of little significance as B-Hop used his ring smarts to befuddle and shut down the power punching Florida native for a lopsided point’s victory and became the oldest man ever to win a world title.(breaking his own 2011 record)
“This feels great. It does feel incredible” said Hopkins in the aftermath of his historic victory.
Hopkins has come a long way since losing his debut to Clinton Mitchell in Atlantic City in 1988 and having achieved every accolade in the professional game, and with his place in the IBHOF guaranteed, Hopkins can dance to the beat of his own drum at the negotiating table but was only approved as a challenger for Cloud’s championship by the IBF if he agreed to defend against the unheralded German.
That Hopkins opted to defend against Murat, who was stopped by Nathan Cleverly in a WBO title challenge in 2010, rather than go after a ‘super fight’ surprised some in the game, although Hopkins has a long standing relationship with the IBF and wanted to honour his mandatory obligation.
“I was not surprised when he elected to face me” Murat told SecondsOut this week.
“Hopkins is a man of his word and has respect not only for the IBF but also for me, his mandatory challenger.”
“I am very happy that I get the chance to meet him in the ring. Hopkins has already reached the point where he has nothing left to prove so I feel privileged to fight him. This will be something to remember.”
In Murat’s corner in NYC will be legendary German boxing coach Ulli Wegner, a man who has already guided Sven Ottke and Marcus Beyer (amongst others) to world titles during his illustrious career. And Karo told SecondsOut the 71-year-old’s experience will be vital if he is to pull off a shock victory.
“Mr Wegner is a great coach. He knows how to get the best out of me and has guided me to this world title shot. I will do everything I can to get the belt around my waist. Without him this wouldn’t be possible at all.”
“My preparation has been very intense” he continued. “I will not be travelling to America to pick up a pay check, being beaten by an old man. I will show all the people that I’m not the B-side in this fight. I want to be a world champion by any means.”
Karo Murat will be a relative unknown outside of the hard-core American fight fan when he steps into the ring at the Barclays Centre but the 31-year-old, only beaten by Wales’ Nathan Cleverly in 27 fights, believes this will play into his hands.
“To tell you the truth this will be the first fight in my career where I have nothing to lose. The fight itself motivates me a lot. I eat, sleep and breathe boxing and I want to retire Hopkins for good. It is amazing that he is still at the top of the sport at nearly 50-years-old, I cannot remember another professional athlete that has done that, but everyone reaches their best by date at some point and come July 13, Hopkins will have reached his.”