By Jason Pribila, Ringside in Atlantic City: Earlier this week I voted three former Bernard Hopkins opponents into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. On Saturday Night, I sat ringside as a 48 year old “Alien” performed for a crowd, played with the neutral corner, and toyed with his mandatory opponent.
At 48 years old many questioned why Hopkins would be following thru with a bout against a mandatory challenger that would add little to his mind boggling legacy. The master craftsman showed his promotional savvy by not only promising a knockout, but by also changing his nickname from “The Executioner” to the more appropriate “Alien”.
However, when the fight actually got underway, we saw some grappling, head locks, head butts, and the occasional foul. In other words, it was a typical Hopkins fight; only this time it was the opponent, Karo Murat (25-2-1, 15 KO) who was the guilty party.
The bout began with Murat trying to pressure the ring legend. Hopkins was able to tie him up on the inside, and he remained too slick and quick to avoid shots from the perimeter.
After nine minutes of studying his foe, Hopkins began to take Murat to school in round four. Murat tried to throw an uppercut from the outside, and he ate a counter left. He followed with a Tyson-esque double right to the body and head.
In round five the fighters were trading in the middle of the ring. When their heads collided, Murat turned his back to Hopkins as time was called. Bernard used the moment to give Murat a kiss on his boo boo, encouraging him to continue so he could dish out more punishment.
Midway through the fight the Alien was completely in Murat’s head. When the fighters got tangled in the ropes, Hopkins fell to the canvas. Murat then delivered two punches while Hopkins was down, which drew the ire of referee Steve Smoger.
Does anyone when Hopkins was hit behind the head against Calzaghe? Many thought that he was looking for an easy way out of the fight? Over a half-decade later, Hopkins dusted himself off and walked into the neutral corner waiting for the fight to continue.
Rounds 7 and 8 will long live as two of the most entertaining of Hopkins career. In round seven Hopkins threw and landed more power punches in the center of the ring than he did in full bouts against fighters like Calzaghe and Dawson.
In round 8, he was in the neutral corner turning his back to the challenger so he could call his shots to Murat’s chief seconds. The only thing I remember being close to what Hopkins was doing was when Floyd Mayweather Jr. was making his predictions of the NFLs AFC and NFC Championship Games to HBO’s Jim Lampley, after overhearing a ringside conversation. That took place at a time when Floyd was still known as “Pretty Boy”.
Murat was holding on in round nine, which gave Hopkins a chance to catch his breath. By the end of the round they were trading again. This time Hopkins got tagged with two or three hard shots to the head as the bell rang to end the round.
At that time, I felt the quest for the KO would come to an end. Hopkins is fighting at a high level at the age of 48 because he has avoided those types of shots.
Hopkins continued to dominate in rounds ten and eleven. He still landed punches that caused the frenzied crowd of over 6,200 fans to ooh and aah, but they were coming in the single punch variety.