Bernard Hopkins: Dawson and beyond?

By: Jon Campbell

When the 36 year-old Bernard Hopkins climbed through the ropes to give one of the best performances in modern history against an unsuspecting Felix Trinidad, very few envisaged the possibility of him boxing at the age of 47. Not only this, but I dare to say nobody even had the remotest concept that he would be a reigning world champion at Light-Heavyweight and still not only competing, but winning at the sports highest level. Despite his rare but inevitable losses, time after time he has turned back the clock and deprived the younger, stronger man, who without him would be the worthy champion, of the limelight. Yet again, he faces a challenge against Chad Dawson, a guy who as a legitimate contender arguably would be in Hopkins position had it not been for his stubbornness and successful refusal to hang up his gloves. Without being too presumptuous I find it difficult to believe he will retire after this fight, and on predicting his victory I will suggest where he may venture next.

As I have said above, I believe Hopkins will get the better of Dawson in their rematch. This will very likely be on the scorecards, as neither strike me had having the one-punch power to take down the other. Nor do I imagine either’s style will be one which goes hand in hand with a K.O. As despite Hopkins’s increase in excitement to his style, I think if he wants an easier night he would be better going back to old Hopkins against Dawson. The experience Hopkins possesses in abundance is simply too vast and detailed to allow the good yet basic style of Dawson to break him down. Although Taylor defeated Hopkins twice with a similar style, I believe Taylor’s jab is superior which was important, also I saw Taylor at the time to be a much more effective aggressor. Not only this but the Ring craft and generalship possessed by Hopkins is arguably the best seen ever and this will be more helpful against a rangy southpaw like Dawson. I do not rule out Dawson’s chances but I see them as limited, no doubt he will give a good account of himself but it is a win/lose sport and I do not see it going his way.

Win, lose or draw, I doubt this will be Hopkins last venture in the ring and I expect to see more from him. So what next? I see three possible routes for him to take, each differing in value…

Firstly there is the route which involves staying at Light-Heavyweight and literally clearing up all the young talents rising, defend his title several times against the division’s best, possibly unify another title or two, until he decides to retire. This would involve fighting the likes of Cleverly and Tavoris Cloud following Dawson. These fighters are young, Hungary and undefeated and although they are good fighters, he has more to lose than gain against these fighters. There are bigger challenges and money fights elsewhere and if he loses it will look worse than a loss against Dawson would. I certainly would advise him to take one of the two following routes.

The second route is that of a new challenge in the Cruiserweight division. He would not struggle competing at the weight in my opinion plus he would not struggle to win a title or two at this weight class. Should he make this move the fighters I would like him to face would be Denis Lebedev (WBA Interim Champ) and Yoan Pablo Hernandez (IBF and The Ring Champ), Lebedev being the one I personally would suggest he opt for. Lebedev as good as he appears is not up to Hopkins standards, despite this I still think he has more in him and could pose a worthy challenge over 12 rounds, alongside a possibility of a looming knockout due to his punching power. Although this would not be a large money fight and he would be favourite I would rate this fight as one of his best options and a good one to watch. He has already expressed interest in taking up this route, as he offered Thomas Adamek a $2 Million challenge for his WBC title, this was rejected and Adamek soon after moved up to the Heavyweight division and make an unsuccessful challenge at the HW title. This is a shame as the Cruiserweight division is not one packed with great names which Hopkins could fight, and Adamek would have been an ideal bout for him.

Thirdly, the most preferable option in my opinion would be to take a look at a few of the big names the Super-Middleweight division has to offer and fight a few of those guys before retirement. This division is full of great talent and money-drawing fights which would be beneficial to Hopkins career greatly at this late stage. I do not know Hopkins’s body but if possible this could involve moving down to challenge one of the current title holders and other contenders, or challenging those who may be tempted to step up as did Joe Callaghan.

There is Andre Ward, the current WBA(super), WBC and the Ring champ, this fight will never happen, as said by Hopkins himself, due to his great respect for Ward. This is certainly a shame as a fight between them would involve technically brilliant boxing that many would love to watch.

The obvious fight I would advise Hopkins to shoot for is the winner of Carl Foch and Lucian Bute. He has already expressed great interest in fighting the Canadian-based Romanian IBF champ. Unfortunately for him Bute signed a deal to fight Froch in Nottingham. A fight with the winner of this fight at a catch weight could be one of the fights of the year and is definite must-watch action. Besides this fight, which I see as the best option for Hopkins, I see plenty other potential at the division he leap-frogged.

There is Mikkel Kessler, who would give Hopkins a great challenge and may arguably be considered favourite to topple the legend.

Also there are the likes of Dirrell and Allen Green, who would be less challenging but still worthwhile ventures. Even Arthur Abraham I believe is worthwhile for Hopkins, who after a bad couple of years is certainly keen to get his success back at the top.

We here time after time the sad story of once great fighters who stay on longer than they should have quit earlier and carry on seeking glory they have already achieved and as their skills diminish the risk of long-term harm increases. However, in the case of Hopkins even at 47 he is world-class and it would take a strong argument to persuade me he is not equal to the fighter who beat Trinidad. By no means should we encourage him to stop simply because he is as good as ever and can clearly protect himself at the highest level.