We’re mere hours away from perhaps the most intriguing matchup of 2014. 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins continues his historic run tomorrow night when he faces Russia’s Sergey Kovalev in a light-heavyweight unification bout in Atlantic City. The staff of The Fight City chimes in with their predictions.
I am as bewildered as anyone by Bernard Hopkins’ recent success and the inability of his younger, bigger, stronger and more powerful foes to impose their will. I give Hopkins credit: much of this success has to do with his gift for psyching out his opponents and his ring craft, which is as heady and nuanced as it is sleep-inducing. But I cling to the notion that it also has something to do with how guys like Pavlik, Pascal and Cloud failed to assert themselves and outwork a fighter old enough to be their father. And I can’t forget that in 2012 Chad Dawson defeated Hopkins by a wide margin, primarily by letting his hands go and refusing to let the cagey veteran dictate the terms of the fight.
So for me the central question of this contest revolves around Kovalev and how he will respond to Hopkins’ defensive prowess, mind games, selective fouling and constant clinching. My sense is that the Russian may have the mental fortitude necessary to ignore all that and stick to his gameplan, which will naturally involve setting a fast pace and throwing lots of leather. After all, this is a fighter who killed a man in the ring and did not allow it to impede his progress, returning six months later to viciously pound his opponent into submission in two rounds. Plus, most of Bernard’s pre-fight talk and psychological warfare is lost on Kovalev; the man doesn’t understand English. I believe Hopkins will be unable to control the tempo and terms of this fight as he usually does and instead will be kept on the defensive for almost every round. Hopkins vs Kovalev will still be an ugly and clinch-filled affair, like so many of “The Alien’s” fights, but I see “The Krusher” taking a unanimous decision. –Michael Carbert
Whilst Kovalev is as intelligent as he is strong, I don’t see what he does that B-Hop hasn’t seen before. I foresee the usual mix of tricks and spoils from Hopkins because he knows if he allows Kovalev any time or room to get his punches off it will be game over. It won’t be a classic (I don’t think anyone is expecting one), and Kovalev will punch most parts of Hopkins’ anatomy, but I still think the veteran’s crafty punch timing and inside fighting will be enough to edge his greatest win. Hopkins SD12.
Sergey Kovalev is still bathed in the golden light of all new stars, but darkness, in the form of Bernard Hopkins, will shroud this aura on Saturday. To me, the fight’s biggest question is whether Kovalev can hit Bernard with clean shots. If he can, Kovalev can win. If he can’t, he won’t. Unlike everyone Kovalev has faced, Hopkins is a master boxer who smothers punchers by closing the distance. Bernard will make things dirty and Kovalev may become frustrated and if he does, Hopkins will win a decision. He’s simply too cagey to leave himself vulnerable to a big shot, and if he ever gets stopped, it will come as the conclusion to a sustained flurry, which will only arrive late in a fight when Hopkins is too tired to employ his suffocating defensive strategies. The problem with this scenario is that Hopkins doesn’t get tired, as he showed against Jean Pascal when he did push-ups between rounds and proceeded to give the younger fighter a boxing lesson. I think it’s more likely Hopkins out-smothers Kovalev, landing precise, scoring shots in the process, than it is that Kovalev out-slugs Hopkins, who is too experienced to be drawn into a punch-up. Bernard Hopkins by unanimous decision in a fight that will be alternatively exciting and frustrating.
Kovalev hands Hopkins the first stoppage loss of his career. Alien vs. Krusher will resemble Miguel Cotto’s dismantling of Sergio Martinez, though not quite as one sided. Nevertheless, Kovalev will steamroll through. Hopkins will occasionally frustrate Kovalev, but fitness and strength are going to overwhelm tactics in this one.
For the life of me, I don’t understand why Hopkins took this fight. Kovalev is for real and is easily the most dangerous fighter Hopkins has faced since Kelly Pavlik, and I think Kovalev is far more ruthless than “The Ghost” ever was. In the early rounds Hopkins will tie up his bigger, more aggressive foe and smother his offense, but at some point in the middle rounds the Russian will start finding the range and breaking Bernard down. The referee will be forced to call a halt by round 10. Kovalev by TKO.
Kovalev is a very good fighter, perhaps an exceptional one, but the fact remains he has yet to share a ring with anyone who is even remotely close to being on Hopkins’ level when it comes to technique, tactical awareness, and strategic thinking. Conversely, I don’t see anything in Kovalev’s repertoire, at least as of right now, that suggests to me Hopkins will be out of his depth come Saturday; he quite literally has seen it all before. Short of an early, unexpected knockout or some bizarre controversy, I see Hopkins using his superior ringcraft to bewilder and bamboozle a frustrated Kovalev on way to chalking up another win for the old-school, producing yet another performance for the ages. Hopkins by unanimous decision. –Lee Wylie
I’ve gotten burned picking punchers over boxers far too many times, and I’m not about to make the same mistake again. Yes, Kovalev looks like a well-rounded fighter, and he does carry murdering power, but he’s unproven at the elite level. And to knock out someone, you first need to land flush. Against Hopkins, that is a tall order indeed. While “The Alien” gets all the credit in the world for challenging Kovalev, that’s as far as he will go in giving the public what they want to see. Expect Hopkins to fight an ugly, clinch-infested, foul-plagued bout–with maybe a couple of dramatic moments thrown in for good measure–and earn a historic decision win over the fearsome but green Kovalev. –Rafael García