Over the last five years, Bernard Hopkins has become the old master of boxing, and the shock of seeing him school yet another much younger man within the ring has worn off. The element of surprise has been dulled to such a point that when earlier this year Hopkins took Tavoris Cloud’s IBF light heavyweight title with ease bordering on contempt, the faces of the boxing fan did not register puzzlement, despite Hopkins becoming the oldest man to hold a world title belt at 48 and beating the previous record… set by himself. This weekend he defends that title against solid contender Karo Murat.
B-Hop has recently bestowed himself with a new nickname – “The Alien”. It may not be as trendy a moniker as his old “Executioner” tag, but it is certainly apt, with Hopkins defying the laws of nature to retain excellent physical condition despite his advanced age. One gets the feeling that Hopkins’ life is one big training camp, and the physical rigors of the ring have not yet taken too high a toll on the quality of his performances. Hopkins’ hand speed and movement may not be what it was when he reigned at Middleweight, but he remains elusive.
Based on the available footage, Murat is a strong fighter, though he lacks in height and reach when standing next to Hopkins, and he is not the sort to maintain a particularly high work-rate, something absolutely necessary to get by an intelligent yet aging adversary. Murat’s punch power is decent but not spectacular, and his hand-speed is not particularly troublesome.
Indeed, in his loss to Nathan Cleverly, Murat relied primarily on staying power. His chin was strong enough to stand up to the punches of top-level lighter hitters, such as Cleverly and Gabriel Campillo, so he shouldn’t find himself overly perturbed by the punch-power of Hopkins.
Hopkins’ mental fortitude is unquestionable. He has stared down younger men before and knows a world title fight like the back of his hand. The chances of him being remotely fazed by the challenge of Murat are between slim and none. Having said that, perhaps the biggest mental challenge Hopkins faces here is underestimation. A true professional like Hopkins will surely guard against such possibility, but in the back of his head, even “The Alien” must have nagging doubts as to the level of the test ahead of him. And Hopkins is always at his best when he feels as if he’s the underdog, and he’s being overlooked.
Murat appears to be equally cool within a boxing ring. He had no problem traveling to fight Cleverly and continued to fight with heart and aggression in spite of his being out-boxed and out-fought. That fight remains Murat’s only loss but no mental scars should have arisen from it. The referee’s decision to stop the contest before round ten was controversial and the fact Murat disputed it suggests he was happy to fight on. Murat has never fought at this level before, however, and fighting a psychologically intimidating legend such as Hopkins in Atlantic City may be a source of discomfort.
Hopkins is one of the most fundamentally sound fighters of his era, and the chances of him meeting anyone with better technique in his weight-class are unlikely. He has worked around the aging process, and any slowing reflexes have been masked by his ring intelligence. Hopkins’ possesses a good jab and an in-fighting game honed through the years to near perfection.
He is an expert on how to break a fighter down, whether it be grinding Kelly Pavlik down with precise punching and inside bullying, walking down Jean Pascal with intelligent pressure or out-manoeuvrings and frustrating Tavoris Cloud, Hopkins has carried out gameplan after gameplan with success.
Murat is far more one-dimensional, with a style based upon a high guard and aggression. It is easy to liken him to Arthur Abraham, albeit heavier and less powerful. Murat has a pretty limited repertoire of punches judging from previous fight footage, and his footwork can be plodding.
Hopkins vs. Murat Prediction
Unfortunately for the fight fan, I see this only going one way – a comfortable, drawn-out unanimous decision victory for Bernard Hopkins. I describe it as such because I fail to see Murat being able to figure out the Hopkins riddle, better fighters have tried and failed.
Murat simply does not possess the tempo to unsettle the older man, nor the power to worry him. Hopkins will likely keep him on the end of the jab, lead him around the ring and out-tussle him on the inside – that is on the rare occasions Murat gets there. Perhaps Hopkins will inject intrigue by going on the front foot and engaging with Murat, which could lead to a potentially more open contest, but the probability is that Hopkins does what is necessary and wins every round en route to a cozy points win.