Bernard Hopkins may be one of Philadelphia’s native sons, but you would have thought otherwise after hearing the roaring chants of “B HOP” that rained down on the 48 year-old fighter on Saturday night at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center.
The crowd of 12,293 wasn’t shy about showing their support for the “The Executioner” as they watched Hopkins make history once again with a convincing 12-round victory over the previously undefeated Tavoris Cloud. With the win, Hopkins earned Cloud’s IBF Light Heavyweight Title and broke his own two-year old record, becoming the oldest fighter in boxing history to win a world championship.
Contrary to what the 17 year age difference between the boxers may have suggested, Hopkins proved to be the quicker fighter time and time again on Saturday. Indeed, while Tavoris Cloud showed glimpses of why he was so highly regarded in boxing circles, Hopkins’ defense prevented Cloud from sustaining any momentum even when he was able to connect with his punches.
Overall, Cloud landed 21% of his punches (139/650) compared to Hopkins’ 41% (169/417) (ESPN.com via Compubox).
“I was really working on my speed and reflexes. At 48 years old, I wanted to display them,” Hopkins told HBO’s Max Kellerman during his post-fight interview in the ring. “I’m with the 40-and-up club, and it still rules.”
While the crowd was behind Hopkins from the beginning when the Barclays Center television screen displayed a shot of Hopkins warming up during the last undercard fight, they did get a little restless early on in the bout as neither fighter threw many punches through the first two rounds. The proud Brooklynites even tossed a few boos towards the ring.
Moreover, before the action picked up in the third round there were a couple of brief tussles between fans in the audience that drew sarcastic cheers from the crowd as if to imply that the action in the stands was better than the action in the ring.
Despite the slow start, the fireworks didn’t disappoint when they finally came. A few of the better moments included Hopkins connecting with a right hook on Cloud midway through the fourth round and then amusing the crowd by laughing at Cloud after he failed to land a big left swing. Hopkins would later draw a similar reaction in the seventh round when he mocked Cloud after another big miss.
Hopkins probably did his most damage in the sixth round when he opened a gash over Cloud’s left eye that seemed to nag Cloud throughout the rest of the fight. Although the referee officially ruled that the cut was caused by an accidental head-butt, the stadium replays seemed to show that Hopkins caused the gash with a left hook. In fact, when the Barclays’ crowd saw the slow-motion footage of the blow, they responded with their most enthusiastic “B Hop” chant of the night.
Cloud had a few highlights of his own, as he was able to connect on a couple of nice shots in the fourth and eighth rounds, but in the end it wasn’t hard to see why Hopkins won a unanimous decision. After the fight, Cloud seemed to think that his gash may have been caused by an elbow, but overall he sounded like he knew he had just taken a fair loss.
“I was only average tonight. He hit me with that elbow, but I am not complaining,” said Cloud. “It is what it is. The good thing about boxing is we do it inside the ring without guns and everybody lives to fight another day.”
In addition to the age gap between the fighters, the fight’s other storyline involved Hopkins going up against his former promoter Don King who now promotes Tavoris Cloud.
Back in January, Hopkins speculated that Don King’s demise would coincide with Tavoris Cloud’s defeat, saying that “After I beat Cloud, Don King will have to pawn his jacket [to make money], and that jacket is just as old as me. “ At the same press conference, he went on to tell Tavoris Cloud that “Don King is going to make sure you do your business. His empire is on your shoulders. You’re the last horse. There’s no one left in the stable.”
Although he did have what appeared to be a brief, civil exchange with King after the fight, Hopkins didn’t sound like he was backing off of those remarks Saturday night. “I have a history of destroying young champions and you never see them again,” Hopkins said from the ring. “I don’t know if you’ll see Tavoris Cloud again.”
When the fight was formally announced in January, King stated that he had a mini-Mike Tyson in Tavoris Cloud. Now that Cloud has suffered his first defeat, only time will tell if Hopkins’ prophecy will come to fruition.
The fight’s co-main event featured Keith Thurman taking the WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight Title from Jan Zaveck via unanimous decision in a 12-round bout, and highlights from the undercard bouts included impressive TKO wins by Brooklyn’s Frank Galarza and 2012 United States Olympian Marcus Browne. Michael Perez and Lonnie Smith also battled to a 2/3 majority draw in a 10-round lightweight fight.
Overall it was a good night for boxing in Brooklyn, as the Barclays Center proved to be a fresh new venue for premier fights.
However, the evening ultimately belonged to the 48-year old Hopkins, who became the new IBF Light Heavyweight Champion and solidified his status of one the better athletes competing in any sport today.