Ex” Marks Spot: Ageless Hopkins makes history at Barclays
Age ain’t nothin’ but a number.
Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins is living proof of the above R&B lyric, a point he drove home in historic fashion Saturday night at Downtown’s Barclays Center before a rapt and at-time raucous audience of Brooklyn boxing enthusiasts.
By dethroning previously undefeated light heavyweight champion Tavoris Cloud (24-1, 19 KOs) — a fighter nearly two decades his junior — “B-Hop!” shattered his own mark as the oldest holder of a significant title in the long history of pro boxing at the not-so-tender age of 48, grabbing Cloud’s IBF belt with a combination of ring generalship, cunning guile and brute force.
“I’m a destroyer of young champions,” Hopkins boasted, moments after the unanimous decision (116-112, 116-112, 117-111) was read over the cheers of the crowd by none other Michael “Let’s Get Ready to Rumble” Buffer, completing the second big night of world championship boxing on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues.
“I wanted to show the forty-and-up club still rules,” added Hopkins, who intimated that he’d be celebrating his 53rd career win with a slice of Junior’s World Famous Cheesecake. “Thanks for coming out Brooklyn!”
After an underwhelming undercard that featured easy victories by a trio of local favorites — Staten Island’s Marcus Browne (3-0), Brooklyn’s-own Frank Galarza (9-0-1) and Bronx up-and-comer Eddie Gomez (13-0) — the lower bowl of the state-of-the-arena was filled to capacity and ready for Hopkins’ always-dramatic entrance.
With the speakers blaring “Where Brooklyn At!” before Hopkins’ customary “X Gonna Give It To Ya”, compliments of DMX, the Philadelphia native slowly made his way to the squared circle with his menacing Executioner’s hood.
The early rounds were marked by Cloud’s aggressiveness and Hopkins’ fleet of foot and ring mastery, frustrating the champion from Tallahasee, Fla., despite his pre-fight boasts that this would at long last be the seemingly ageless wonder’s “Last Supper”.
Hopkins bided his time before proving he still had a punishing one-two and a can’t-hit-what-you-can’t-catch versatility, teaching Cloud a 12-round lesson the sweet science along the ropes while gesturing to the pro-Hopkins crowd that he was simply toying with the 30-year-old champ.
“(Trainer) Naazim (Richardson) told me what to do,” Hopkins said. “I stuck to the gameplan, it was trying to throw combination punches, and throw them often,”
Cloud received a cut over his left eye in round six, the clear result of a Hopkins hook, though the blow was originally ruled a grazing elbow. Fearing his first loss would arrive via a stoppage, the young champion tried in vain to take the fight to Hopkins again, only to be stonewalled and battered back into his own corner as the bell rang.
Hopkins appeared to grow stronger as the night progressed while Cloud could never quite get his hands going against the more experienced pugilists awkward yet effective defensive style. Upon the final bell, Hopkins ran to the ring apron and called out HBO boxing analyst Andre Ward, known as the top light heavyweight and one of boxing best pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
“I still have some history-marking moments in me,” Hopkins insisted, less than two years removed from his record-setting win over Jean Pascal in May 2011.
Cloud, who entered the ring eager to boost his own profile at Hopkins’ expense, admitted he fell short of his quest to emerge from the Brooklyn night as one of the world’s top titleholders.
”I was only average tonight,” Cloud said. ”He hit me with an elbow but I’m not complaining. It is what it is.”
The post-fight press conference also featured a war of words between Bensonhurst native and welterweight champion Paulie Malignaggi and newly crowned WBO Intercontinental crown winner Keith “One-Time” Thurman, who dominated his way to a 12-round decision over Jan Zaveck (32-3) in the co-feature bout.
Malignaggi wants a shot at Thurman, perhaps as soon as April 27, when Golden Boy Promotions hosts its third major card at the Barclays.
“You better not duck me son,” Thurman warned after improving to 20-0.
“Bring that money, it’s prize fighting dummy,” Malignaggi fired back, upping the ante for a future showdown in our fair borough.
Golden Boy protegee Michael Perez (18-1-2) survived a seven-round majority draw with a very game Lonnie Smith (14-4-3) in the run-up to the HBO televised fights. The fight was stopped on a cut suffered by Perez via a Smith head butt, and disappointed the crowd which was just getting into the back-and-forth action after Browne, Galarza and Gomez made easy work of their opponents in a combined five rounds.
But ultimately, the night and the glory that it wrought belonged to Hopkins, who has plans to box into his fifties if he can line up the right opponents.
“I’m fighting old school in a new world,” Hopkins admitted.
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