Bernard Hopkins sat on the edge of the stage at a downtown Washington hotel and put his head against the table set up behind him for his news conference promoting his next fight.Trainer Naazim Richardson tried to push the table away in order to give Hopkins a few extra inches of room, but the International Boxing Federation light heavyweight champion requested otherwise. He wanted to be able to lean back and relax, at least for a few moments.
“I’m showing my age,” said Hopkins, 49.In truth, he has been doing anything but since twice becoming the oldest fighter to win a major title, and by his own admission is nowhere near retirement.Twenty-one years after his first fight in the nation’s capital, Hopkins (54-6-2, 32 knockouts) is taking aim at becoming the oldest boxer to unify major world titles when he faces Beibut Shumenov at the D.C. Armory on April 19.
Hopkins won the IBF belt last year and will be making his second title defense. Shumenov (14-1, nine KOs) owns the World Boxing Association and International Boxing Association light heavyweight titles, both of which he claimed in December.
Hopkins and Shumenov, 30, were in town to take part in a formal announcement of the bout, which will be broadcast live on Showtime. The fight will be the fifth for Hopkins in the Washington area, with Hopkins selecting D.C. over San Antonio and New York when Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., was unavailable.
“D.C. came up, and it was a good thing because I have a lot of great fans here,” said Hopkins, who hails from Philly and has lived in Delaware since 1998.
The last time Hopkins fought in the District was February 1999, when he scored a seventh-round knockout of Robert Allen at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Hopkins also has fought at RFK Stadium, U.S. Airways Arena in Landover and the Show Place Arena in Upper Marlboro.
Hopkins’s first fight in the District took place in May 1993 at RFK Stadium, located steps from the D.C. Armory. Hopkins lost to Roy Jones Jr. in a 12-round unanimous decision for the vacant IBF middleweight title. The fight was part of the undercard to Fort Washington native and then-WBA heavyweight champion Riddick Bowe’s second-round knockout of Jesse Ferguson.
Hopkins last fought in October when he defeated Karo Murat by unanimous decision at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City to retain the IBF title he captured with another unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud last March. Cloud entered that fight unbeaten before Hopkins became the oldest fighter, then 48, to win a major belt.
He initially set the record at 46 by beating Jean Pascal in May 2011 via unanimous decision at Bell Centre in Montreal to claim the WBC championship belt. Hopkins relinquished that title when Chad Dawson outpointed him a little less than a year later in Atlantic City.
“I hope that we appreciate this guy while he’s here because we’re always quick to acknowledge guys after they’re not around to be acknowledged,” Richardson said of Hopkins, who logged a record 20 title defenses as a middleweight. “We have the athlete here. He’s here, and we can let him know that this is a special situation. Every single thing this man does is boxing history.”