By Mary Cunningham
Bernard Hopkins is well aware of the well-worn quote:
“Time and tide wait for no man.”
After losing a unanimous decision to Sergey Kovalev Saturday night in Atlantic City, the soon-to-be-50-year-old Hopkins allowed as how he was “50-50” about retirement.
“Asking me to fight right now is just like asking a woman that just was in nine-hour labor if she was going to have another baby,” Hopkins said.
Naazim Richardson, Hopkins’s longtime trainer, said it was smart for Hopkins to wait before deciding.
Despite hurting his right hand while throwing a jab in the second round of the light heavyweight title fight, Kovalev dominated from the start, knocking Hopkins down in the first round and continuing to punish him throughout the fight. Hopkins did not win a round on any of the judges’ scorecards. They scored the fight 120-107, 120-107 and 120-106, in favor of Kovalev.
Kovalev, 31, retained his World Boxing Organization championship and captured Hopkins’s International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association belts. He connected on 166 of 585 punches (28 percent), while Hopkins landed 65 of 195 punches (33) and was on the defensive all night. In the 12th round, Kovalev landed 38 punches, the most by a Hopkins opponent in 41 fights CompuBox has tracked.
“Had you asked me before the fight, Could Kovalev land that many shots? I would have said no,” Richardson said. “And if you’d have asked me, If he does land that many shots, will Bernard be standing? I’d have said no.”
Hopkins had wanted to unify the light heavyweight titles by defeating Kovalev and then facing Adonis Stevenson, the World Boxing Council champion. Now, if Hopkins returns, he said, he might fight as a super middleweight, which has a limit of 168 pounds, seven pounds lighter than for a light heavyweight.
From 1995 to 2005, he defended the middleweight title a record 20 times. In 2011, he became the oldest boxing champion (at 46 years 4 months) in history, a mark he broke last March. Since turning professional 26 years ago, Hopkins (55-7-2 with 32 knockouts) has never been knocked out.
Jackson, his old friend, said he hoped Hopkins would call it quits.
“I think if he left now, his career is cemented,” Jackson said. “He’ll go in the Hall of Fame in five years. What more is there to prove? He had a great run as a middleweight. He beat some light heavyweights. What’s left but to get knocked out? And you don’t want that. He doesn’t deserve that kind of ending.”
For now, it’s back to Joe Hand’s gym for Hopkins who turns 50 next Jan. 15.