Legendary former multiple two-weight world champion Bernard Hopkins finally brings down the curtain on his illustrious 28-year boxing career with a 65th and final bout against fellow American Joe Smith Jr this Saturday night (17 December) at The "Fabulous" Forum in Inglewood, California.
How to watch
Fight fans in the UK can watch live coverage of Hopkins' farewell contest from approximately 3am GMT on pay television channel BoxNation, a subscription to which costs £12 per month. Cable network HBO will broadcast proceedings across the pond.
So this is how it all finally ends. One month shy of his 52nd birthday, Hopkins, having now retired his "Alien" moniker, is set to don his hangman's hood as "The Executioner" for one final time. It's been quite the ride for "B-Hop", who, hailing from a rough neighbourhood in Philadelphia, served four-and-a-half years in prison for armed robbery before embarking upon a Hall of Fame pugilistic journey that included 10 years and a record 20 defences as IBF middleweight king.
While back-to-back defeats to Jermain Taylor in 2005 ended his run as the unified champion, Hopkins subsequently enjoyed three title reigns at light-heavyweight and went toe-to-toe with the likes of Antonio Tarver, Joe Calzaghe, fellow veteran Roy Jones Jr, Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal and Chad Dawson. He subsequently broke his own record as boxing's oldest major champion by snatching the IBF belt from Tavoris Cloud and successfully defended it against Karo Murat before setting yet another mark for longevity by adding the WBA strap with a comfortable win over Beibut Shumenov.
Hopkins, a minority partner in Golden Boy Promotions, has not fought since November 2014, when Father Time handed him something of a reality check against Sergey Kovalev. The then 49-year-old was floored in the first round by a formidable fighter almost two decades his junior before being thoroughly dominated en route to an emphatic points loss.
Looking to ensure that one of the greats bows out in ignominy is an intriguing light-heavyweight prospect in Smith who is bidding to become the first person ever to stop Hopkins and simultaneously prove that he is worthy of a world title shot. The 27-year-old former construction worker from Long Island, known as the "Beast From The East" or the "Irish Bomber" and trained by Jerry Capobianco, has lost only one of his 23 contests to date and put himself firmly on the map with an explosive first-round upset of Andrzej Fonfara in June.
Fighting out of his adopted home city of Chicago, the number-two ranked Pole looked to be closing in on a rematch against WBC and lineal champion Adonis Stevenson after wins over Julio Cesar Chavez Jr and Nathan Cleverly. However, he ended up losing his international belt in shocking fashion after being sent sprawling to the canvas by a crushing right hand. Smelling blood, Smith proceeded to unleash a flurry of big shots that left his opponent defenceless and seeing stars under the turnbuckle.
Smith, it seems incredible to note, was born 11 months after Hopkins' first pro fight against Clinton Mitchell in October 1988.
What the boxers have said
Bernard Hopkins [via BoxNation]: "Remember he gave you all a prediction. I'm not going to predict that I end his career mentally, emotionally, physically. I'm not going to wish to Kelly Pavlik on him. But what I'm going to do is, I'm going to spank him, teach him his ABCs and then send him back to Long Island, up the road from Philadelphia. And then one day, if he recovers mentally, he might have something to salvage and go forward. See, that's what I'm about. I'm a career-stopper to most of my opponents that talk like him.
"Joe won't be special come Saturday. He will stay common."
Joe Smith [via Boxing News 24]: "I can't even describe how excited I am to say it's finally fight week. I'm ready for this Saturday and am very excited. I know I'm going to be in there with a legend but I've worked very hard in the gym and made many sacrifices to get to where I am today. He is a legend, but Saturday night he's just another opponent. I'm looking to stop him, be the first person to stop him in his entire career."
Hopkins: 64 fights, 55 wins (32 knockouts)
- (L) Sergey Kovalev - unanimous decision - November 2014
- (W) Beibut Shumenov - split decision - April 2014
- (W) Karo Murat - unanimous decision - October 2013
Smith: 23 fights, 22 wins (18 knockouts)
- (W) Andrzej Fonfara - technical knockout - June 2016
- (W) Fabiano Pena - technical knockout - April 2016
- (W) Will Rosinsky - unanimous decision - December 2015
The fact that Hopkins has not fought since that defeat to Kovalev makes it very difficult to judge his condition. Smith proved his punching power with that big KO of Fonfara and could possess the necessary tools to make this a very uncomfortable final outing. We'll go for the wily Hopkins on points, although frankly any outcome seems possible.
Odds (via Betfair)
Bernard Hopkins 4/11
Joe Smith 2/1
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