NEW YORK — Three thoughts form Bernard Hopkins’ historic win over Tavoris Cloud:
Say what you want about Hopkins: Say he’s dull, say he takes too many cheap shots, say he talks tougher than he fights. But Hopkins, at 48 years old, made history Saturday night, out-pointing Tavoris Cloud to win the IBF light heavyweight title and become, again, the oldest man to win a major championship. Hopkins did it his way: He tagged Cloud with a flurry of combinations, moved in and out, kept his chin down to avoid big punches, and refused to let Cloud land more than one shot. It was a quintessential Hopkins performance. He was the better boxer and, astonishingly, the man in better shape. It was, simply, a clear win.
“[Trainer] Nazim [Richardson] told me what to do [and] I stuck to the game plan, which was try to throw combination punches,” Hopkins said. “In my other fights, I was throwing just one punch. If I [threw] combination punches, we knew he wouldn’t be able to adjust to that style of fighting.”
Cloud blew it
Cloud had his moments, tagging Hopkins with some decent power shots. But he refused to use his jab consistently, and as the fight wore on, was simply trying to load up and land one big shot, a tactic that has never worked against Hopkins before. Cloud has had problems with good boxers in the past (see Gabriel Campillo), and once again allowed another to dictate the tempo of the fight. Cloud needs to work on the technical parts of his game before he takes on another Hopkins-sized challenge.
Where to, Bernard?
I’ll tell you one thing: It ain’t retirement. More than 12,000 fans filled the Barclays Center to see Hopkins, and despite a terrible walk-up fight between Keith Thurman and Jan Zaveck, this fight will likely do a good rating on HBO. With a title and a quality win on his belt, Hopkins will be in demand. WBO titleholder Nathan Cleverly wants a piece—that’s a brutal television fight—and Sergey Kovalev is a rising star in the 175-pound division. There is also the winner of the Jean Pascal-Lucian Bute fight. Hopkins has fought Pascal twice (a draw and a win), while Bute is wildly popular in Canada. Facing the winner, in Montreal, would be a big money fight.
- Chris Mannix