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WASHINGTON – Age-defying American fighter Bernard Hopkins, already the oldest boxer to win a major title, wants a chance to celebrate his 50th birthday next year as the undisputed world light-heavyweight champion.
Hopkins, who turned 49 on January 15, defended his International Boxing Federation (IBF) title three months ago with a unanimous decision over German Karo Murat.
Next on the Hopkins’ hit list is World Boxing Association champion Beibut Shumenov, a Kazakhstan fighter who is 14-1 with nine knockouts, in a unification bout likely coming in March or April.
At an age when most fighters are reliving past glories, Hopkins is looking for rival champions Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev to fight each other and set the stage for a unification showdown for the undisputed light-heavyweight throne sometime around his 50th birthday.
“Let’s come together and do something very historic,” Hopkins told AFP. “For my legacy, what a great thing it would be to be the undisputed light heavyweight champion at 50.”
Hopkins 54-6-2 (32 knockouts) could get his wish.
World Boxing Council champion Stevenson, a 36-year-old Haitian-born Canadian southpaw, is 23-1 with 20 knockouts and will defend his title May 24 at Montreal against Poland’s Andrzej Fonfara, 25-2 with 15 knockouts.
“Stevenson is the guy,” Hopkins said, naming him the favorite among the champions. “I’m old school. He’s the man who beat the man.”
Stevenson says that he plans to fight World Boxing Organization champion Kovalev, a 30-year-old Russian who is 23-0 with one draw and 21 knockouts, later this year and would like to fight Hopkins as well.
“There’s a great tournament to be made,” Hopkins said. “It’s not like I don’t have nothing to bring to the table. We want to make the most money but also we want to be undisputed. It’s the perfect time for me.”
In 2001, Hopkins knocked out previously unbeaten Felix Trinidad at New York’s Madison Square Garden to claim the undisputed middleweight title in the culmination of a tournament.
“I would love to be in position to do what I did in 2001,” Hopkins said. “How amazing is it for me to be 49, hopefully not rapidly approaching 50, and still be relevant? You can do it when you have that competitive belief in yourself.”
Hopkins, who calls himself “an old fox,” an “alien” and a “wizard”, says he has strangers in the 40-and-over crowd stop him and say how he has inspired them.
“No matter where I’m at it’s the same thing,” Hopkins said. “That means more than any belt or any accomplishment in my career.”
He has also seen over-40 fight fans start out cheering for his rival and end up on his side.
“I’ve earned it out of respect. People forget who they are rooting for,” Hopkins said. “When you are over 40 and watching, you start cheering for the old man. You want to see him win.” – Rappler.com