Bernard Hopkins takes the boxing ring one final time before hanging up his gloves. The Executioner (or The Alien) faces 27-year old Joe Smith Jr. in a featured 12-rounder on December 17th at the Forum in Inglewood, California.
The 51-year old Hopkins has declared that this will be the final bout of a storied boxing career that saw him reign as world middleweight champion from 1994-2005, making an unprecedented 20 consecutive title defenses over that period. After losing his middleweight titles to Jermain Taylor, Hopkins won the light heavyweight title on several occassions.
At age 46, Hopkins became the oldest fighter to win a world title when he beat Jean Pascal. In 2013 and 2014, Hopkins broke his own record by winning two more world titles, one in each year. In his most recent bout, Hopkins lost his world titles to Sergey Kovalev.
The Irish Bomber
Known as the Irish Bomber, Joe Smith Jr. is on a roll with 16 consecutive victories and has six knockouts in his last seven victories. Smith is coming off the biggest win of his career, a stunning first round knockout of Andrzej Fonfara last June. Despite being a +1200 underdog to win that fight, Smith pulled of what could very well be boxing’s Upset of the Year for 2016. The Long Island, New York native is the current WBC international heavyweight champion. This will be Smith’s first fight in California.
Despite a rather disappointing performance in a loss to Kovalev, Hopkins is a surprising -255 favorite over Smith who is at +215. What makes it more interesting is the fact that Hopkins isn’t just the much older man at 51, but he hasn’t fought since losing to Kovalev in November 2014.
There is no doubt that Hopkins is the much smarter boxer in this bout, but his level of performance has gradually dropped with age. Against Smith, Hopkins won’t be just facing an opponent half his age but also a fighter who mixes solid combinations with a vicious right hand. The only downside with Smith is he hasn’t faced too many quality level oppositions in his career. However, if the fight against Fonfara is an indication, Smith may be ready to take the big stage and retire Hopkins for good.
Bernard Hopkins is the name that rings a bell in this bout and it would be great to see him to leave with a fairy tale ending. But take away the nostalgia, the value is with Smith because of the plus money. Given Hopkins age and idle time, coupled with Smith’s streak and one punch knockout power, this could turn out ugly in an instant. Just ask Fonfara. Joe Smith Jr. by knockout in the first half of the bout.