Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) is going to be fighting for the final time in 11 days from now against the hard hitting light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. (22-1, 18 KOs) on December 17 on HBO at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Golden Boy Promotions CEO Oscar De LA Hoya expects the 51-year-old Hopkins to retire from boxing after this fight, which would put an end to his long 28-year pro career.
Hopkins hasn’t fought in two years since his 12 round unanimous decision loss to light heavyweight champion Sergey “Krusher” Kovalev in November 2014.
There are a lot of question marks about whether Hopkins will have anything left when he gets inside the ring on December 17 against the big hitting Smith Jr. Hopkins looked old and weak at 49-years-old for the Kovalev fight two years ago. It wouldn’t be surprising if Hopkins is even worse for the fight against Smith Jr. The results of the Kovalev fight showed pretty clearly that Hopkins was no longer the same fighter he’d been years ago.
Hopkins could have a lot of problems with Smith Jr. in terms of the punching power the 27-year-old fighter possesses. Smith Jr. is coming off an impressive 1st round knockout victory over the big punching Andrzej Fonfara last June in Chicago. Smith Jr. was picked to lose that fight by a lot of boxing fans, but instead, he dropped Fonfara twice in the 1st round. With the kind of punching power that Smith Jr. has, Hopkins cannot afford to be hit by this guy flush too many times, because he’ll take him out if that happens. Hopkins is too old to be letting a big puncher like Smith Jr. hit him a lot, especially now that he’s about to retire. It would be better for Hopkins to get out of boxing with all of his mental faculties intact so that he can enjoy his golden years of his life.
“I believe him,” De la Hoya said to Fight News. “I believe this is going to be his final fight. We’re calling it “The Final 1”. We actually had him sign a contract, and it states in the contract, ‘I promise this is my last fight’,” De la Hoya said.
Hopkins will likely adopt a mobile fighting style for the Smith Jr. fight to keep the younger fighter from being able to land too many of his big power shots in the fight. Hopkins would then look to come forward and land quick combinations and then move out of range. This is what Hopkins did to beat Kelly Pavlik in 2008 and Beibut Shumenov in 2014. Whether that approach will work for Hopkins against Smith jr. remains to be seen.
“I know that Hopkins isn’t a fighter that is going to turn old overnight,” De la Hoya said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen to Hopkins. I see him as a guy, 51 years old, still doing this because he can, because he takes care of himself. I think he’ll be more than ready for this fight.”