Hopkins closes curtain on stellar career with final Smith Jr meeting in California
Lee Gormley | 18 December 2016
Bernard Hopkins v Joe Smith Jr
- Light-heavyweight fight
- Sunday, December 18th
- Scheduled for: 04:00 GMT
- The Forum, California
- Live on BoxNation
Hopkins v Smith Jr tips for fight night
Former two-division world champion Bernard Hopkins will close the curtain on his stellar career this weekend at The Forum in California, as the 51-year-old takes on Joe Smith Jr in his 67th and final fight.
The former middleweight kingpin will go down in history as one of boxing’s all-time greats after a professional career which has spanned an incredible 28 years, after making his debut aged 23 way back in 1988.
With such a captivating backstory to his journey to the top in the sport and an abundance of records set during his time in the ring, Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KOs) will look to sign off in style in the early hours of Sunday morning with success over much younger challenger Smith Jr (22-1, 18 KOs).
The veteran former light-heavyweight titlist will take to proceedings as the odds-on 4/11 favourite despite being 24 years older than New York City native Smith, and is also 8/11 to see out a trademark points decision win on American soil.
Illustrious Hopkins career to end
One of the most respected fighters of his generation, Hopkins has had no shortage of setbacks which he has overcome throughout his life and illustrious career.
An ex-convict who lost his first professional bout over almost 30 years ago, the fighter previously known as ‘the Executioner’ was viewed in the ring as a dirty competitor and a difficult negotiator outside of it.
Despite a promising start as an amateur, Hopkins was jailed at 17, but it was during a five-year sentence at Graterford Prison that he rediscovered his love for boxing and reinvented himself before being released in 1988.
The veteran ring legend reigned as middleweight champion from 1994 to 2005, making a division record of 20 straight successful title defences and later became the oldest fighter to ever win a world title, beating George Foreman’s record.
Next up Hopkins faces a younger contender in Smith Jr, who wasn’t even born when he made his debut. The experienced defensive technician has boxed an astronomical 506 pro rounds in his career, compared to Smith Jr’s 73, but the former is 4/1 to sign off with a stoppage success.
Hopkins aiming to finish strongly
Ahead of what will be his last ever ring outing, Hopkins admitted he has no regrets from his career and is aiming to sign off in style against Smith Jr, who is 9/4 to cause an upset by prevailing this weekend.
“I want the book to be written good. The last thing you remember about a good book is not the beginning, it’s the ending. I look at this as the final icing on the cake or that exclamation point. This is it. You know this is history,” stated Hopkins.
“I achieved my first goal of success in the first part of my life. That was rougher than boxing. If you know anything about Bernard Hopkins’ history, if you go into details about the inner city Philadelphia guy, who was in the penitentiary from age 17 to 25, and survived, you’d realise I became champion a long time ago.
“We as humans put limitations on ourselves. When all is said and done, I don’t want to regret what I didn’t do.”
Smith Jr keen to spoil farewell party
Hopkins’ final opponent has outlined his delight at being part of a huge fight night but is seeking to send him into retirement with a loss.
“It’s a privilege to be on this card. To take on a legend like Bernard is an opportunity I would have never expected,” outlined the 27-year-old.
“That said, come fight night, that won’t matter because it’ll just be me and him in the ring. My team and I have been training to take on any of the styles Bernard may bring. I’m excited for the night to come, and I’m ready to put on a great show.”
Hopkins has not fought since being comprehensively outpointed by Sergey Kovalev in 2014 and is 7/1 to lose a decision in his farewell bout. Smith Jr stunningly knocked out Andrzej Fonfara inside one round last time out and is 7/2 to halt Hopkins, though the retiring favourite has never once been stopped in his career.
With Smith Jr aiming to make an impression in the biggest outing of his own career, Hopkins seemingly has a tough test on his hands, but the 51-year-old will look to showcase his ring abilities one last time and enjoy a successful swansong.
Meanwhile, hard-hitting Ukrainian Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) is 1/25 to defend his WBO light-heavyweight strap against South African southpaw Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) on the undercard. The 2012 Olympic Gold medallist has enjoyed a rampant rise to prominence but is 9/1 to suffer a shock maiden defeat in California.
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