For Bernard Hopkins, every fight represents another chance to make history. When he defeated Jean Pascal in their May 2011 rematch he became the oldest fighter ever to win a major title and when he scored a two round no-contest over Chad Dawson to keep his belt, he became the oldest man ever to defend one. On Saturday, Hopkins, now 48 years 65 days old, will try to break his own record when he takes on WBC light heavyweight titlist Tavoris Cloud at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Cloud is an 8-5 favorite
As for the defending titlist, he again will try to conquer an unwelcome enemy -- inactivity. The Hopkins fight ends a career-long 385-day hiatus and will be just his fourth fight since December 2010.
Will Cloud shake off the rust caused by idle hands or will Hopkins once again defy Father Time and Mother Nature? Their respective CompuBox histories provide the following statistical story lines:
Styles Make Cloud's Fight: When Cloud fights an aggressor who works at a fast pace, more often than not he fights up to, and often exceeds, his opponents' effectiveness. When Julio Gonzalez averaged 102.9 punches per round in their August 2008 fight, Cloud responded by unleashing 71.1 punches per round, out-landing Gonzalez 267-208 (total) and 180-154 (power) and capturing a 12-round decision.
When Fulgencio Zuniga forced a fast pace (92.7 per round, far above the 54.3 light heavyweight average), Cloud fired 82.5 punches per round and again out-landed his rival (301-258 total and 179-122 power) en route to a 12 round decision. When he captured the vacant IBF belt against Clinton Woods, the Englishman threw 62.8 punches per round while Cloud averaged 95.6, prevailed in the connect battles (410-258 total, 138-131 jabs and 272-127 power) and won a comfortable decision.
The only time when Cloud didn't react positively to pressure was against elder statesman Glen Johnson, who threw 73.6 punches per round and out-landed Cloud (56.8 punches per round) 254-246 overall and 134-79 in jabs. Cloud's 167-120 gap in power connects allowed him to overcome his 56.8-per-round output and win a close but unanimous decision.
However, when Cloud faces a more scientific boxer the results are mixed at best. In his last outing against Gabriel Campillo -- one of the worst decisions of 2012 -- Cloud scored two early knockdowns but was out-hustled badly from round four onward. Averaging
59.3 punches per round, Cloud was out-landed 149-92 overall and 123-42 in power shots over the final eight rounds.
If Cloud thrives against aggressors and slows against science, one can only imagine how he'll react to Hopkins.
Dictating the Terms: One of the keys to Hopkins' amazing run in his 40s is his ability to slow down his opponents' attacks. In the five fights before meeting Hopkins, Kelly Pavlik averaged 72.4 punches per round, landed 38% of his total punches and 45% of his power shots. But when he met Hopkins, Pavlik plummeted to 38.6 punches per round, landing 23% of his total punches and 26% of his power punches en route to an emasculating 12-round loss.
In the five fights before fighting "The Executioner," Jermain Taylor averaged 47.8 punches per round, landing 44% overall and 51% of his power shots. But in fight one Taylor threw 37.8 per round and landed just 19% overall and 27% power while in the rematch they were 32.6, 32% and 33%. Taylor won both fights but he made it much harder on himself by submitting to Hopkins' pace.
If Cloud wants to succeed and do so in style, he should take a page from Joe Calzaghe. In the four fights before meeting Hopkins, Calzaghe averaged 71.3 punches per round and 41.5 power punches, but against Hopkins those numbers dropped slightly (58.9 overall, 40.2 power). Because Calzaghe refused to let Hopkins affect his game too much, he won a split decision win that should have been unanimous.
Prediction: Hopkins showed in his rematch with Chad Dawson that age is finally getting to him. He averaged just 33 punches per round and landed 27% overall and 30% power while allowing Dawson to land 35% overall and 48% of his hooks, crosses and uppercuts. The latter stat indicates a dramatic slowing of the reflexes, and Dawson's subsequent performance against Andre Ward indicates Hopkins struggled against a waning force.
We all know what Hopkins brings to the table; he's too old and set in his ways to change. The result lies entirely with Cloud; if he pushes the pace and refuses to let Hopkins' wiles get in his head he has the youth and volume capacity to win an easy decision. However, if he lets Hopkins get to him verbally and strategically, all bets are off. The guess here is that youth, even rusty youth, will be served. Cloud by decision.