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'Kovalev will end Hopkins' career'

Nick Parkinson
October 29, 2014
Bernard Hopkins faces Sergey Kovalev in Atlantic City on November 8 © Getty Images

Nathan Cleverly tells ESPN that 49-year-old American Bernard Hopkins is facing a stoppage defeat and the end of his career when he fights Sergey Kovalev in a world light-heavyweight title unification fight in Atlantic City on November 8. Welshman Cleverly lost his WBO world light-heavyweight title to Russian Kovalev last year and is now preparing for a rematch with British rival Tony Bellew at cruiserweight in Liverpool on November 22.

Bernard Hopkins is a one-off and we probably won't see his like again, but I think Sergey Kovalev will end his career on November 8.

The fact that Hopkins is still boxing at 49 and is [IBF-WBA] world light-heavyweight champion is down to his standards of living and extreme dedication to boxing. He has looked after his body inside and outside the ring. In the ring, he's smart and minimises the amount of punishment he receives. Outside the ring, he lives a very clean life. Also, he's not suffered any career setbacks in terms of injuries or bad hands.

There's not many fighters in history - if any - who have been as good at 49 as Hopkins is. I don't think it will ever be repeated and he's a genius of the sport. A legend.

Mentally he must be incredibly strong to have achieved what he has over a 26-year professional career and to perform at world title level for so long [Hopkins won the world middleweight title in 1995].

There would be a danger of brain injuries for having such a long career if you are the type of fighter who takes a lot of punishment, stands there and trades and has wars. But Hopkins has the type of style that reduces that risk. He knows he's a smart guy and he knows if he's in danger what to do to get out of it. When he retires, Hopkins will still be healthy because he has looked after himself.

But Hopkins would always struggle against speed and agility and against guys who put it on him, making him work. My type of style would have caused Hopkins a lot of problems because he might be very technical, but he doesn't go through the gears as such. He would have struggled against my speed and work-rate at light-heavyweight and that's why I fancied the fight with Hopkins so much.

I'm very disappointed I didn't get that fight with Hopkins. I was very close to getting it but it didn't happen due to boxing politics. Then I got beaten by Kovalev [by fourth round stoppage in August 2013] and I stepped up a division.

I think Hopkins will go on until this next fight against Kovalev - and then that will be his last fight. I think Hopkins sees something in Kovalev that makes him fancy it and thinks he can win, but I just can't see it happening for him. Hopkins has recently beaten the likes of Tavoris Cloud, Karo Murat and Beibut Shumenov but they are not in the same league as Kovalev, who is part of a new breed of fighter. Hopkins is the old breed of fighter.

You can put Kovalev in the same bracket as Gennady Golovkin, who is blowing everyone away at middleweight, and an up-and-coming Russian light-heavyweight called Artur Beterbiev. Those three, I feel, are a new, different breed of fighter and the ones that are standing out from the rest at the moment. They are well-schooled fighters, they have had a great background in Russian amateur boxing and they have real power.

Bernard Hopkins became the oldest boxer to unify light-heavyweight titles with a split decision win against Beibut Shumenov © Getty Images

Golovkin and Kovalev have to be in the top ten pound-for-pound ratings and they are getting better. I think Kovalev will take over the light-heavyweight division.

I've felt Kovalev's power and it is something else. He has incredible punching power, throws punches correctly and has great technique. I think Hopkins will try and mess Kovalev about for a few rounds but once Kovalev starts landing his punches cleanly, which he might find difficult to do at first, he will capitalise and finish him.

As for me, having stepped up a division from Hopkins and Kovalev, my fighting focus is on the cruiserweights now and my bout against Tony Bellew [in Liverpool on November 22]. I'm enjoying the new weight and I feel I've got a lot more energy at this weight than I had at light-heavyweight. I feel stronger and I'm at a different place mentally. I knew it was going to happen [stepping up a division]; it was just a matter of when. So far, it's gone well.

Bellew has quickly adapted to stepping up to cruiserweight because he was naturally bigger, but as time has gone on I've found my feet in two warm-up fights. Naturally, Bellew still has the edge but the way I've gone up in weight has been done properly and I think the margins will be minimal come fight night.

I beat him last time, and I will beat him again.

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