By: William Holmes
The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, will host another legitimate world title fight on Saturday, March 9th, as the age defying Bernard Hopkins battles Tavoris Cloud for the IBF Light Heavyweight title, and Keith Thurman takes on Jan Zaveck in a WBO welterweight title eliminator.
If Bernard Hopkins pulls off the victory on Saturday, not only will he be the first person to hand Tavoris Cloud a defeat, he will also break his own record as the oldest fighter to ever win a legitimate world title.
Keith Thurman (19-0) vs. Jan Zaveck (32-2); WBO Welterweight Eliminator
Keith Thurman is a rising star with incredible knockout power. Only one of his fights has gone to a decision. Every single fight he’s been in since November 7th of 2009 has resulted in a stoppage. That’s eight straight KOs or TKOs and a KO ratio of 94%, certainly an impressive stat for a fighter who is only 24 years old.
Thurman’s opponent, Jan Zaveck, is past his prime at the age of 36. He only has 18 stoppages out of his 32 victories and only fought once in 2012. He has a “pretty” record, and is the perfect type of opponent for a rising and marketable star.
Thurman has a deep amateur background and came in 2nd place in the 2008 US Olympic trials. He never fought in the Olympics, but even as an amateur he racked up 101 victories with 76 KOs.
He’s young, athletic, powerful, and will have a near four-inch height advantage on Saturday night.
Zavec isn’t a pushover. He’s the former IBF Welterweight Champion and he defended that title three times. He’s defeated the likes of Isaac Hlatshwayo, Rodolfo Ezequiel Martinez, Rafal Jackiewicz, and Paul Delgado. None of these fighters are well known to the American public, but they were good enough to warrant a shot at the IBF title.
Zavec has only fought once on US soil, and that was a 5th round stoppage loss to Andre Berto in September of 2011. His inactivity, age, and lack of quality fights in the United States will hurt him.
Even though Thurman has an impressive KO ration, he has only recently begun to fight quality opposition. He stopped former champion Carlos Quintana in the fourth round in his last fight and sent him into retirement. He’s also stopped Orlando Lora and Brandon Hoskins.
If Berto was able to stop Zavec, so should Thurman. Zavec is the perfect fight for Thurman at this point of his career, a former champion with a good record that should be able to provide a stiff test. But it’s a test that most expect Thurman to easily pass.
Bernard Hopkins (52-6) vs. Tavoris Cloud (24-0); IBF Light Heavyweight Title
This is a must-win fight for both fighters in the first boxing telecast from the Barclays Center by HBO.
The opportunities for Hopkins to compete in legitimate title fights are certainly dwindling at the age of 48 and after coming off a close decision loss to Chad Dawson. Cloud is undefeated, but he looked dreadful in his last fight, a highly disputed split decision victory over Gabriel Campillo.
But it is apparent from a recent conference call that neither Hopkins or Cloud are lacking in confidence.
Hopkins stated, “ I know I’m the better fighter. I know I have the better fighter’s IQ and I am also the better-conditioned fighter. I believe that when I go in that ring and Cloud is thinking something else, he’s going to be very, very surprised.”
Later on in the conference call, in response to a question of whether he’ll be the first person to knock Hopkins out since Segundo Mercardo, Cloud stated, “I could. It’s possible. It’s highly possible. I did everything that I could possibly do to get that type of victory. Nobody can guarantee knockouts, but I can guarantee a victory.”
Hopkins will have a slight two-inch height advantage, but will be giving up an inch in reach and 17 years in age. He’ll be the slower fighter inside the ring, but he certainly will also be the craftier fighter.
Experts have been calling on Hopkins to retire since his two losses to Jermain Taylor in 2005. He responded by thrashing Antonio Tarver and Winky Wright. They called for his retirement after his loss to Joe Calzaghe in 2008. He responded by demolishing Kelly Pavlik in 2008. He avenged a loss to one of his biggest rivals, Roy Jones Jr., in 2010, with a typical Hopkins decision victory. After that bout, many were still calling for Hopkins to retire. He responded by winning the WBC Light Heavyweight title from Jean Pascal.
Boxing writers were also calling for Hopkins to retire after his defeat to Chad Dawson in his last fight; will he respond as he has so many times before?
Tavoris Cloud is a good fighter, but Gabriel Campillo exposed some holes in his arsenal in his last fight and deflated some of the hype that was surrounding him. He has fought nowhere near the competition that Hopkins has faced and defeated.
He defeated Yusaf Mack by TKO in 2011, Glen Johnson in 2010, and Clinton Woods in 2009. But all three of those fighters have not seen any type of measurable success inside the ring since they faced Cloud.
Does Cloud have the tools to beat Hopkins? Physically, yes. But does he have the mental toughness to defeat a crafty veteran such as Hopkins?
This writer thinks Hopkins will silence his critics again on Saturday night to become the oldest champion of all time.