By Dan Ambrose: 49-year-old IBF/WBA light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins will be at a huge disadvantage against WBO light heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev in terms of punching power and youth in their fight on November 8th at the Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Hopkins hasn’t scored a knockout in 10 years, and the chances are that he’ll never record another knockout for the remainder of his career. If Hopkins chooses to stand in front of Kovalev the way he did his last opponent Beibut Shumenov then it’s quite likely Hopkins will take a terrible beating and either be stopped by Kovalev or by his own corner throwing in the towel to save him the embarrassment of being halted.
What Hopkins may opt to do is ugly the fight up by looking to hold constantly, flop on the canvas, and wrestle Kovalev to keep him from getting his shots off.
It’ll be a lot of hard work for Hopkins to fight like this, because he’ll need to be strong enough to hold Kovalev 10+per round and keep him wrapped up hard enough to prevent him from landing a hard punch to the head while being held.
Hopkins could find success by using the punch and grab technique that he sometimes uses, because this is a technique that Kovalev hasn’t had to deal with yet during his pro career so it’ll be a first time for him. Hopkins still has the hand speed advantage over him, and that’ll enable Hopkins to land a single shot and then immediately grab Kovalev before he’s able to get his own shots off in response.
We’ve seen Hopkins use the punch and grab technique in some of his past fights, as well as him using wrestling on the inside to keep his opponents from being able to get their punches off. It’s worked well for Hopkins, but it’s also made his fights virtually unwatchable.
If Hopkins does choose to make it really ugly for Kovalev then he’s going to need to have a plan-B that he can fall back on to negate some of the clinching that Hopkins will use. One thing Kovalev can do is to train in throwing punches while being held.
Just because a fighter clinches it doesn’t mean the other fighter that’s being clinched has to stop throwing punches. Nine times out of ten, they still have one arm free that they can use to throw big punches from point blank range.
They can also wrestle themselves free to throw big shots to the head of the fighter that’s holding them. The best way for Kovalev to keep Hopkins from holding him is for him to continue to punch while being held, because it’s not likely that the referee will do much to control the clinching in the fight.