By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, March 6- The amazing Bernard “The Eexecutioner” Hopkins (56-6-2, 32 KO’s) will attempt to become the oldest fighter to win a recognized world championship when he challenges undefeated Tavoris “Thunder” Cloud (24-0, 19 KO’s) for the IBF Light Heavyweight title on March 9 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Hopkins celebrated his 48th birthday on January 15.
After surviving a rough childhood and nearly five years in prison, Hopkins began his professional boxing career in 1988. Never easy to discourage, Hopkins rebounded from a light heavyweight loss in his pro debut to capture his next 23 bouts, all fought in the middleweight ranks.
His first world championship encounter was against Roy Jones, Jr. in 1993, which he lost by a 12-round decision. His second loss, like his first in 1988, was followed by a lengthy winning streak, 26 bouts. His first world’s title, the IBF middleweight, came during that streak on April 29, 1995, when he defeated Segundo Mercado.
A 12-round TKO victory over the legendary Felix “Tito” Trinidad at Madison Square Garden earned Hopkins the undisputed middleweight crown 18 days after the 9/11 terrorist attack upon the United States.
Interestingly, Oscar De La Hoya, the promoter of the March 9 title tilt, was an unsuccessful opponent of Hopkins in 2004.
Hopkins, greatly able to verbally promote his bouts, said in a recent press conference, “I have broken records, quieted doubters and solidified my legacy. Now, I am going to do all of that again, but this time at the new Barclays Center in front of a large crowd of people that understand and appreciate the sport.”
In his first ring appearance in the northeast, Cloud, the IBF champion is standing in the shadows of the much greater known challenger. Rising from an impoverished and difficult childhood, Cloud found boxing to be his salvation.
After compiling a successful amateur record, Cloud turned pro in 2004. On August 28, 2009, he took his undefeated mark into a bout for the vacant IBF crown, which he won in a 12 round decision. Cloud has since successfully defended his title five times.
Saturday night’s title match and card, the second at Barclays, is being co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Don King Productions.
The co-feature bout is another 12 rounder between WBO Inter-Continental Welterweight Champion Jan Zavecek (32-2, 18 KO’s) and his undefeated challenger Keith Thurman (19-0, 18 KO’s).The 36 year-old champion is only fighting in the U.S. for the second time in his lengthy career. His only previous bout in this country was a loss to Andre Berto.
The undercard will include several young local boxers, Eddie Gomez of the Bronx (12-0, 8 KO’s), Marcus Browne of Staten Island (2-0, 2 KO’s), Stevens Bujaj (8-0, 6 KO’s), Juan Dominguez (12-0, 8 KO’s) and Frank Galarza (8-0-1, 4 KO’s) of Brooklyn, who hope to keep their undefeated marks unblemished.
The championship encounters will be televised live by HBO beginning at 9:30 pm. Tickets for the event are priced at $25, 50, 100 and 200 and are available at all Ticketmaster locations and at Barclays.