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Can Hopkins Turn Back The Hand Of Time Against Cloud?

It's hard to believe that Bernard Hopkins is still lacing up the gloves at 48 years of age but even more remarkable is that the Philadelphian is engaging in a world title fight against one of the top men in the division, Tavoris Cloud.

The pair square off on March 19 at Brooklyn's gleaming new Barclay's Center where they will argue over Cloud's IBF Light Heavyweight strap.

Will this be the final entry in the long and winding resume of Hopkins or will it breathe new life into the career of the most accomplished fighter of the last 20 years?

Age vs. youth, strength against craft, knowledge pitted against sheer will; it's all here.

"The Executioner" has been been picking his spots well ever since losing his world middleweight title in 2005 to Jermain Taylor, navigating a 10 fight course at light heavyweight that has seen Hopkins, 52-6-2 (32), go 6-2-1-1NC while picking up the WBC and IBO belts against a top line of competition.

The hard-punching Cloud has held the title since 2009, when he outfought England's Clinton Woods for the vacant crown and has since made four succsessful defenses, but the most recent, a controversial split decision verdict a year ago over former WBA ruler Gabriel Campillo, has clearly given Hopkins hope that the Florida slugger is vulnerable.

Hopkins' endless supply of crafty veteran moves finally failed to turn the tide against the taller, quicker and far younger Chad Dawson a year ago when the two tangled in a rematch for the WBC title, but the more compact style and smaller stature of Cloud could prove susceptible to the wiles of Hopkins.

But in order to buckle the WBC belt around his waist on March 19, the old master will have to control the pace of the contest, slowing down the rhythm to something he can sustain for 12 rounds.

Cloud must keep his foot on the gas to wear down Hopkins, maintaining just the right distance to avoid staying at the end of his opponents jabs and sneaky lead right hands but at the same time not camping out on the inside where all the ring experience of Hopkins will come into play.

If Hopkins can frustrate Cloud, convincing the 31 year old to ditch the boxing and load up with every shot, The Philadelphia throwback will likely wrestle, hold, sucker punch and body shot his way into a 23rd world title fight victory.

If Cloud keeps his head and doesn't fall for it, this might be the last big fight for Hopkins, forcing the old gunfighter to hang up his irons for good.

As always, it will come down to who wants it more, but any Bernard Hopkins fight is full of so many potential variables that it's fascinating to see just how the events unfold.

One thing is for sure; this bout will not be pretty or a fine example of the Marquis de Queensberry rules in action!

About Richard Eberline

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