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Hopkins Gets One More Title Shot Tonight In New York

The Old Master returns to the ring tonight as seemingly ageless wonder Bernard Hopkins steps through the ropes to challenge reigning IBF Light Heavyweight king Tavoris Cloud at New York's Barclay's Center.

One more time Hopkins will try to vanquish not only the calendar and his opponent, but the legion of doubters who have written him off repeatedly as over the hill since his mega-fight with Felix Trinidad in 2001.

It is hard to believe that Hopkins, 52-6-2 (32), is 48 years of age, the oldest man to ever win a world title, but Tavoris Cloud, 24-0 (19), has vowed to help Father Time bring "The Executioner" back down to reality.

At stake is Cloud's IBF crown, which the 31 year old won by defeating Clinton Woods in 2009, and if Hopkins is successful, it will be his 22nd world title fight victory.

However, a closer look at the record of Hopkins reveals that he's had a rough time of it over the last three years since defeating Roy Jones Jr in a rematch, going 1-1-1 with one No Contest over his last four appearances.

Since Hopkins lost his world middleweight title to Jermain Taylor eight years ago and moved up to the light heavy division, his fortunes can be tied to whether or not he can keep his fights at a slow pace.

If he can do so, he will be victorious, but if he cannot, such as against Joe Calzaghe or Chad Dawson, Hopkins will lose the bout.

This simple observation is undoubtedly known to Cloud, who will likely try to keep Hopkins busy and on the defensive, keeping away from a fight on the inside, where the endless arsenal of veteran tactics of Hopkins can come into play.

Cloud also has to keep away from trying to win the fight by landing the big punch, as he attempted do do in his most recent defense against former WBA titlist Gabriel Campillo, who lost a disputed split decision to Cloud over a year ago.

Cloud has not been in the ring since and that lack of activity could become a problem against Hopkins, who will attempt to frustrate and anger the champion into a messy, grappling affair.

Experience will be a major factor in the fight; Hopkins has loads of it while Cloud hasn't really faced a top opponent, given that the biggest names on his resume, Clinton Woods and Glen Johnson, were well past their best when they faced the Florida man.

And that is the real battle here. Will the experience advantage of Hopkins, tempered by his diminished abilities, be enough to offset Cloud's advantages in speed, stamina and punching power?

The undercard is led by a welterweight battle between rising star Keith Thurman, 19-0 (18), and veteran Jan Zavek, 32-2 (18).

Zavek is two fights removed from losing his IBF belt to Andre Berto in 2011 and is coming off a wide points decision over Bethuel Ushona a year ago to capture the WBO Intercontinental strap.

In addition to Zaveck's title, at stake here is the top spot in the WBO rankings as the winner is guaranteed a shot at the full WBO title.

Zaveck is a crafty boxer without much of a punch, who has campaigned almost exclusively in Europe, losing to Berto in his only previous American appearance, and the Slovenian native is 36 years of age, engaging in only three bouts over the last two years.

In contrast, Thurman is a big hitter and is just 24 years old, but has faced mostly experience building opponents so far, most recently wiping out the experienced but somewhat chinny Carlos Quintana in four rounds in November for the NABO light middleweight belt.

If Zaveck can use his guile and skill to make Thurman miss, and then effectively counter, it could be a learning occasion for the younger man but if Thurman can land with any regularity, Zavek may not go the distance.

About Richard Eberline

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