So he did it again.
And I was wrong.
In my preview/prediction for the bout I thought Hopkins would make it tricky and awkward for Cloud but Cloud would be active and aggressive enough to carry himself through with the additional aspect that if Cloud did land a shot he had a real possibility of earning a stoppage.
I was right about the first part and very wrong about the second.
Hopkins did what Hopkins did. He controlled the pace, landed straight rights from the outside, wrestled and spoiled when he needed to and used his smarts and experience to confound the younger man. He took his licks… and took them well… but the bout was fought at his pace, where he wanted it and in the style he wanted it. Cloud in contrast never got going. He didn’t punch enough to force a Hopkins into a brawl, didn’t cut off the ring well enough to keep Hopkins on the ropes and when he did throw punches… especially late on… they were wild and easily avoided or blocked by Hopkins. My scorecard was a little narrower than the judges but not by enough to matter.
Saying Hopkins defeats “old father time” has become a cliché at this stage so instead I’ll say this; if you gave most of the young contenders at 175lbs a win over Cloud, a win and disputed loss to Pascal and a controversial N.C. followed by a loss to Dawson they’d take it. Hopkins has done that at age 48.
There is a question of where Hopkins goes from here… but there have been those questions for years. He dismissed the prospect of a bout with Andre Ward, which is unsurprising. Hopkins has always been a canny matchmaker and Ward is not only the best 168lbs boxer on the planet, he’s a horror matchup for Hopkins because he boxes intelligently and with real technique. Ward is the boxer Hopkins wishes he was… boxing with the same level of wisdom, cunning and skill but with the advantage of having a body in its athletic prime.
At 175lbs there’s the prospect of unification bouts with Nathan Cleverly and/or Beibut Shumenov… two young title holders in their prime but with the sort of faults that Hopkins loves to exploit; Cleverly can be frustrated by awkward opponents and has a leaky defence while Shumenov hurls wild bombs that are devastating when they land but liable to miss. Either could be tempting for Hopkins although with a loss likely meaning the end he may not want to risk finishing his career with a loss to a less established boxer. The winner of the Froch/Kessler rematch may also be an option; again, both boxers have the sort of flaws Hopkins likes to work on and both are relatively big names who would likely be willing to move up.
Or he may retire. And if this is his swansong who can blame him? A win like this in many ways sums up Hopkins career. He may have originally made his name at 160lbs with his record number of title defences and high profile wins over Tito and Oscar but it was after Jermain Taylor forced him from the division it was bouts like this… his win over Tarver, his win over Pavlik, his win over Pascal… that truly cemented him as a legend.
The future isn’t bright for Cloud. He’s an entertaining fighter, one who would likely put on a good bout with just about anyone at 175lbs but despite this loss he’s still dangerous with his power and aggression. He’s had a long history of boxers avoiding him (notably Chad Dawson) and considering Don King’s lack of promotional power these days it’s going to be hard for him to rebuild, at least on TV. He also paid the price for spending far too much of his prime sat on the sidelines due to promotional issues, boxers avoiding him and King’s lack of TV dates. Boxers, especially young, relatively inexperienced boxers like Cloud, need to spend time between the ropes and Cloud simply hasn’t. His best bet would be to play the sanctioning body game… regardless of being on TV or not keep boxing, keep winning regional belts and force himself into position as a mandatory contender.