Pick your adjective: Maturation. Dotage. Seniority. Senility. Everlast?
At 48, Philadelphia native Bernard Hopkins climbed back in the ring last night, the poster boy of prizefighting persistence at a time of concern in all sports over traumatic head injury. The wisdom of his attempt to challenge unbeaten 31-year-old Floridian Tavoris Cloud for the world light heavyweight championship, at his age, was his business.
But there was no avoiding how the evening's Barclays Center card demonstrated repeatedly how the manly art turns beastly in an instant. Four of the eight bouts were stopped prematurely, three of them with little imaginary birds twirling around the losers' heads.
Hopkins was not among that number, giving as well as he got, sending the previously undefeated Cloud (24-1, 19 knockouts) off bleeding from a cut above his eye with a unanimous-decision victory. With the 12,293 spectators breaking into chants of "B-Hop, B-Hop," the royally attired Hopkins -- purple trucks, purple gloves -- extended his record to 53-5-2, 32 KO) and kept his title as oldest boxing world champion.
Hopkins often backed into a corner, only to pepper the stalking Cloud with combinations. "Basically," Hopkins said, "I just wanted to use my speed and reflexes, which I still have at 48 years old."
He had become the oldest man ever to hold a world title, surpassing George Foreman's record, by defeating Jean Pascal as a 46-year-old in 2011. (Foreman was 45 when he knocked out Michael Moorer for the heavyweight crown in 1994.) By the age of 40, Hopkins already had defended the world middleweight title 20 times. He billed last night's match an "inspiration" to young kids. "I'm not saying you're going to see a new Bernard Hopkins," he told reporters earlier in the week. "I'm too old for that crap."
But still, for all indications, in one piece, which wasn't the case for all of the night's competitors. In the co-main event, a WBO welterweight title eliminator, unbeaten 24-year-old Floridian Keith Thurman summarized the sport's objective by reminding, "I love putting people to sleep."
During his unanimous 12-round decision over Jan Zaveck, the former world champ (now 32-3) from Slovenia -- no pup himself at 36 -- Thurman (now 20-0 in with 18 knockouts) several times was close to administering a lullaby with his fists, his blows to Zaveck's head sounding like the thud of hockey pucks on a goalie's pads.
Earlier, Brooklyn junior middleweight Frank Galarza flattened Mexico's Guillermo Ibarra for a technical knockout at 2:19 of the second round. Staten Island light heavyweight Marcus Browne likewise separated Josh Thorpe of Cincinnati from his senses only 2:42 into the first of four scheduled rounds. And unbeaten Bronx junior middleweight Eddie Gomez extinguished Mexican Javier Gomez' lights a mere 1:17 after the opening bell of their planned six-rounder.
The 10-round lightweight duel between Newark's Michael Perez and Lonnie Smith of Las Vegas also was stopped because of a Perez' cut inflicted by a head butt, and ended in a seventh-round draw.
Some things never change in boxing: Pre-fight dialogues between opponents often turn into a physical soliloquy for the knockee, among the usual bow-tied referees, women in underwear and high heels prancing around to announce the round number and Don King's hair in the ring before the feature match.