Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City turned into Area 51 last night, as Bernard “The Alien” Hopkins decisioned little-known and soon-to-be-forgotten Karo Murat over 12 typically dreadful rounds. Hopkins-Murat promised to be an aesthetic disaster. Want proof? Look no further than the press conference Golden Boy Promotions and Showtime held earlier in the afternoon. There is no better way to get in the public’s good graces than to give them something free, which is what Showtime did, diverting attention from the foregone conclusions slated for the ring on Saturday night by announcing that the Broner-Maidana card would not be on pay-per-view.
There is still a constituency that crushes on Hopkins; those who slurp up the bombastic rhetoric, and act like misty-eyed Holy Rollers at the mention of the renegade who fought the system until he could profit from it. For such acolytes, Saturday night must have been a veritable Bacchanal. Hopkins dusted off the Tickle Trunk for the hapless Murat, supposedly because he fancies himself an entertainer. It might be more genuine to say the Murat was dusted off for that purpose.
Having retired the ironic “Executioner” moniker and the S&M headgear that went with it, Hopkins shuffled to the ring in a bright green alien mask. This shtick goes over like gangbusters with Hopkins’ fans (think of Hulk Hogan cupping his ear to the crowd). Hopkins is more than a mask though, he is a fighter—cagey as they come. Murat, who had no business sharing a ring with Hopkins, would soon learn just what the curmudgeon’s caginess entailed.
Five seconds into the bout, the fighters clinched—already Hopkins was getting Murat to fight his fight. Not yet discouraged, Murat, Kitzingen, Germany, let his hands go, tagging Hopkins with a smattering of punches when the old man lingered on the ropes. Hopkins looked for opportunities to score with counters, and worked hooks into Murat’s gut. Round three ended with a headlock, as Murat, already frustrated by his antagonizer’s grab bag of unsavory charms, cinched up Hopkins’ dome in retaliation.
As he has done for ages, Hopkins, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, found the timing on his lead right, and started potshotting Murat. Feeling his mojo working in round five, Hopkins kissed Murat twice in clinches, held and hit him at the end of the round, and punctuated his dominance with a right hand after the bell. This is how you move the crowd when you last registered a stoppage the year “The Passion of the Christ” was revolting moviegoers. Murat, 174, was huffing as if gripped by an anxiety attack by the sixth round. Alas, there was no brown paper bag in his corner.
Referee Steve Smoger, the patron saint of morbid bystanders, molested Murat nearly as often as Hopkins did, and docked him an inconsequential point for hitting on the break in the seventh. By that point the fight was academic; Murat proved as clueless and ineffectual as anticipated. How clueless and ineffectual you ask? Well, Hopkins, he of the minimalist approach to combat, indulged in a number of lukewarm exchanges with Murat over the remainder of the bout, slapping the younger man around. The exercise in tedium complete, scores read 117-110, 119-108, 119-108 for Hopkins.
There is more to glean from Hopkins’ dominance than the old man’s pedigree. He is without question an anomaly; a once great fighter who gets over with maniacal discipline, and an understanding of his craft lost on those handed success. But a 48 year-old should not be able to perform near the top in a bloodsport. If he can, and Hopkins, 54-6-2 (32), clearly still can, a dearth of quality opponents must help explain his longevity. There are light heavyweights—concussive punchers like Sergey Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, for example—who could impose the natural order of things. But Hopkins, snuggled up with Golden Boy Promotions, need never entertain those risks. In his post fight interview, Hopkins pledged his loyalty to Showtime and Golden Boy, which means HBO fighters like Kovalev and Stevenson are conveniently out of the running. His loyalty hasn’t always meant much, but Hopkins is a survivor, and he knows a good deal when he has one.
To his credit, Murat, 25-2-1 (15), remained active for far longer than most Hopkins foes, who are psychologically cowed early. But the gap in class between Murat and his grizzled tormentor eventually bore out. Murat was brought over to make a notoriously ugly fighter look good. Having succeeded, he should not expect a second invitation.