Boxing legend Bernard Hopkins, a few weeks shy of 52, was knocked out of the ring tonight by a tough, strong contender 25 years his junior.
Will Joe Smith rise to stardom? Perhaps that remains to be seen but tonight he certainly made a name for himself by not only defeating a great legend, but by being the first man to stop Hopkins inside the distance in the legend's 28 years as a pro.
Despite looking shaky in the opening round, Hopkins started implementing his strategy well, moving and holding, making Smith miss and landing sharp, eye-catching counters. But Smith, even in the early rounds, was able to land flush shots and jolt Hopkins on several occasions, something we aren't accustomed to seeing.
FightSaga had Hopkins ahead 4-3 heading into the 8th Round. It was then, Smith cornered the aging legend and landed several brutal shots that sent Hopkins through the ropes.
The referee counted to 20 (protocol for fighters who have been knocked out of the ring) while Hopkins, very vocal and appearing lucid, insisted he was injured from the fall after having been pushed.
Although Hopkins was out of the ring for well over a minute, the fight may have continued if Bernard wanted to but the legend insisted he couldn't move on his injured leg. It was at that moment the fight was called off.
FightSaga predicted Hopkins would get KO'd but not entirely due to age. It was his age combined with his two years of inactivity that concerned us.
The version of Bernard Hopkins tonight appeared to be a slightly compromised version of the shopworn fighter who was decisively beaten by Sergey Kovalev two years ago.
And history tells us aging legends who return to the ring after long hiatuses and or low ring activity who face younger, more active top-flight opponents straight away (ie. with no tune-ups) don't fair well.
Aging fighters must stay at least relatively active, a la George Foreman in his second career, if they want to compete at the top level.
We also noted Smith's explosive power and formidable hand speed would be a problem for the near 52 year old.
To his credit, Hopkins fought well for the first eight rounds but, sadly, his exit from boxing mimics the departure of other greats who fought once (or more) too often.
Was Hopkins pushed?
Hopkins vs Smith KO video