Author of one of the more remarkable careers in modern sports, Bernard Hopkins found the opponent for the long-discussed farewell fight he has sought since his most recent in-ring appearance.
The 51-year-old light heavyweight will face Joe Smith, Jr., whom ESPN.com has rated as the 175-pound division’s No. 9-ranked contender, on Dec. 17 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., ESPN’s Dan Rafael reports. The fight will now headline a HBO-televised card as well.
This card was set to be the co-feature for a much-anticipated junior lightweight fight between Takashi Miura and Orlando Salido, but the latter’s back injury forced a cancellation of that bout. Golden Boy Promotions is searching for a replacement fight for the now-Hopkins-headlined event.
Ever since losing both of his light heavyweight belts to Sergey Kovalev in November 2014 in easily the most one-sided defeat of his lengthy career, Hopkins has discussed returning to the ring for one more fight. By the time the 28-year veteran returns, he will have had a 25-month layoff – by far the longest of his career.
Prior to being the highest-profile victim on Kovalev’s résumé – which is otherwise saturated with knockouts, with Hopkins taking the Russian to a decision – Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 KO) was a two-division champion and resides as of the sport’s all-time greats. The Philadelphia-honed tactician was the undisputed middleweight champion for several years before moving up to light heavyweight at age 41 and then enjoying one of the stranger career arcs in sports, becoming the oldest fighter to win a championship. Hopkins accomplished this by defeating Jean Pascal in May 2011. He claimed two light heavyweight belts between 2013 and 2014 before losing to Kovalev and taking time off.
Since losing to Kovalev, the Golden Boy majority partner has worked mostly with HBO as a commentator. Per Rafael, Smith’s upset of Andrzej Fonfara put him on Hopkins’ radar. Smith (22-1, 18 KO) was born nearly a year after Hopkins made his professional debut in October 1988.