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Barack Obama and Jack Johnson More in Common Than You Think

16 Feb
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Both Barack Obama and Jack Johnson held positions no one thought a Black man would ever hold in this country. They were both cheered and vilified for it.

While it’s tempting to look at Barack Obama’s eight years as President of the United States through the eyes of Jackie Robinson, viewing them through the eyes of Jack Johnson might be more accurate.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

One of the most compelling and important African-American “firsts” in America’s history ended last week when Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.

Barack Obama left the White House and went back into private life after an often-tumultuous eight years as the leader of the free world. In his two terms as President, Obama managed to save America from a depression through his economic stimulus plan and helped 20 million people get health insurance through the Affordable Care Act.

But while the Obama Presidency had some great moments, what many will remember, and what some will attribute to the Rise of Trump, will be the opposition he faced, much of which was based in racism.

From the Trump-championed “Birther” movement and the social media memes that often accompanied it, to Congressman Joe Walsh shouting “You lie!” during the first State of the Union Address and other random acts of disrespect, Obama’s presence in the White House seemed to bring out the worst in a lot of Americans.

When Obama assumed the office, many compared his ascension to that of Jackie Robinson integrating Major League Baseball and I guess that makes sense on some level. During his first season in the league, Robinson faced all kinds of racist taunts from fans and was told not to fight back by Brooklyn Dodgers’ management.

But while the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. referred to Robinson as “the first freedom rider,” and the comparison between he and Obama works on some level, I submit that there may be a better sports-related analogy we can apply here, and that’s the rise and reign of Jack Johnson, the first African American boxer to become world heavyweight champion.

There’s a lot of commonality to their circumstances.

At the top of the 20th century when Johnson was making his push toward history, it was thought impossible for a Black man to attain boxing’s most prestigious prize. At a time when the concepts of Social Darwinism and Manifest Destiny relegated people of color as inferior in the early 1900s, the heavyweight championship was seen as the private domain of white men.

When he defeated Tommy Burns to become the first Black man to win the heavyweight belt, Johnson turned that notion on it’s head and with it the prevailing notion of White supremacy. 

The whites who ran boxing at the time were so invested in not recognizing Johnson as the heavyweight champion that they initiated a search for a “Great White Hope” that they hoped would defeat him. Even as Johnson continued to mow down these “Great White Hopes”, the news media that referred to him as “the playful Ethiopian” while portraying him as an “ape” or an African tribesman with exaggerated features joined fans in refusing to recognize Johnson as champion.

When Jim Jeffries, the man that White fans and the mainstream media did recognize as heavyweight champion, got into the ring with Johnson on July 10th, 1910, it was seen as not only the “Battle of the Century”, but as the fight designed to Make Boxing Great Again.

When Johnson’s win led to race riots, American newspapers reinforced White anger at the outcome including an editorial in the Los Angeles Times that warned African-Americans to be aware of their place in society:

“You are just the same member of society today you were last week. … You are on no higher plane, deserve no new consideration, and will get none … No man will think a bit higher of you because your complexion is the same as that of the victor at Reno.”

Johnson didn’t get that message. His self-confidence allowed him to flaunt his relationships with White women at a time when doing so would get you killed.

An aging Johnson finally lost his title to Jess Willard under a sweltering sun in Havana, Cuba in 1915 when he was knocked out in the 26th round.  Of course, the New York Times proclaimed Willard’s victory as restoring “pugilistic supremacy to the white race.”  It would be another 22 years before an African-American would fight for the heavyweight title.

Like Johnson 100 years earlier, Barack Obama broke through a barrier that no one thought a Black man ever would. When Obama began his trek to the White House, few African-Americans gave him a chance, thinking he would go the way of Shirley Chisholm, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. But Obama not only won the Democratic nomination, he easily won the presidency over Republican Sen. John McCain.

Conservatives in Congress got together the night Obama was inaugurated and promised to do all they could to block anything the new president proposed. In a meeting of top GOP luminaries on the night of Obama’s inauguration, they came up with a plan to fight the new president on everything.

The Republicans did it to the point that it exceeded the bounds of decorum at times.

While Obama was a family man who was devoted to his wife and family, he and First Lady Michelle Obama were often the recipients of the most racist vitriol on social media. Conservative media outlets like Fox News often slammed Michelle Obama for daring to point out racism in American society, as she did in a 2015 speech at Tuskegee University.

When Obama was re-elected in 2012, Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly loudly proclaimed that “traditional America” was over and the White people were a minority because of America’s changing demographics. Of course, traditional America translates into a White America where racial minorities, especially African-Americans, were invisible and knew their place.   

It was that energy that the Trump campaign managed to tap into through portraying Mexicans as rapists, Muslims as terrorists and African-Americans as a threat to law and order because of groups like Black Lives Matter.

In 2017, African-Americans, even with all the victories of the Civil Rights Movement, see themselves in the same perilous situation as they were in the early 20th century.

Father Time Wins Again: Time for Hopkins To Say Goodbye for Good

23 Dec
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Bernard Hopkins looked as old as the 51-year-old man he is in his loss to Joe Smith Jr. Photo courtesy of sportingnews.com

When Bernard Hopkins was literally knocked out of the ring last weekend,  he learned that even his arms are too short to box with the ravages of time. 

By Chris Murray
For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun
About 10 years ago, I did a phone interview with former HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant as part of my coverage of the International Boxing Organization light heavyweight title fight between Philadelphia boxing legend Bernard Hopkins, who was 40-something at the time, and a younger, faster Antonio Tarver.

At the time, I thought that Father Time would keep Hopkins from winning that fight and asked Merchant what it might finally take to convince Hopkins to finally retire from the ring. In order for him to do that, Merchant said, someone would have to “beat him up”.
It took another 10 years, but last weekend it happened.

After a successful career of standing toe-to-toe against a combination of Father Time and guys half his age, Bernard Hopkins finally got “beat up”. In what is hopefully the final fight of a Hall of Fame career, Hopkins lost to light heavyweight contender Joe Smith Jr. by TKO in the eighth-round.

The outcome of the fight was about as embarrassing as it was sad for the now 51-year-old Hopkins as his much younger opponent literally knocked him out of the ring. With that, Father Time helped add Hopkins to the long list of legendary pugilists who mistakenly believed that greatness is immortal.

With all due respect to the man who once dominated the middleweight division and has won a few titles as a light heavyweight, Hopkins looked exactly like the elderly, 50-something fighter he is as Smith pummeled him all over the ring.

It reminded me of the reasons why I refused the offer of a ticket to a closed circuit screening of the Muhammad Ali/ Larry Holmes fight in 1981. I couldn’t stand to see a great fighter when he wasn’t great anymore. If I had gone to that fight, the guys would have been called me an oversensitive punk because I would have been crying like a baby.

It was the same way with Sugar Ray Leonard when he lost to Terry Norris. I’ve also seen film of guys like Sugar Ray Robinson and Joe Louis fighting when they were well past their prime. It’s often sad and hard to watch because you remember when they were kings and when were so invincible in the conquest of their opposition.

Hopkins needed to go out as a conquering hero the way former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis did when he led the Ravens to the Super Bowl back in 2012. Instead, Hopkins took to the ring as a shadow of his former self and showed that he just didn’t have it.

On one hand, you have to admire Hopkins for doing something he loves even at his advanced age. He was beating up younger guys when he was in his 40s, which further cemented his legend. He had overcome the rough streets of North Philadelphia, a stint in Graterford Prison and a host of other challenges to become one of the best pound-for-pound boxers in the history of the sport. He was on his way to being a first-ballot Boxing Hall of Famer even without the victories he had as a 40-year-old man.

He has nothing else to prove, and I hope that if nothing else, Hopkins most recent defeat shows that to him. He doesn’t need to humiliate himself like that again.

In fact, he’s probably making more money watching other guys fight through his work with Golden Boy Promotions.

Given what happened to Ali when he hung around too long, it might be time that Hopkins stops hanging on to his youth and allows himself to live in our memories as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

His family deserves the best years of the rest of his life.

His Own Man: Muhammad Ali Versus the Suppression of the Black Athlete

10 Jun

Muhammad Ali: 1942-2016

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Muhammad Ali faced harsh criticism with his membership in the Nation of Islam and his friendship with  Malcolm X.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

“I am America. I am the part you won’t recognize. But get used to me — black, confident, cocky; my name, not yours; my religion, not yours; my goals, my own. Get used to me.”-Muhammad Ali

Muhammad Ali meant a lot to me as a young, Black man growing up and trying to find himself.

Ali will always be the athlete that I measure all other athletes by both on and off the field because he was willing to risk his career as an athlete by not only joining the Nation of Islam, but also by refusing to be drafted into the military and fighting the Vietnam War due to his religious beliefs.

When Ali died June 3 due to complication from a staph infection, he was lionized, which is easier to do now that it’s safe.

But when Ali was in his heyday, it wasn’t as acceptable to be a fan of his because of he spoke his mind about racism in America and never wavered in his beliefs at a time when it was harshly frowned upon for a Black man to be so outspoken.

Ali’s legacy was about defying the suppression of Black athletes who dare to be their own men and be outspoken about race. His willingness to stand up for his beliefs was part of a historical pattern that has defined the African American experience in sports.

There has always been an outright hatred for Black athletes, male or female, who are outspoken and refuse to define themselves and not through the eyes of white supremacy.

When Ali took on Joe Frazier in 1971 in the fight billed as the Fight of the Century, he was seen as the villain in the eyes of white America because of this outspokenness, while many boxing fans hoped that Frazier, who was less outspoken on racial matters and seen as a good “Christian”, would put Ali in his “place” as the more “American” of the two boxers.

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Ali keeps it real about Vietnam and the treatment of African-American Athletes.

As veteran sports writer Terence Moore pointed out on MSNBC recently, it wasn’t until Ali became stricken with Parkinson’s Disease and was rendered unable to speak, that White Americans opposed to the Ali of the 1960s and the principled stands that he took felt comfortable enough to embrace him.

This attitude on the part of White Americans toward Black athletes goes back to Jack Johnson’s reign as the first Black heavyweight champion of the world. Not only did Johnson destroy the physical notion of white supremacy, his brashness inside and outside the ring offended white American sports fans and frightened some African-Americans who feared reprisals from white people.

Johnson not only beat his white opponents in the ring, he taunted them.  At a time when a Black man could be lynched at the mere accusation of looking at a white woman, Johnson married two and flaunted his relationships in public.

In the book, Bad Nigger: The National Impact of Jack Johnson, Al-Tony Gilmore quoted a white boxer who fought in the early 20th century who said: “Why, if that scoundrel would beat that white boy the niggers would never stop gloating over it and as it is we have enough trouble with them.”

While Johnson didn’t see himself as a race man or an activist, the mere fact that he was his own man and refused to bow down to the harsh restrictions of racial segregation in the early 20th century or to defer white people.

After Johnson lost the title in 1915, it would be another 18 years before a Black fighter would get a shot at the title.  And it had to be someone that was seen as more palatable to them.

For a Joe Louis to get a shot at the title, he was not allowed to raise his hands above a defeated white opponent or even smile after a win. And because of Johnson, Louis was prohibited from publicly being pictured with white women.

Because of Louis’s quiet, unassuming nature he was beloved by whites in a way that Ali or Johnson was not. White fans seemed to be more comfortable when an African-American athlete is quiet or willing to suffer fools gladly.

In Jackie Robinson’s first two years breaking baseball’s color line when he endured all the racist taunts from fans by not fighting back he was seen by the mainstream media as a sympathetic figure. When Robinson was allowed fight back on the field and stand up for himself and Black athletes off the field, the same White media that cheered him as a sympathetic figure vilified him for standing up for himself.

You can make the argument that this hasn’t changed much in America because Black athletes who speak out on social issues face racist hostility and calls for punishment and sanctions, such as in the case of the St. Louis Rams players holding up their hands in solidarity with Michael Brown, an unarmed Black shot to death by police in Ferguson, Missouri.

Being accepted on your own terms as a Black athlete is the legacy that Muhammad Ali leaves behind.

Maybe now that he’s no longer with us, America will, at long last, get used to it.

The Greatest: Muhammad Ali Transcended Boxing

10 Jun

Muhammad Ali:1942-2016

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Muhammad Ali Shook up the world with his stunning upset of Sonny Liston in 1964. He held the heavyweight title three times.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Boxing fans around the world are mourning the death of three-time heavyweight champion of the world Muhammad Ali.

Even in the city of Brotherly Love, the hometown of Joe Frazier, his fiercest rival, people are paying tribute to a fighter who transcended sports.

“Muhammad Ali was an exceptional and extraordinary individual,” said Rudy Battle, chairman of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission. “He was a superlative victor and exemplified the true meaning of the “People’s Champion”. He always took time to recognize his fans.”

Ali was a force to be reckoned with both inside and outside the ring.  As a boxer, Ali had a stinging left jab along with the hand speed and lateral movement with his feet of a welterweight and a middleweight. Some boxing experts described him as a Sugar Ray Robinson at the heavyweight level.

Charlie “Mickey” Thomas was one of Ali’s sparring partners and had been friends with the champ since the two of them were teammates on the 1960 U.S. Olympic Boxing Team. Thomas gave Ali credit  for revitalizing a sport ravaged by it’s control by organized crime.

“When (Ali) was boxing, boxing sucked,” Thomas said. “It was a terrible time, It was run by the mob … and Ali put the sport back in boxing. Look at what he did for the sport.”

“None of the heavyweights fighting now have Ali’s quickness,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. “He was like the Fred Astaire of boxing.”

Outside the ring, Ali became a polarizing figure with his membership in the Nation of Islam and by refusing induction into the United States Army based on his religious beliefs and the idea that African-Americans were mistreated at home.

“I can talk all day about what Ali did inside the ring,” said former world middleweight and light middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, “but what he did outside the ring was even more profound. Thirty and 40 years from now we’re still going to be talking about Muhammad Ali.”

Hopkins said it took tremendous courage for Ali to stand up for his principles at a time when African-Americans were getting murdered for participating in Civil Rights demonstrations across the country. Just like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X were eventually assassinated, Ali faced the real danger of someone shooting him down.

“He sacrificed a lot because there was bullet out there with his name on it,” Hopkins said.

Thomas, who is white and served in the U.S. Army Special Forces, said he agreed with Ali refusing induction into the military because of his religious beliefs and felt he was being true to himself.

“Muhammad Ali was the only truly conscientious objector I knew,” Thomas said. “He believed in what he was doing. I don’t find a lot of Baptists or Catholics who do that.”

When it comes to the legacy of Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues like LeBron James wearing a hoodie as a protest against the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, Hopkins said the media shuts down Black athletes who speak out on controversial issues.

“You can get the media to assassinate them now and kill them that way,” Hopkins said.

In addition to standing up for his rights with respect to his religion and for African-Americans, Ali also stood up against the exploitation of fighters by unscrupulous managers and promoters, Battle said. The Muhammad Ali Boxing Reform Act, which was signed into law in 2000, is designed to protect fighters from unfair business practices by promoters.

“He fought for the equality of boxers and established the Muhammad Ali Law,’ which prevents an individual from both promoting and managing a boxer simultaneously, thereby, eliminating total control of a boxer,” Battle said.

Thomas said Ali had a big heart and his best memories of him were of his willingness to give of himself, especially when the media wasn’t present.

“It was kindness to people without the knowledge of the media. He did a lot for people and he gave a lot of money away and he helped many, many people,” Thomas said.

As someone who grew up in North Philly, Ali had a profound influence on young boxers who tried to emulate the way he fought, his trash talking and his self-confidence.  Ali was as much a hero to young people in Philadelphia as Frazier, Hopkins said.

“Part of my demeanor and attitude in the ring came from wanting to be like Muhammad Ali,” Hopkins said. “You had a lot of young North Philly talking trash against each other, doing the Ali Shuffle. He was our hero.”

 

New Manayunk Boxing Gym Named After Legendary Philly Fighter Harold Johnson

26 Feb
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Light Heavyweight legend Harold Johnson, who grew up in the Manayunk-Roxborough section of Philadelphia, is in the International Boxing Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best technical fighters in the history of the sport.

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Even after his storied boxing career faded into sunset, former light-heavyweight champion Harold Johnson always made his presence felt in his old neighborhood of Manayunk-Roxborough.

Whether he was playing with his jazz band at one of the American Legion posts in the racially diverse neighborhood or just talking to the young people he’d see on the neighborhood’s corners, Johnson was a very visible part of the community.

“He cared,” said Joe Mathis, director of the Kendrick Recreation Center. “(Johnson) would ask a kid he didn’t even know, ‘Who are you and what’s your dad’s name or do I know you and who’s this guy’ to a little guy and that would influence that kid. He was the champ.”

Now thanks to a new boxing gym at Roxborough’s Kendrick Recreation Center, Johnson’s name and influence will continue to serve as inspiration for the children of Manayunk-Roxborough.

On Saturday, Johnson’s family joined Councilman Curtis Jones, and Jackie Frazier-Lyde, the daughter of another Philadelphia-based boxing champ, Joe Frazier in dedicating the new Harold Johnson Boxing Gym at the Kendrick Recreation Center. The gym, which cost $500, 000 to build, is an addition to the center.

With this boxing gym, Johnson’s involvement in Manayunk-Roxborough get a chance to hone their boxing skills while learning about a man who was an integral part of the place they called home.

“It’s a place for the youth to go and it’s a great thing,” Mathis said. “This keeps (Johnson) him involved and keeps his name alive. I’m honored to be able to do that for him and now his name is going to be here forever.”

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Joe Mathis, director of the Kendrick Recreation Center in Manayunk-Roxborough, and Rev. John Roberts, the son of Harold Johnson, stand inside the ring at the new Harold Johnson Boxing Gym.

The Rev. John Roberts, Johnson’s son, said he and his family are happy that his fathered is being honored by the city and his old neighborhood.

“It’s a great feeling for me and to the family because dad was a great fighter and it’s nice that Philadelphia recognizes their own,” said Roberts, who is the pastor of the Gardener of Prayer World Prayer Center. “To have this gym named after him is a great honor because this is where he grew up here in Manayunk. … There’s no place like home.”

Jones said Johnson is to Manayunk-Roxborough what basketball legend Wilt Chamberlain was to Overbrook High School and West Philadelphia.

“He was the George Washington of boxing up here,” Jones said. “Therefore, just as important as Wilt Chamberlain was to West Philly and Overbrook, Johnson was as important to Manayunk and boxing.”

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Rev. John Roberts points to a picture of his father Harold Johnson inside the new gym named for his father.

Boxing historian John DiSanto, who runs the website phillyboxinghistory.com, said naming the recreation center after Johnson will give young people in the community the opportunity to know who Johnson was and what he meant to this community.

“It’s way of constantly introducing him to new people and for him to be an inspiration for kids to come into train,” DiSanto said. “The more places his name can be mentioned and included the better, he needs to be remembered.”

As a fighter, Johnson is known for being one of the most technically proficient fighters of all-time. He has fought and beaten some of the best boxers in the history of the sport including Ezzard Charles and legendary light heavyweight champion Archie Moore, who he fought five times. Johnson also beat Cuba’s Nino Valdez, a heavyweight contender in the 50s and 60s, and was a sparring partner for Joe Louis, arguably one of the greatest heavyweights of all time.

The 5-foot-11 Johnson won the undisputed light heavyweight championship in 1962 only to lose it in 1963 to Willie Pastrano on a controversial split decision. He had a record of 76-11 with 32 knockouts.

DiSanto said Johnson was an underrated in his time because of his humble demeanor, his technical fighting style and because he fought as a light heavyweight at a time when all the focus in boxing was on the heavyweights.

“His fights tended to go the distance and he was in a lot of chess matches,” DiSanto said. “He’s in the Hall of Fame and you can’t get any better than that. He’s not a household name, but in this area he’s a local legend for sure.”

Lack of Progress on Injured Right Foot Could Sideline Sixers Embiid for Next Season

18 Jun
Joel Embiid's foot has yet to heal and he could be out for next year.  Photo by Sixers.com

Joel Embiid’s foot has yet to heal and he could be out for next year. Photo by Sixers.com

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

PHILADELPHIA—Three weeks before the 2015 NBA Draft, the Philadelphia 76ers and their fans had visions of the team using the third pick in the draft to pick up Ohio State point guard D’Angelo Russell or China league sensation Emmanuel Mundiay to run the offense with Nerlens Noel and 7-foot center Joel Embiid at the Wells Fargo Center.

But the bad news on Embiid’s lack of progress on the injured right foot that forced him to miss all of what should have been his rookie season has Sixers fans shaking their heads instead.

“Joel and Sixers personnel travelled to Los Angeles for a series of routine exams with a number of physicians who have been actively involved throughout this process,” Sixers owner Sam Hinkie said in a statement issued to fans. “During his visit with Dr. Richard Ferkel, a standard CT scan on Joel’s right foot revealed less healing than anticipated at this point …Discussions regarding the appropriate next steps are currently ongoing and we will share an update once it becomes available.”

According to some reports, there’s a distinct possibility that the Embiid may not play next season. That’s really bad considering that Embiid reportedly missed rehab sessions, has had weight issues and has argued with the team’s trainers.

It’s also a bad thing with considering the YouTube videos of Embiid that show that he was getting better and starting to look good on the court during workouts. One of the videos shows Embiid dunking the ball from between his legs at the end of the team’s pre-game shoot-around.

Should he have been doing that given the state of his foot? Especially since now it looks like he could be facing more surgery and thus another year off the court?

For a fan base that’s not only had to endure some of the worst basketball ever played at the Wells Fargo Center, but has also had to watch in horror as former Sixer Andre Iguodala not only picked up a championship ring with the Golden State Warriors, but was also crowned the NBA Finals Most Valuable Player, this latest setback to the team’s rebuilding efforts might be the one that makes folks start giving Hinkie the side-eye.

But we won’t know just how bad Embiid’s lack of progress in terms of his injury is until Draft Night. What the Sixers do with the third pick will tell the tale.

According to some recent mock drafts, the Sixers could go after a big man like Duke’s Jahlil Okafor, Kentucky’s Karl Anthony Towns or Latvian power forwards Kristaps Porzingis if neither of their first two choices is available. The team could also take a look at Kentucky’s Willie Cauley-Stein.

But since the Sixers traded former Rookie of the Year point guard Michael Carter-Williams, that might be the need they meet first. They liked Ohio State’s Russell and Hinkie won’t want to let a fan base that’s finally starting to get a little skeptical and a media that always was think that the organization changed its way of draft thinking due to the lack of progress on Embiid’s injured right foot.

The bottom line is that the Sixers need to show that all of the tanking they did to get these lottery picks is going to lead to something. All that the team has gotten in the last two drafts for all of its losses is one healthy player in Noel, and he spent his rookie season riding the pine due to injury and one in Carter-Williams that they traded away before he had a chance to develop.

For those who are enamored by the unconventional thinking of Hinkie and company, it’s all about patience and letting things work themselves out. Hinkie apparently has his own timeline and in his mind, the gumbo is going to be done when he thinks it’s done.

After all, these are merely the quirks of a genius at work. Right? (crickets)

But in the course of getting things done, 76ers fans want to see some semblance of light of what has been a very dark tunnel for a franchise that’s made it to the NBA Finals just twice in the last 32 years.

Especially since foot injuries, specifically the kind that come with shooting yourself in the foot, seem to be this team’s forte.

 

Can Bernard Hopkins Stop Hard-Hitting Sergey Kovalev?

7 Aug

By Chris Murray

For the Chris Murray Report and the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Bernard Hopkins will take on unbeaten Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight unification bout sometime in November. Photo by Chris Murray.

Bernard Hopkins will take on unbeaten Sergey Kovalev in a light heavyweight unification bout sometime in November. Photo by Chris Murray.

PHILADELPHIA—For his latest age-defying act against “Father Time” in the square circle, the 49-year-old Bernard Hopkins will take on rising unbeaten World Boxing Organization champion Sergey “The Krusher” Kovalev in a light-heavyweight unification bout.

Hopkins, who now calls himself the “Alien,” is looking to beat up on another younger, stronger,faster fighter. But this fight, which is scheduled to place in November either at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City or the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn —two months before his 50th birthday (Jan.15), might be the toughest in his continuing battle against aging in the ring.

Unbeaten WBO Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is fresh off a second round knockout of Blake Caparello on Aug. 2.

Unbeaten WBO Light Heavyweight champion Sergey Kovalev is fresh off a second round knockout of Blake Caparello on Aug. 2.

Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 knockouts) is fresh off a devastating second-round knockout of previously unbeaten Australian Blake Caparello. In that fight, Kovalev bounced back from a flash knockdown by Caparello and then knocked him down three times before the referee called a halt to the bout at the 1:47 mark of the second round.

What makes Kovalev a tough matchup for Hopkins is that he might be the hardest puncher that the age-defying Hopkins has met at this stage of his career.

Kovalev is a methodical, straight forward fighter who can hurt you with either hand. The unbeaten Russian is a disciplined fighter who can break another fighter down by going to the body before going to the head. The first knockdown against Caparello was the result of a devastating right to the body that was pretty much the beginning of the end.

The 31-year-old native of Cheylabinsk, Russia, has knocked out his last nine opponents.

But Hopkins, who holds the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Association light heavyweight titles, has been in the ring against several hard-charging, hard punching fighters like Kelly Pavlik and Antonio Tarver and has come out of those battles victorious.

Hopkins seems to relish those matches against aggressive young fighters who like to come forward so he can so he can find their weaknesses and take advantage of them. That’s why Hopkins is confident that he will get the same result against the hard-punching Kovalev and the be the oldest boxer to hold an undisputed title.

“I’ve set and broken many records, but becoming the oldest undisputed light heavyweight champion is the goal and Kovalev stands in the way of that goal,” Hopkins said. “He’s another young, hungry and just like the ones that came before him, he will leave the ring beltless.”

Over the years, I’ve learned to never to underestimate guts and guile of Hopkins. I have counted him out on numerous occasions as being too old. I have also predicted that there was going to come a point to where he was going to age in the ring.

But the crazy part about is that Hopkins has managed to prove me and several of his critics wrong more often than naught. Heck, even in his losses he hasn’t been beaten to a pulp. He has had very few cuts on his face and hasn’t been staggered or knocked down.

The big question here is whether or not Hopkins vast defensive skills and experience will be enough to withstand the vicious onslaught of Kovalev. This is a guy who has enough power in both hands to either knock another fighter into next week or have him eating soup for a few weeks with a vicious shot to the body.

“He says he is alien. He punch, I punch, then we see who gonna go to Mars,” Kovalev said.

While it’s easy for us to wonder why the hell Hopkins is back in the ring at his age in another battle against a younger, stronger, faster fighter capable of hastening his retirement with one punch, you have to give Hopkins credit for making it interesting.

It’s like an addictive reality show because with Hopkins you want to know what’s going to happen next.