DON'T LOOK TO me to say Bernard Hopkins should retire - not anymore.
At this point, if the dude says he can continue to box until he's 50 years old, I'll roll with him.
Claims that the 48-year-old Hopkins should have hung up his gloves several years ago have been based on the belief that older athletes cannot possibly continue to compete at a high level in a combat sport like boxing.
But Hopkins keeps countering the argument with real-life empirical evidence, putting the facts on his side and defying logic.
On Saturday night in Brooklyn, the ancient wonder eclipsed his own record for being the oldest man to win a recognized boxing world championship by posting a unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud for the International Boxing Federation light-heavyweight championship.
"I was really working on my speed and reflexes at 48 years old," said Hopkins who dominated the scorecards, 117-111, 116-112, 116-112, in front of 12,229 at the Barclays Center. "I wanted to display them. I'm with the 40-and-up club and we still rule.
"I have a history of destroying young champions and having to never see them again. I don't know if you will see Tavoris Cloud again."
Add Cloud, who is 17 years Hopkins' junior, to a list that includes Jean Pascal, Kelly Pavlik, Winky Wright and Felix Trinidad as considerably younger lions who were run out of the pride by Hopkins.
"Tonight was one of the bigger fights of my career," said Hopkins (53-6-2). "Because I'm older, it's more gratifying.
"I'm motivated to do it. I don't believe anybody in the 175-pound weight class and possibly the 168 class can beat me."
While Hopkins may not have had the power to knock out Cloud, who had been undefeated and was making his fifth title defense, the wily veteran brought his entire bag of guile and experience to school the younger fighter in the art of boxing.
He used his stellar defense and ring generalship to neutralize the punching power of Cloud, who had 19 knockouts in his 24 victories.
Cloud was never able to square up Hopkins to land any significant power blows.
While Compubox figures showed Cloud threw 200 more punches than Hopkins, it was "The Executioner" who connected on more, 169-139.
Hopkins, who hasn't knocked out an opponent in 7 years, connected on 110 of 227 power blows.
Cloud claimed that a cut opened above his left eye early in the fight came from an elbow.
Referee Earl Brown ruled it an accidental head butt, but replay showed the cut came from a clean punch from Hopkins.
"I have to throw a lot of substance [into fights]," Hopkins said. "I'm fighting old-school in a new world. I have to learn to adapt to what [the judges] are looking for. We knew a 30-year-old guy was not going to run from a 48-year-old guy."
Cloud, 31, didn't go overboard in his praise of Hopkins, but it was a stinging blow to a career that had a chance to take off.
"I do not idolize you," Cloud said to Hopkins. "You're a good fighter, and I respect you.
"I was only average tonight."
But that's the magic of Hopkins. He has a way of making good fighters look average when they step into the ring with him.
In 63 fights, 14 past age 40, Hopkins still has never been knocked out.
It's almost impossible to accumulate a series of power punches to wear Hopkins down and he'll never let the "one-punch knockout artist" deliver that one punch.
Maybe that style isn't as glamorous as the one-punch knockout or the straight-ahead steamroller, but Hopkins has proven over a quarter-century that it is a highly effective, if underappreciated, boxing skill.
"[Cloud is] a gutsy, strong young champion," Hopkins said. "He'll be champion again. I told him I won't be here too long."
Who knows what is next for Hopkins?
He broke his own record as the oldest champion. There is nothing left to prove. He doesn't need the money.
While he has gone farther with Father Time than the vast majority of athletes, the clock is ticking.
Hopkins reportedly likes undefeated middleweight champion Andre Ward and has said he will not fight what would be the most attractive fight for him.
It also would seem difficult for him to get back down to 168 at his age.
The other light-heavyweight champions - WBC belt-holder Beibut Shumenov (13-1, 8 KOs) of Kazakhstan, WBA champion Chad Dawson (31-2, 17 KOs), who beat Hopkins last year, and WBO titlist Nathan Cleverly (25-0, 12 KOs) don't exactly stir the interest pot.
But who knows what motivations Hopkins might find.
"I might go 'til 50," Hopkins said, but then quickly reversed. "I'm here to stay, but I won't be in the ring at 50 years old. I just think there's an opportunity for me to prove I'm different."