Bernard Hopkins bristles at attention given to Kovalev: 'He took the easiest road'

USA TODAY Sports

Bernard Hopkins loves the spotlight and loves it when the world is forced to call him the best at what he does. Sergey Kovalev is just the latest rising hopeful to get too much attention for B-Hop's liking.

Bernard Hopkins, for all he's accomplished in the sport of boxing, is no stranger to double-talk, self-promotion, and hypocrisy. Yesterday, perhaps Hopkins was lying, and today he may be telling the truth. Or the other way around. Whatever makes B-Hop look the best.

Hopkins, 48, says that Sergey Kovalev took the "easiest and safest way" to a world title in the light heavyweight division when he beat Nathan Cleverly this past Saturday. You'll recall that Kovalev was named mandatory challenger to Hopkins by the IBF earlier this year, but instead "opted' to face WBO titlist Cleverly on the road in Wales.

What ol' "X" fails to mention is that Showtime flat-out turned down a Hopkins-Kovalev fight. Stephen Espinoza said on Twitter when asked why SHO was not interested in that fight, "Many factors - schedule, budget, lack of depth in the division, etc."

Lack of depth in the division sure didn't prevent the network from schedule Hopkins against previous mandatory challenger Karo Murat, a solid fighter but realistically a light heavyweight also-ran with no American fanbase whatsoever, no TV appearances here, and considered far less threat to Bernard than Kovalev was and still is. And when that fight fell through, and they didn't want the Kovalev fight, they had no trouble rescheduling Hopkins-Murat, which will now take place on October 26 on Showtime.

There are other factors at play here. Bernard has never really liked other fighters in his weight class getting good press for much of anything, and he's playing that game again. "I'm Bernard Hopkins, what has this guy done?" He is also now calling Cleverly a paper champion who had proven nothing, but in April, here's what he said about Cleverly:

"Cleverly brings a lot to the table himself. He can fight and has the looks. He knows how to promote. I've been watching him and he's knocking on the door of superstardom. He is a threat to me and any other 175lb fighter."

Sergey Kovalev wasn't going to get a fight with Bernard Hopkins. It's really that simple. And Kathy Duva and Main Events chose to be proactive about it. Rather than fiddling around with a likely pointless Hopkins negotiation, they chose to chase another world title, quickly signing to fight Cleverly. Part of the stated reason was that they thought they was a good chance that Hopkins would vacate the IBF belt and sign to fight Cleverly himself, leaving Kovalev to fight, you know, Murat or someone for a vacant title. At best, Kovalev-Murat would have been an NBC Sports fight. Cleverly got Kovalev onto HBO and on the world stage.

Meanwhile, Hopkins is stuck fighting Murat in a fight nobody seems to care about at all, and it seems possible that he's rankling a bit at Kovalev and Adonis Stevenson, who faces Tavoris Cloud on September 28, getting attention at 175 pounds right now. The spotlight is on those guys: they're younger, they're big punchers, and they're exciting to watch. No matter how much respect Bernard has, it will never be enough for him. Hopkins wants every ounce of the spotlight at all times. That's a big part of what makes him the fighter he is, and hell, there's every good reason to believe he'd chew up Stevenson and Kovalev the same way he's done guys like Kelly Pavlik, Jean Pascal, and Cloud in recent years.

So it is what it is, at the end of the day, if you will, so to speak. Hopkins is just being Hopkins; his jealousy, as it were, is probably just fuel thrown on his eternal flame, that gnawing insistence that everyone look right at Bernard Hopkins, because goddamn it, he's done more than these other dudes. He's not really wrong or anything. He's just B-Hop.

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