MONTREAL (AFP) – Bernard Hopkins will try to become the oldest major world champion in boxing history on Saturday when he faces Canada’s Jean Pascal in Montreal for the World Boxing Council light heavyweight crown.
Hopkins will be 126 days beyond his 46th birthday when he steps into the ring for a rematch of a controversial majority draw last December that allowed Pascal to keep his title.
That makes Hopkins 24 days older than US heavyweight legend George Foreman was when Foreman defended the International Boxing Federation crown against Germany’s Axel Schulz in 1995 with a split-decision victory.
Foreman became the oldest fighter to take a world title when he knocked out fellow American Michael Moorer 2:03 into the 10th round to claim the IBF and World Boxing Association heavyweight crowns on November 5, 1994.
“It means more to me to break the age record and prove that I am representing not just the older fighters, but older athletes in any sport,” Hopkins said.
“I am going to go out there on Saturday night and fight for all of the old guys out there. I’m living proof that life isn’t over at 40. I’m leading by example to show that you can continue to do what you love well into your 40s.
“My motivation is to get in that ring and prove to the young lion that the old lion still rules the jungle.”
Hopkins, 51-5 with two drawn and 32 knockouts, reigned as world middleweight champion for 10 years before surrendering the undisputed crown to Jermain Taylor in 2005 at age 40.
Since then, Hopkins dispatched big-name US rivals Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright, Roy Jones and previously undefeated Kelly Pavlik while suffering his most recent loss in a 2008 split decision to Welsh southpaw Joe Calzaghe.
“This is not just historically significant for boxing. This is history making in sports,” said promoter Oscar de la Hoya, a retired six-division world champion.
“For Bernard to perform at this level at his age is something to be honored, revered and noted by students of this game and sports fans across the board. For Hopkins to be 46 and competing like this is just incredible.”
It puts Hopkins in rare sporting company.
Jack Nicklaus won the last of his record 18 major golf titles at age 46 at the 1986 Masters, the oldest man to ever claim the green jacket at Augusta National, while Willie Shoemaker became the oldest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby in 1986 at age 54.
Major League Baseball pitcher Jamie Moyer won a team-best 16 games to help the Philadelphia Phillies win the 2009 World Series at age 45 while US stock car legend Richard Petty raced competitively until retiring in 1984 at age 47.
American football’s George Blanda became the oldest player in NFL history at age 48 while ice hockey legend Gordie Howe laced up the skates for a final NHL season at age 52 in 1980.
Among fighters, Hopkins walks in the footsteps of US legend Archie Moore, who posted a record 131 knockouts in 219 career pro fights, the last coming at age 47.
Foreman, now 62, expects Hopkins will need a knockout of Pascal to win a throne for the ages.
“I think he can pull it off, no doubt about it,” Foreman said. “It’s a great opportunity to lift my name up, just for a second, before it gets erased. He has got (the chance), but he’s going to have to get it by way of knockout.”
Haitian-born Pascal, 26-1-1 with 16 knockouts, has not lost in six fights since his lone defeat came at the hands of Britain’s Carl Froch in 2008 and will be making the fifth defence of his crown.
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