Bernard Hopkins and Tavoris Cloud both made weight Friday and so we're a step closer to seeing if Hopkins, who turned 48 on Jan. 15, can still be considered the ageless wonder of pugilism, or if that cruel predator Father Time has finally gotten his clutches into the Philly-based legend.
Cloud, who holds the IBF light-heavy crown, was 173.8, while Hopkins, a six-time champ, was 174.4 at a session held in the lobby of Barclays Center. Hopkins (52-6-2 with 32 KOs) was in Executioner mode, intensity emanating from every pore, while Cloud looked loosey-goosey during the ceremony. The Florida-born hitter, who holds a 24-0 (19 KOs) mark, giggled when he inadvertently almost yanked down his underwear as he took off his sweatpants to step on the scale.
The heat in the building rose when the two men did a staredown. Hopkins leaned right into Cloud, put his face on Cloud's, and whispered not-so-niceties into the ear of the Don King-promoted boxer. They were separated and escorted to different parts of the building.
After, one vet boxer I spoke to, not on the card, said he thought Cloud looked drained. But the fighter struck me as very relaxed, and told me that he felt as good as he ever has before a fight. His legs had good bounce in them, he reported. And what was it that Hopkins whispered to him during the staredown? "He said, he didn't want me to beat him up too bad," Cloud said, with a slight grin. "I ain't worrying about what he said, I'm about to end his career. It's irrelevant what he said. I told him I'm going to whup his ass."
His trainer, Abel Sanchez, told me he loves Cloud's mood going into the bout. He said he'd rather have a guy be able to joke some, not be too tight and angry, heading into fight night. "We're going to have to make Hopkins fight," he said, when asked about strategy. "We're not letting him rest." Hopkins has never been stopped, but Cloud seems like he's aiming for that. "Anyone can be stopped," he said to NYFightblog.
It's a good bet, though, that the judges will have the final say at the end of the night on the card promoted by Golden Boy.
If you can't make it to Barclays Center, HBO will show the main event, after a support bout pitting Keith Thurman, a show-closer type, against ex-champ Jan Zaveck.
Readers, feel free to drop a prediction in the comments section.