Although I don’t have The Ring magazine’s complete archives or a quick way to get in touch with Larry Merchant to confirm this, I’m fairly certain that Saturday’s light-heavyweight unification match between IBF champion Bernard Hopkins and WBA champ Beibut Shumenov is the most high-profile match between two Muslim boxers since Dwight Muhammad Qawi defeated Matthew Saad Muhammad in August of 1982 in the second of their two WBC light-heavyweight title fights.
Hopkins, the 49-year-old ageless marvel, will be looking to make history again this weekend. If he beats the 30-year-old Shumenov in the DC Armory in Washington, D.C., Hopkins will — for the third time — become the oldest man in history to win a world championship.
Also featured on the Showtime televised card is an up-and-coming Muslim boxer from New York, undefeated (18-0) welterweight Sadam Ali. The 2008 Team USA Olympian will face veteran Michael Clark on the Hopkins-Shumenov undercard.
The main-eventers and most of the other fighters on the card took part in an open workout and Q&A session for the media on Wednesday, and of course Hopkins dominated the talking points. Some highlights:
“I think my longevity has a lot to do with the early preparation in my life and my career. I took care of myself like I always have for the last 20 years and I’m reaping the benefits now. A lot of it has to do with just what I do and don’t put in my body. A lot of long-term discipline and staying the course, and not derailing many times during down time, or binging on things that aren’t good for you. I think that plays a big role in longevity.”
“Shumenov wants to make a name for himself by defeating me. All the young guns want to make it big, and beating me would do that for Shumenov, but that’s not going to happen.”
“To me, there are no butterflies. I’m eager, but it’s controlled for that moment to come and then we’ll have the fireworks. That’s the good part about it. I’m on stage, and as any entertainer loves the stage, you love the attention.”
“I haven’t missed any days of training. Every day after my workout my body was exhausted and the next day I was always excited to go to the gym. Every day was valuable for me, every day I saw improvement. It made me happy to go to the gym.”
“I don’t really have a game plan for anybody really. Once I see what kind of style they have, I know what to do right away. I don’t have to know who I’m fighting months before. It could be a week before my fight, and I find out who I’m fighting and I know what to do.”