Bernard Hopkins celebrates after his split decision victory over Beibut Shumenov at DC Armory. Photo by Geoff Burke, USA TODAY Sports/Reuters.
WASHINGTON - Bernard Hopkins, the oldest world champion in boxing history at age 49, became the eldest fighter to unify world titles Saturday when he defeated Beibut Shumenov in a light-heavyweight showdown.
Two judges gave ageless wonder Hopkins a split-decision victory by the same score, 116-111, while the out-voted third saw Shumenov as a 114-113 winner.
"I had a great night," Hopkins said. "I'm special. Special is what it is. There is no definition for special."
Hopkins, who knocked down his younger and larger foe in the 11th round, kept his International Boxing Federation crown and took the World Boxing Association title from Kazakhstan's Shumenov.
Now his aim is to add the World Boxing Council title and become an undisputed champion before turning 50 next January.
"My job is not to worry about the judges. My job is to get ready to unify the championship before 50," Hopkins said.
Hopkins improved to 55-6 with two drawn and 32 knockouts while Shumenov fell to 14-2 before 6,823 at the Washington Armory.
"I wasn't concerned with the scorecard. I was concerned with the fighting," Shumenov said. "I chose the wrong strategy. I'm quite angry. It didn't happen that I could get the victory but I am a true warrior."
Hopkins used a left jab to set up a hard right that dropped Shumenov and summed up a masterful performance by Hopkins of wearing down a fellow champion physically and mentally.
"He ran right into it because he likes to spin into it," Hopkins said. "It was there the whole fight. I finally clicked in there and got it."
Fans chanted "B-Hop, B-Hop" in the final round, when Hopkins dropped his hands, leaned toward Shumenov and smiled, then attacked after his rival showed frustration.
"I'm a 15-round fighter," Hopkins screamed from the ring. "I'm a throwback."
It was the second title defense for Hopkins, who took the IBF title from Tavoris Cloud in March of last year. Hopkins decisioned Karo Murat last October.
Hopkins defended his middleweight crown 20 times in his prime but has made his fame in recent years by defying Father Time.
Hopkins wore a green alien mask when he walked into the ring, having nicknamed himself "Alien" due to his longevity.
- 'Boxing is a science' -
A tentative start saw each champion try to lure the other into mistakes and counter-attack with mixed results.
In the third round Shumenov looked irritated as Hopkins backpedaled away repeatedly, but Hopkins then pressed the attack, finding ways to work inside his rival's longer reach.
"Boxing is a science," Hopkins said. "If you don't have to get hit don't. You don't want anybody else counting your money."
Hopkins would lure Shumenov into lowering his fists, although it often meant he had to take a good punch in the exchange before they clinched.
In the fourth, Hopkins stuck out his tongue at Shumenov, disrespect that enticed the Kazak fighter into a hasty charge just as the crafty veteran desired.
Hopkins stung Shumenov with a hard right to the head in the fifth and landed an early combination in the sixth, then taunted Shumenov with quick tongue flicks.
Hopkins evaded and tied up to avoid Shumenov's attempts to land a powerful blow and was able to strike with quick single punches to keep the European guessing and frustrated, dancing to the American's tune.
Shumenov, who had been past the ninth round only once since 2010, began attacking and pulling back in the eighth round to better position himself for more punches and avoid clinches.
Hopkins answered with counter attacks and worked inside more frequently in the later rounds, Shumenov at one moment looking annoyed at an evasive move and in the next finding himself in an exchange against the ropes that favored the wily Hopkins.
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