American legend Bernard Hopkins (53-6-2-2, 32) once again made history as he became the oldest man in history to defend a world boxing title. Defending the IBF Light Heavyweight title for the first time since defeating Tavoris Cloud for the belt Hopkins put on a show in defeating mandatory challenger Karo Murat (25-2-1, 15).
The fight actually started well for Murat who made a good case to win the first two rounds as he out worked Hopkins. Despite Murat just starting well his success didn't last much beyond the third round as Hopkins did as Hopkins does and slowly broke Murat mentally. Unfortunately Murat's case wasn't helped by American referee Steve Smoger who appeared to be on Murat's case from the off whilst often turning a blind eye to Hopkins' infringements.
By round 4 Smoger really was making life hard for Murat. Whilst Hopkins was landing flurries on the break Smoger was giving Murat a warning for landing single shots on. Despite that the fourth round was when Hopkins started to turn it on and unload with some crisp shots most notably hard right hands. Murat was still in it, as shown by a late flurry, but his work was sporadic and he was starting to look like the older man.
The tiredness of Murat was becoming even more obvious in round 5 as he backed off from Hopkins and almost invited Hopkins to unload on him, something the American was happy to do. By now the fight was Hopkins.
Despite Smoger really getting in to the face of Murat we saw some leniency in round 6 as Murat twice punched Hopkins when he was down. Although a point deduction would have made sense Smoger didn't take anything and instead seemed to suggest that next time Murat broke the rules he would be deducted. A final hard warning if you will. The shots were seemingly thrown out of frustration by Murat who by now seemed annoyed at both Smoger and Hopkins.
Hopkins made Murat pay for his sins the following round as he rocked the challenger several times. It seemed like Hopkins was seriously going for the stoppage, something he's not scored in years. Despite that the round was best remembered for Murat finally being deducted a point for tapping Hopkins on the break. It was the round of the fight by far and actually saw the fight becoming somewhat entertaining as the two men brawled.
The brawling that ended the sixth round returned in round 7 as Hopkins again went on the offensive with the intention of stopping Murat. By now it was obvious Hopkins had no respect for Murat and he almost bundled him out of the ring before turning away and walking with his back to the challenger, leading to Smoger telling him to turn around. This odd moment saw Murat launching an an attack on Hopkins as the American tried to talk to the fans in what was on of the most peculiar rounds of Bernard Hopkins' long career.
From then on it was rare to see Murat landing much clean. He often tried, as he did at the start of round 8 but Hopkins was too defensively cute for him. This lead to Murat becoming more frustrated and giving Hopkins chance to unload when and as he wanted. Whether it was jabs, right hands or flurries it was all Hopkins or messy holding as the American's lead on the cards grew through rounds 8,9, 10 and 11.
At the end of the eleventh round Hopkins joked that he'd need a knock out to win. Surprisingly he seemed to get close to it at one as Murat turned away and Hopkins unloaded. Later in the round Murat appeared to be wobbled then surprisingly Murat flirted with a disqualification hitting Hopkins on the break again. Amazingly whilst Smoger didn't disqualify Murat, when he could have done despite their only being seconds left, he did physically push Murat by the face. A rather fitting end to a poor performance by Smoger.
Although the bout had started in a close manner it had finished with Hopkins as a clear winner, successfully defending his title with a wide margin on the score cards.