ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. -- A day after sending shock waves through the boxing world, Bernard Hopkins arrived at Revel Casino sporting a light-blue sports jacket over a yellow V-neck, a main event on his mind.
After obliging a throng of fans' requests to pose for photos, the North Philadelphia native took a seat in a brown fold-up chair, just a step or two from the blue canvas and black ropes constructed in the casino's 5,500-person amphitheater.
Hopkins, 49 years young, was there to watch his next opponent. Sergey Kovalev, an imposing 31-year-old Russian recognized as "Krusher," ensured Hopkins' scouting session was fleeting.
When referee Sparkle Lee waved her arms 107 seconds into the second round of Saturday night's fight, a highly anticipated light-heavyweight unification bout was officially made. Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 knockouts), the division's WBA and IBF champion, and the WBO belt-holding Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs), will fight in November, likely on the 8th of the month, in Atlantic City or Brooklyn.
At the time of the impending HBO-televised bout, Hopkins, boxing's ageless wonder, will be about nine weeks shy of AARP eligibility. On the surface, the hard-punching Kovalev, another Hopkins opponent young enough to be his son, is the future Hall of Famer's most dangerous adversary in quite a while.
"I don't run from the fire," Hopkins said. "I run to the fire. That's been my career."
In the three months leading to the fight, a predominant story line will regard the fact that Hopkins has not been knocked out in any of his 65 pro bouts while Kovalev owns a blistering 88.46-percent knockout rate. None of Kovalev's six 12-round fights have extended past the seventh round.
Kovalev on Saturday once again displayed that knockout power. After his opponent, Australian southpaw Blake Caparello, stunningly knocked him down in the first round -- mostly because he was off-balance -- Kovalev came back with a vengeance in the second. A straight right to the body had Caparello down on one knee. It was the first of three knockdowns in the round, halted after Kovalev continued to unload a seemingly endless barrage of punches on Caparello in the corner of the ring.
Kovalev expressed surprise that Hopkins agreed to fight him but said it's one of his dreams to fight the "Executioner"-turned-"Alien." In a rare occurrence because of pressures from the IBF, the parties signed the papers Friday, the day before Kovalev's third title defense. It was contingent on him beating Caparello, of course.
"I'm not scared of fighting him, to lose to him, because he's an 'Alien', really," Kovalev said of Hopkins. "But I'm the 'Krusher' and I will send him to Mars."
Hopkins did not want to look beyond his match with Kovalev -- understandably so. But if he defeats the powerful Russian, one more major belt remains out there. WBC champ Adonis Stevenson was originally in line to fight Kovalev before Stevenson bolted HBO for Showtime. After his April win over Beibut Shumenov, it was expected Hopkins would next fight the 36-year-old Stevenson.
Hopkins didn't rule out taking on Stevenson after Kovalev. He said he will re-evaluate after November's bout and do what's best for him, whether it's staying at light-heavyweight or moving up or down a weight class. A new contender could have surfaced by then, he noted.
"I believe I can control really two or three divisions right now," Hopkins said. "Easily, (168) to (175). I can control those divisions if I want to. But 75 became the best girl on the block in a minute. It became the pretty girl in the neighborhood all of a sudden.
"You've got two great big punchers (in Kovalev and Stevenson). I've never been a puncher. Don't look for a knockout from me. But what you will look for (is) a career-ending mental beatdown that you can't fix. You can't put ice on it. You can't get it stitched up."
Golden Boy Promotions and Main Events will co-promote the November event. Main Events CEO Kathy Duva said the venue, whether the Barclays Center or Boardwalk Hall, should be determined in "the next week or so."
"Obviously, it's a fight that Sergey wants very much," Duva said. "It's a fight that we very actively pursued. Sergey has said from the start he just wants to fight the very best."
Hopkins last fought on HBO against Tavoris Cloud last March, the last of the Golden Boy stable to fight on the network. Hopkins said the agreement for the Kovalev fight was "a deal that didn't take a lot of posturing and egos." Stevenson's camp wasn't as aggressive as Kovalev's, he said.
"The fans win because they get to see something that they rarely see in the game today," Hopkins said. "They get to see cherry-picking and high paychecks, but they don't get to see the '80 era. They don't get to see the '90 era, the early '90 era. So I'm bringing that back. I'm in a new world from the old-school game. I'm just an Alien."
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