Kovalev takes on living legend Hopkins, looking to make history

Sergey Kovalev works out during a training session for his fight against Bernard Hopkins at Gleason's Gym on Tuesday in Brooklyn. They will fight Saturday.

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Karen Avetisyan in December 2010.

That’s the answer to the trivia question of who was the last boxer to see the final bell against Sergey Kovalev. Since then, the 31-year-old WBO light heavyweight champion has knocked out 12 opponents and had one controversial technical draw that many saw as a knockout.

Yet, none of those opponents, nor any of the 25 fighters he’s defeated, resembled what Kovalev faces on Saturday (10:45 p.m. ET, HBO) when he takes on a living legend in WBA super world light heavyweight and IBF world light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins. At nearly 50, Hopkins (55-6-2, 32 KOs) is seeking to take out yet another undefeated, up-and-coming opponent. The veteran has made a living out of these situations, but this time, many are saying he’s bitten off too much.

"I am very excited for this opportunity," Kovalev said. "This is the biggest fight in my career and a huge, huge, huge fight. I’m very excited to fight against a legend of boxing, Bernard Hopkins. He is really experienced, a professor of boxing, and I’m excited to fight him."

Kovalev (25-0-1, 23 KOs) says his camp has gone well. His trainer, John David Jackson, fought Hopkins, losing to him via seventh-round TKO in 1997. The experience of being in the ring with "The Executioner" is something he is passing on to Kovalev.

What makes this an intriguing fight is the clash of styles and strengths. Many wonder if Kovalev can land enough shots on the crafty Hopkins to keep him from running away with a decision. On the flip side, can a 49-year-old man really take punches from one of the sport’s hardest punchers? 

Kovalev believes he can. "Come on, 50 years old, this is just a number," Kovalev said. "He’s an alien. Aliens can live 200-300 years. He’s like a 20-year-old."

For that reason, Kovalev says he is going in expecting to win, but not necessarily by knockout. One thing is for sure: When you fight Bernard Hopkins, you must expect an array of veteran tactics and mind games.

"I’m prepared for everyone and for everything in the ring," Kovalev said. "Any fight for me is a street fight. You should be ready for anything in the ring and be focused on the fight."

In all of Kovalev’s fights that have been scheduled for 12 rounds, none have gotten past the seventh. Hopkins has never been knocked out. On Saturday, something has to give. 

As a man nearing 50 holding multiple belts, Hopkins has made a career out of giving audiences new sights. But Kovalev is determined to provide a first-time experience himself — like the possibility of Hopkins finishing the fight on the canvas.

"It will be an interesting fight with interesting action," Kovalev said. "It’s what I try to do every fight in the ring because every fight to me is just a fight. I can guarantee people will see something new with Bernard Hopkins."