By John Torenli, Sports Editor
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Tavoris Cloud opened the show during Tuesday's workout/media session at Brooklyn's historic Gleason's Gym in advance of what he admits is the biggest fight of his 31-year-old life and eight-year career in the squared circle.
The undefeated IBF light-heavyweight champion of the world insists he'll be shutting the lights on future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins' storied career Saturday night at the Barclays Center as Downtown plays host to its second big Golden Boy Promotions fight card since the arena's grand opening last year.
"This will be the last supper for Bernard Hopkins," Cloud said during last month's press conference at the state-of-the-art facility, a bold boast he calmly reiterated before and after jumping rope, shadow boxing and working up a sweat with new trainer Abel Sanchez Tuesday before a throng of media types more anxious to meet and greet Hopkins, who at 48 is the oldest fighter in boxing history to hold a significant title.
"He's not going to beat me," noted Cloud, who has 24 victories, including 19 via knockout, and four title defenses on his perfect ledger as a pugilist. "Bernard is, he believes all this stuff in his own head, I mean, he's in his own world, so I'll let him be until March the 9th. I'll let him be."
Hopkins, who will carry the WBC and Ring Magazine light-heavyweight belts into the ring with him at approximately 11 p.m. on the corners of Atlantic and Flatbush Avenues for the HBO-televised card, has racked up 52 victories, 32 knockouts and the respect and admiration of 40somethings around the world for his undying spirit inside and outside the ropes.
The Philadelphia native also has made a habit of outfoxing his opponents during bouts after psyching them out far in advance of the opening bell.
"I know I'm the better fighter. I know I have the better fighter's IQ and I am also the better-conditioned fighter," said Hopkins. "He's in his early 30s, I believe, fighting someone that's almost double his age, I mean, it's natural, it's natural that a person will say "Whoa, hey man, you know, this isn't going to happen to me. He's a couple years younger than my father or mother."
"So that is the reality of numbers, yes, you can't mess with that," Hopkins added. "But then when you step in there I think that's when, as a matter of fact, not think, I believe that's when I know that he's going to have to go ahead and adjust mentally and then adjust physically, and that's when a fight really begins. I mean, this isn't the first time a fighter ever froze up like that in the ring when you start seeing something a little different than what he was speaking about prior to the fight."
Cloud, to his credit, appears unfazed and somewhat bored by Hopkins' pre-fight bravado. Despite the fact that he hasn't fought in over a year since outpointing Gabriel Campillo in less-than-impressive fashion on Feb. 18, 2012, the Tallahassee, Fla., native is confident that neither age nor experience will determine the final outcome come Saturday night.
"Well, I'm going to deal with veteran tactics," Cloud said. "I'm just going to fight my fight. I'm going to make him adjust to what I'm doing. I'm not going to try to adjust to the way he's doing. I'm going to just get in the fight and set the pace for the fight, don't let him dictate the pace, and just win the fight round by round. I'm not crowding my mind with what is he going to do, what is his next move going to be? I'm going to make him do what I want him to do."
That may be easier said than done as Hopkins has proven so often during a career that spans back to 1988, when Cloud was all of six-years-old.
Coming off a tough 12-round loss to Chad Dawson last April, Hopkins is not only eager to put the first "L" on Cloud's ledger, but also is fueled by the goal of knocking off legendary boxing promoter Don King's most prominent and perhaps last notable fighter.
"I'm very motivated for this fight, for a lot of reasons," Hopkins admitted. "I know I'm not fighting his promoter, but at the end of the day my career was based on beating, like I say, a rival now, not even a rival, but somebody that to me personally was somebody that played a very real importance of my legacy, good or bad. But I'm glad to be able to reunite the titles."
Hopkins struck a King-promoted fighter a serious blow in the ring when he stopped then-undefeated middleweight Felix Trinadad at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 29, 2001, marking the first big night of boxing at "The World's Most Famous Arena" following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. He hopes to make some history Saturday night in Brooklyn.
"It's good that a lot of people in Philadelphia and Jersey and Delaware. where I've been living for about 11 years, who are going to be able to get on a bus and go enjoy a historic night at the Barclays Center...This is my first time fighting there, and I believe this is HBO's first time broadcasting [there]."
Cloud believes the crowd at Barclays is in for another type of history lesson, the one learned by proud champions who have laced them up just one, or sometimes several times too often.
"I don't think any fighter can stay young forever, no matter how hard they try," he said. "This is a great opportunity for me."
The Ring is the Thing: The co-main event Saturday will feature undefeated Keith "One Time" Thurman vs. Jan "Mr. Symphaticus" Zaveck in a 12-round bout for Zaveck's WBO Intercontinental Welterweight Title. That fight will precede Hopkins-Cloud on HBO's World Championship Boxing telecast. ... Also on the undercard will be fights featuring some local talent, including Brooklyn native Frank Galarza, Brooklyn resident Juan Manuel Dominguez, Eddie Gomez of the Bronx and Staten Island's Marcus Browne, who boxed for Team USA at the 2012 London Olympics.