NEW YORK — Bernard Hopkins became the oldest boxer to win a major title on Saturday, scoring a 12-round unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud to claim the IBF light heavyweight championship.
“It feels good. It feels real good,” Hopkins said. “I’m going to Junior’s (Restaurant and) I’m going to have cheesecake.”
The 48-year-old Hopkins broke the record he set by beating Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title on May 21, 2011. When asked which fight meant more, Hopkins said “tonight was better. Because I’m older. (It’s) more gratifying.
“Tonight was one of the bigger fights (in my career).”
And while he reveled in what he accomplished, he was looking toward the future. Hopkins, who was adamant that he will not fight past 50, laid a challenge at the feet of the 175-pound and 168-pound divisions.
“I’m motivated to do it,” Hopkins said. “I don’t believe anybody in the 175(-pound) weight class and possibly the 168(-pound) class can beat me.”
Hopkins, fighting his 19th title bout, improved to 53-6-2 in the main event of an eight-fight card at the Barclays Center. The 30-year-old Cloud fell to 19-1.
“It was great to break (in) the Barclays Center with a (legendary) performance,” Hopkins said.
With Hopkins forcing a patient, technical match, Cloud was unable to press the issue and Hopkins circled him, landing jabs to his face, eventually opening a cut above his left eye.
“I have to throw a lot of substance (into fights). I’m fighting old school in a new world. (I) have to learn to adapt to what (the judges) are looking for,” Hopkins said. “We knew a 30-year-old guy was not going to run from a 48-year-old guy.”
Hopkins connected on 169 of 417 punches. Cloud landed 139 of 650.
“I was only average tonight,” Cloud said. “He hit me with an elbow but I’m not complaining. It is what it is.”
Keith Thurman won the WBO intercontinental welterweight title with a 12-round, unanimous decision over Jan Zaveck. Thurman improved to 20-0 and Zaveck fell to 32-3.
Thurman and Paulie Malignaggi engaged in a shouting match after Thurman challenged the WBA welterweight champion to a title fight during the post-fight news conference.
“(There is a) lot of action in the welterweight division,” Thurman said before focusing on Malignaggi, sitting in the back of the room. “You better not duck me, son.”
Malignaggi fired back, saying “Bring that money. It’s prize fighting, dummy. I’m ducking you because you don’t bring (any) money.”
Michael Perez (18-1-2) and Lonnie Smith (14-4-3) fought to a majority draw in the first bout on the main card. The bout was called midway through the seventh round after Perez absorbed what was ruled “an accidental head butt” that led to blood running down both sides of his face.
Judges Julie Lederman and Carlos Ortiz both had the fight 66-66, while Perez led 67-65 on Joe Pasquale’s card.
“The guy kept head-butting me from the first round on. In the first round, he nailed me in the left eye. Fourth round, he cut me up here above my right eye. In the sixth, he got me in my temple,” Perez said. “To me, it’s all about points and not rushing forward. It’s about getting in clean shots and getting points. I’m going to take a little break and rest my body and recuperate and the get back in there.”