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A champ at 48, Bernard Hopkins could keep fighting

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Bernard Hopkins, right, punches Tavoris Cloud, left, during the 10th round of an IBF Light Heavyweight championship boxing match at the Barclays Center Saturday, March 9, 2013, in New York. Hopkins won by unanimous decision. AP/Frank Franklin II

PHILADELPHIA – Bernard Hopkins has another belt around his waist and a slice of boxing history to his name. He just might not have another bout.

The oldest boxer to win a major title, the 48-year-old Hopkins said he could retire a champion if he’s no longer inspired and the right bout doesn’t materialize.

“If I’m not motivated, and the competition is not there, if it’s a meaningless fight, it’s time to roll, man,” Hopkins said by phone Sunday.

Hopkins scored a 12-round unanimous decision over Tavoris Cloud to claim the IBF light heavyweight championship Saturday night. Hopkins became the oldest boxer to win a major title, extending the record he set by beating Jean Pascal for the WBC light heavyweight title on May 21, 2011.

Hanging up the gloves is not Hopkins’ first choice. He wants to keep fighting if the right opponent and network home can be found.

Hopkins won’t return to a Philadelphia gym and train for a fight just to fight.

“I just want to sit down and see what’s out there that’s meaningful and if it’s worth the mental training, the mental stress, the things I know how to do to win,” Hopkins said.

He’s coming off his most convincing victory in years in the 175-pound title fight against the 31-year-old Cloud. Hopkins connected on 169 of 417 punches and opened a cut over Cloud’s left eye.

He stayed Sunday in New York and celebrated with a slice of cheesecake, a well-earned treat for a straight-edge fighter who abstains from alcohol, late nights, and sweets. He’s crafted a lifestyle that’s allowed him to fight as he pushes 50.

Winning at his age already makes him a novelty in a sport where so many fighters are finished in their 30s. He’s always been adamant at going out on his own terms and building on the legacy that already includes a dazzling 20 straight middleweight title defenses.

“I don’t want to be a circus act,” Hopkins said. “I’m a very proud man. They say fighters get old in the ring. No, fighters get old in the gym when no one’s honest enough to tell them they’re old.”

Hopkins also ran into promoter Don King in the hotel Sunday morning. Cloud had been considered the last prospect in King’s stable. King and Hopkins have long had an acrimonious relationship; Hopkins boasted last week of finishing off King once and for all. But King told Hopkins he was proud of him in their brief chat. Hopkins said he appreciated the gesture.

So, if not retirement, what’s next? Hopkins said before the fight he’d like to face WBO light heavyweight champ Nathan Cleverly. But Cleverly has contractual commitments ahead that could make that fight an impossibility. Hopkins will keep looking for one more big fight on HBO or Showtime. If not, it’s off he’ll go as the oldest champ to quit on top.

“I have some history-making moments in me. Not a lot,” he said, “but there are more.”


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