Talented light-heavyweight contender Isaac Chilemba has admitted that he has felt compelled to eat his words after previously stating that the now unified world champion Bernard Hopkins was a spent force.
The 26 year-old is back in contention at the top of the rankings after two straight victories on the back of his points loss to Tony Bellew, with a challenge against Hopkins a distinct possibility this year.
Chilemba had stated in an interview a couple of years back that Hopkins was too old to compete with the best fighters in the division, only to watch on in amazement as ‘The Alien’ regained the title – before unifying last month against Beibut Shumenov.
“I got to give all my respect to Hopkins for what he did to Shumenov and the other youngsters he has destroyed in the last three or four fights,” Chilemba told World Boxing News.
“He is truly making a history and this will be forever a boxing legend, but I would fight anyone I need to in order to become a champion and Hopkins is one of those with a belt.
“Hopkins has proven that he still got what it takes at 49 to be a champion and is stepping in the ring with the fresh blood. He has the ability to out-box and damage these youngsters and carry on for a while longer.
“I remember I was asked a while ago if I would like to fight Hopkins, and in my reply I said: ‘Hopkins is my hero, but he is too old now and seeing myself beating him would be heart breaking,’ – but I guess I was wrong.
“He is still there still proving that he is not done, and if I had to answer the same question today, I’d have to say that Hopkins has changed my thoughts towards him. When I see him or talk about him, I still see a young champion who is above me – but I would really love to face him, destroy him and to claim his titles.
“I think you could even talk about him against the other champions like Kovalev and Stevenson, why not? He is got it all to take on anyone.
“I have no idea how much longer he can go, as a few years ago I thought he was done, but the man is still here and fighting at the top. I think it all depends on how long his ‘Alien’ ability lasts,” he joked.
On his own future, Chilemba is very much in the frame for some big nights in the coming months after his dominant ten round triumph over Denis Grachev in March, with the ‘Golden Boy’ eagerly awaiting the call for his next fight.
“We are looking for the bigger opportunities and just waiting for the deals to go through,” said Chilemba.
“I think its quiet clear that Hopkins is the man and I believe he is the best in light heavy today, but I want to defeat any of the four fighters currently above me, so Kovalev, Stevenson, Hopkins and Pascal are in my sights.
“I feel confident about the future and know I can capture a world title this year.”
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