LAS VEGAS -- Even after thrashing Roy Jones Jr. in a lopsided unanimous decision, Bernard Hopkins looked like a beaten man.
The wizened, weathered champion felt like one, too, after taking two shots behind the head and another below the belt. Sure, he had earned a bit of ice-cold revenge on his biggest remaining rival in boxing, but at what cost?
"I started seeing spots," said Hopkins, who made a record 20 middleweight title defenses before becoming every larger-weight fighter's nightmare matchup well into his 40s. "My head is killing me still."
The final rounds Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay Events Center had an air of finality about them, culminating in the sight of two longtime greats punching themselves into exhaustion.
Hopkins' business partner is among those who hope the fight will persuade the 45-year-old fighter to consider retirement -- and the bout's brutal result might send Jones into retirement as well. Although Hopkins still has the savvy to survive against nearly any opponent despite his diminished power, the 41-year-old Jones appeared to have little left except a propensity for punching Hopkins behind the head and below the belt.
Hopkins appeared to get little enjoyment out of avenging his 1993 loss to Jones -- and he subsequently collapsed in his dressing room, finally overwhelmed by Jones' questionable blows and nearly a quarter-century in his brutal sport.
Nobody really took much joy from this long-overdue bout near the end of two impressive careers -- certainly not the frustrated Jones, who got another confirmation of his skills' departure, and not even many of the half-full arena's fans, who booed sporadically and got excited only by various dirty blows.
A few years ago, the matchup would have been a heavily anticipated meeting. In 2010, everyone was simply grateful Hopkins didn't seriously hurt Jones -- and that Hopkins apparently was fine after a precautionary trip to the hospital.
Boxers are infamous for not knowing when to retire, and these two champions are threatening to test the patience of friends, families and fans who worry they won't realize it's time to go.
"They might think I'm crazy, but I want David Haye next, and to win the heavyweight championship of the world," Hopkins said before he collapsed.
Although Hopkins has never been seriously outclassed in a fight, he hasn't knocked out an opponent since 2004, and even Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schafer was willing to publicly suggest his friends would like Hopkins to go out on top, rather than horizontally.
After all, Oscar De La Hoya, Hopkins' partner in Golden Boy, pulled the plug on his own career after Manny Pacquiao worked him like a heavy bag two years ago.
"For Bernard, it could be a good ending," Schaefer said. "He got his revenge, and he waited 17 years to end it. It could be something which as a friend I would advise him to consider. ... I think it's time for his friends and family to have a serious talk with him."
Most observers agree Jones has been in precipitous decline since his mid-30s, and the loss was the sixth in 11 fights for the former pound-for-pound champion. Hopkins didn't have the punching power to seriously hurt Jones, who was stopped in the first round of his previous bout, but Schaefer and others agreed Jones might not be so lucky against a harder-hitting foe.
"I'll go home, talk to my team, and if we decide to call it a day, we call it a day," Jones said, refusing to apologize for his tactics in a fight filled with veteran wiliness. "Bernard is a defensive fighter, and I had to try to make it happen."
If the bout was these veterans' final fight, at least it contained some entertainment value -- even if it was mostly derived from Jones' questionable tactics. A shot behind Hopkins' head during a clinch in the sixth round sent Hopkins, who has been legitimately knocked down in just one fight in his career, to the canvas on his knees for nearly 3 minutes.
Hopkins eventually shook it off and finished the final 10 seconds of the round with the fight's most impressive work, punishing Jones on the ropes in a flurry that kept going well after the bell.
"I was just really mad," Hopkins said. "I have a lot of respect for Roy, but he was trying the whole night to get me to retaliate with some of those punches he was throwing.
The late hits and the ensuing scuffle involved security guards and resulted in Jones' son apparently jumping into the ring and then getting thrown out of the building by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
On weary legs that finally gave out in the dressing room, Hopkins finished the bout with brute persistence. If it turns out to be his final fight, he at least left the ring upright.
"I kept pressing," Hopkins said. "I'm a scrappy Philly fighter. I might not please everyone, but that's the way I fight."