This week Bernard Hopkins, middleweight boxing's kingpin, participated in a national conference call with the boxing news media to promote his upcoming showdown with rising star Jermain Taylor. Hopkins discussed Taylor, his legacy, and his future. Hopkins and Taylor meet on Saturday, July 16 from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The card will be televised on HBO Pay-Per-View beginning at 9pm EST/6pm PST.
BERNARD HOPKINS: I’m preparing to execute on my experience and abilities that I’ve been doing for over a decade, and as far as I’m concerned, come July 16th, the only difference will be that I will not look like others, at least referring to old versus young or whatever words they might use. I’m going to show the world that 40 is not a death sentence and I’m looking forward to going at it in three weeks.
LEM SATTERFIELD, BALTIMORE SUN NEWSPAPER: Over and above the age thing, are you putting any extra pressure on yourself to look good in light of Mayweather’s performance, a win by any means necessary?
BERNARD HOPKINS: No. I mean, Mayweather’s performance, I mean, you know, Gatti has got all this respect in there. I love his heart. I love his, his, you know, his willingness to win no matter over how over-matched he might be. But you’re talking about a Ferrari versus a Volkswagen on a speedway, who is going to win at the end of the race? I mean, you know, that’s – I mean, you know, it’s, it’s not – there’s no comparison to my opponent, Jermaine Taylor, compared to Arturo Gatti when it comes to talent-wise. We’re not talking about heart; we’re not talking about guts. We’re talking about talent-wise. There’s no comparison. I think it’s unfair for somebody to view Jermaine Taylor in that view of, well, you know, Floyd Mayweather may look great against Arturo Gatti; it puts extra pressure on Bernard Hopkins to look even greater than Jermaine Taylor for the supremacy of any doubts that might be out there whether he’s pound for pound or not. I think it’s unfair.
That’s the great thing, the plus about this fight and any fight in the middleweight division. I can’t say any other divisions after this fight, but in the middleweight division, there is no pressure on Bernard Hopkins. There was pressure on me to get my 20 percenters in the record books. There was pressure on me to continue to win all these years. But that won’t stop my demeanor. That won’t stop my mental toughness and prepared – preparation that I’ve been doing for many, many, many title fights. This is one fight I can say that is no pressure on me in that aspect but it is a personal – it’s a personal victory that I’ve marked down in my head and in my spirit and in my soul and my work habits that this is a personal victory that I will win, must win and there is no other way that I’m looking at it, and that’s – that’s the key in this fight, is that other than the talents I possess, other than wanting to stay undefeated at this moment on the way out of the boxing game and continue to rack up these title defenses is that I have – that I won’t get in linked with, because this is about Jermaine Taylor and Bernard Hopkins, but I have a personal reason that I have to win this fight and that’s all I need. It doesn’t take a lot for Bernard Hopkins to get motivated.
LEM SATTERFIELD: Another question, Bernard. You didn’t – you didn’t chase after De La Hoya in that fight and a lot of people thought, including De La Hoya, that you would come after him, you would pressure him and those type of things. You kind of lured him into the middle of the ring and did damage there before pursuing him and knocking him out with a body shot. Do you expect Jermaine to try to box you and try to make you come to him and maybe test your legs out, or what kind of, you know, what do you expect going into this?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Let me tell you what I – what I expect, and I know it will be difficult because you need the athlete to be able to, to emulate and imitate these things that I’m going to explain to you in the next 10 seconds is that, you know, very few athletes can be told to do something or very few can go out and execute that plan. If I was Jermaine Taylor, Pat Burns, anybody else that’s trying to find the best way to handle every style, everything that the Bernard Hopkins know how to do, then they must have five or ten spar partners that can box, that can slug, that can roll, that can slip, that can counter, that can do all above which, I consider pound for pound fighters should be judged by is by their all-around abilities and the longevity that they have preceded or raking in as time goes by.
So, I mean, I think that, you know, you have – you know, it’s bad enough you’ve got to deal with one or two things that a guy has under his arsenal, but when you talk about five, six, maybe ten different things from a young 40 year old guy that doesn’t look like nowhere near the age that people continue to echo, they would never convince me that I am 40. The only person – only that person, the only thing that convinced me of that is the boxing ring and father time. That’s the only one that’s in control of that type of error, not man, you know. People want to, you know, put subliminal messages out there that make you think that. It’s like telling a pretty girl that she’s not pretty and she’s got a low self-esteem. She’ll start looking in the mirror and asking herself, am I, you know, I’m not really that pretty like I thought I was. That’s not me. So my thing is, is that whatever he’d do, I can do better. I’m the better fighter, I’m the better athlete and I’m the experienced athlete, and so when you put all that together you have to consider that, you know, Jermaine Taylor is banking on you, banking on youth and he’s banking on that he thinks he’s the better fighter also. So come July 16th, you know, we’re going to be able to show, or at least I, I can’t speak for both of us, but I’m going to be able to show that Bernard Hopkins is not here by any accident. Bernard Hopkins is not here by any fluke or any favors from the industry of boxing, God knows that’s the truth, and that I’m going to show why – I just hope people don’t make an excuse that he’s so young and forget that they was calling me old and that’s everybody that’s listening in that’s going to be on in the next 15 to 20 minutes, because I know we’re basically ready to wrap it up with you, is that I want people to remember the things that they, you know, have reasons to say. I mean, I don’t knock what they say if they feel this but I want them to understand that I want no excuses when Bernard Hopkins makes Jermaine Taylor look amateurish; or Bernard Hopkins makes Jermaine Taylor miss without running around the ring; when Bernard Hopkins dissects an opponent that’s undefeated, and that’s an Olympian, and as big as he keeps saying, “I’m a bigger guy, I’m a bigger guy, I’m a bigger guy.” I want people to remember this and then just give me my – you know, you don’t have to give me anything.
Just understand that I’m not going to be around forever and you had better enjoy me now and it’s not like, you know, you better do something. You better – you don’t have to better do anything, but I’m just saying that it’s going to be a time that comes by when you say, “Hell, I wish Bernard Hopkins was still around,” not matter what you think about me. But just remember everything that everybody is saying, and please don’t take nothing away from Jermaine Taylor and say that he was too young or he wasn’t experienced enough and we feared what happen happened, you know. Don’t do that. That’s wrong. You can’t have your cake and eat it, too. Just give the tops where they belong and we move on to the next task in hand which would be light heavyweight for Bernard Hopkins. I’m not underestimating Jermaine Taylor but I’m already mapping out my future and it won’t be retirement. It will be continue to go on and do these last two fights of my career like I promised, and I’m going.
CHUCK JOHNSON: But as far as Trinidad lost to Winky Wright, how does that change your plan? I know that you had mentioned at the breakfast there in Vegas that Trinidad was part of your farewell plan, so how does that change?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Well, it changes – it changes only in weight class, you know. Instead of fighting a middleweight after Jermaine Taylor, if I don’t see anybody out there that can generate what Atarver can generate and, you know, people are sculling around and there are whispers about maybe a Roy Jones, Jr. 11-year or 12-year rematch and, you know, and I think that – I know that Jermaine Taylor is the guy that’s going to come and try to derail that, but I also know that when it comes to the next two divisions up from me, Antonio Tarver is the man and I would reckon that you might have read it from somewhere else or you might have wrote it yourself, that I want the winner of Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver. That hasn’t changed with Bernard Hopkins’ timetable and HBO, thanks to them, have supported the date for me to fulfill with the opponents if we can get an agreement, like we got an agreement with Jermaine Taylor and myself, and after this particular fight I will move on and try to make a deal with Antonio Tarver, who I consider is the undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world. Because that will keep me motivated and I probably would be the underdog in that fight and it would be a weight division I haven’t been in since 1988, I believe, my first loss as a light heavyweight in my professional career. It would bring a great promotion that here I’m in the same order that I wasn’t successful at.
I mean, after this last major fight in the middleweight division for Bernard Hopkins, the motivation now is to get the guys that I know that give me a greater threat and I will be, sort of, an underdog after that particular July 16th match comes. I mean, that’s the hunger that will keep me around until this year is over. This year has to be, I believe, a year that people will remember for the rest of their lives and the ending of the book, the ending of my long career that has been exciting in itself with downs and ups, movie script, book script maybe in the future. I didn’t go out fighting the bum with a muff. I didn’t have to fight Jermaine Taylor. He wasn’t the number one contender in any weight division, I don’t believe, but one I think it was the WC. I’m not sure but he wasn’t a mandatory fight. The RBS had a mandatory and they gave me an exception to do this. So I didn’t have to fight Jermaine Taylor. I chose to fight Jermaine Taylor because I believe that he’s the only middleweight division, middleweight that behind Bernard Hopkins is the best out there to fight, and then move on and continue my Golden Boy East promotion and try to guide my nephew with Golden Boy West, Oscar and I and Chaffer to a world championship and I have another agenda after this career is over. And I have no regrets. I mean I have – you know, whatever happens in any fight, I have no regrets how the decisions and the patience and the time that it took for Bernard Hopkins to get his just due.
CHUCK JOHNSON: It sounds like you think Roy Jones, Jr. is out of the question. That’s not really a fight that you see as….
BERNARD HOPKINS: I don’t think the public want to see it. I mean, based on Roy Jones, Jr. losing to a guy that I knocked out when he was undefeated named Glen Johnson. He was 30 and 0. I mean, people – you want to erase that out of your mind that the guy that knocked Roy Jones out, who has nine losses, I gave him his first loss when he was undefeated. He was a dangerous man when I fought him. It took me 11 rounds to wear him out. You know, he was a strong, good defense type of guy that, you know, that can take a punch and, and I had to take him into deep water and beat him up. It would be the same sort of blueprint like Jermaine Taylor, you know. I want Jermaine Taylor to say and do everything that he said he’s going to do. So the history shows, you pressure Bernard Hopkins, you try to make Bernard Hopkins fight, you get the worst of the deal, and if they got any sense, then look at Tito. Are you telling me that Jermaine Taylor before Tito got beat up by Bernard Hopkins and before he got beat by Winkie Wright he was a better fighter than Philip Trinidad? Philip Trinidad tried to break my will, tried to use the matador to the bull versus the matador in the bull. See, I’m both and so, so, the adjustments that I can in a split second is going to make this man’s head spin to the point where he looks at his corner to figure out what the hell he’s going to do. You can’t teach a fighter how to react when he gets surprised by what he hasn’t been taught or hasn’t been told or even schooled on this particular thing and this field of championship.
You know, I’ve been here 20 times, man, you know. I’ve been here 20 times, you know, and I know the sounds of this is for the undisputed middleweight champion of the world. There’s 15 plus thousand people in the ring screaming. You’re not in Little Rock, Arkansas; you’re not in your hometown; you’re not fighting a five eight, five nine small guy who you can bully. This is a different ballgame, dude. You know, you know if I, you know – I feel like the New England Patriots at the Super Bowl amongst a person that’s runner-up and they won their division and they think they’ve been at this big dance. You don’t know until you get there. You know, I had my taste of that in 1993 when I fought Roy Jones, Jr. in RFK Stadium. I had my taste of that. I overcame that and 10 years later I’m still here. Now, (inaudible). So for Jermaine Taylor it’s going to be taught lesson that he’s going to be able to hopefully, if something less after their career, that he’d be able to teach another young fighter and the torch passed that way. I’m in the same – I’m in the same situation – I’m in the situation that I was in but it’s just the flip side of it, that I was on the second end of it and not the first, and I’m looking forward to showing my skills, man, in the next two weeks, you know. Everybody is going to be at this fight. I’m getting calls from, from a lot of people, you know, that want to come and celebrities, basketball players, they want to support Bernard Hopkins, some of the Eagles, some of the Sixers, some of the officials. I’ve got a fanfare that I – and people around other cities in the world, man, that want to come out and watch Bernard Hopkins whether in person or on TV because, you know, they need – the boxing world is desperate to find someone they can grab onto they can relate to and I’m their guy. I feel I’m their guy.
CHUCK JOHNSON: OK, one other question, Bernard. Now, what do you make of this recent string of guys of spitting on their stool? You know, you talked about (inaudible), Tyson and the other day, Gatti. I mean, does that (inaudible) affect the stature in your eyes at all to quit on your stool?
BERNARD HOPKINS: No. What I think, I mean, I won’t do that, but I think, I think that, you know, when guys know they had enough, you know, they know when they had enough. I mean, you know, when a guy figures that he don’t have the spirit to bite down like he used to be and that’s – he won’t be the same. I mean, you know, (inaudible) stopped for many reasons and he knew why he stopped and, you know, he was getting his butt kicked pretty good and, you know, he chose not to come out. As far as Mike Tyson, a lot of things going on with that picture where you can – you can see I’m not surprised why he didn’t come out. But in the same aspects of it, you got, you got personalities, you’ve got fighters that’s willing to not give in, not throw the flag in. You have fighters that’s willing to die in that ring for a small price of, of, of fame and fortune, you know, when it comes prepared to trading your life in for that, but that’s how most of us think. I think that way. There’s many times I’ve said I’d rather die in the ring than, than, than quit or let someone take this belt. So when you go into camp and you think that way and you talk that way, you’re going to be tested. But, you see, there’s one piece that, that, you know, I don’t need for promotion, I don’t need to use it as something to be proud of or to promote, but I always try to let people know that don’t know Bernard Hopkins personally, only just as the boxer and the athlete, and they all – the same – people to just try to figure out what keeps me going, what keeps me the way I am, that hunger, that demeanor, that you’re always going to prove something, you have to look at my life before I became a professional fighter and realize when I have to go back to that mentally, not physically, not as my life, but when I have to go back and reach back and remember, because I haven’t forgot, that’s the great thing, I haven’t forgot even with the means in the bank, even with the beautiful wife for 14 years, even with the beautiful daughter, I haven’t forgot where I know, where I had to be man when others was being what they wasn’t in a situation that it can make you or break you and that’s something that Jermaine Taylor can’t relate to. That’s not his fault and he should be, and anybody else in boxing should be proud that they don’t have that in their resume but that is something that I happen to be, in the sport of boxing, that I fear no man, I fear no man on this earth that breathe the same air that I breathe and do the same things that I have to do if I go to the bathroom.
So that little, that edge that might seem so small and minute, that is my lifeline to continue to stay the way I am because I haven’t forgot. So you can have those experiences and forget them, then you don’t have them, then you become the, you become average like everybody else. But I always can reach back to that and say where I’ve came from. I haven’t selled then, obvious because I wouldn’t be talking to you on the phone, and I’m not gonna sell now and that is that (inaudible) forever when you biting down on your mouth piece if you’ve been knocked down twice, you’ve been hit with a good shot, that is that thing that goes through your mind that second, hey you asked me about sitting on that bench.
There’s plenty of times in my life that I could have quit; there’s plenty of times in my life where I could of threw the towel in and say hell with it. You know it’s me against the world, blame it on everybody else, this is before I became a fighter. So if I didn’t quit, which I didn’t then, and this is completely like then and, this is like being in Walt Disney World when it comes to that comparison and boxing and training, I love to do what I do. I did it for so many years for free and a free sandwich so this to me is like man you talk about quitting, no, no, no, no, no, you’ve got to look at my, you’ve got to look at Bernard Hopkins history as a, before fighting, before fighting.
BERNARD HOPKINS: And see that quitting is not even in my, is not in my DNA, it’s not even in my genetics. And then let the evidence and the facts in this, in about my history, then let that reflect and let that prove whether I’m right or wrong.
OTTO: And last, how proud are you of that record streak of title defenses?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Oh I mean, I don’t figure it’s gonna be done in my lifetime. Again, I think I’d be dead, if I’m blessed to live 80 or 90 years old I think that it would last that long. I really do. You’ve got to look at not because I’m that good or that bad, but how many fighters can stay disciplined after they make a few dollars and get the cars and get the house and get the bling bling or whatever they get, and stay focused when they still got to get out and do the same things like they had a quarter in the bank. We’re not talking about telling here to stay focused, we’re not talking about your that good because other people is good but we’ll keep you hungry, we’ll keep you running in this hot sun in Miami, we’ll keep you getting up every morning when you don’t really have to. See, you got to remember I don’t have to do this no more, I don’t have to do this to pay my bills, I’m cool, I don’t buy nothing. I still got a Costco’s card in my wallet. So yes, I mean 20 defenses in the same weight division, I mean I like to ask you how long did it take for me to break Hagler’s record, it’s been over 15 years man.
And the fighters and athletes are different, they big difference. They want the money and the championships in 10 fights. They want the fights in 15 fights. They want to fight for titles in 13 wins and they think they’re ready for a world championship fight, the mentality is different. So no Otto, I don’t think in my lifetime it’s gonna break, that’s why the more I can rack up, every title defense is another 10 years that it won’t get broken. So add them up; I’ve got 20 and this is 21 so you add up 10 times 21.
FRANKLIN MCNEIL, NEWARK STAR LEDGER: I said in the past you said that Jermaine, that you weren’t, this wasn’t a personal thing with Jermaine Taylor but has he now made it personal.
BERNARD HOPKINS: Yeah I think he’s, I think he made it personal because he was told to. But I don’t believe that’s in his heart and that’s why I know he’s not real when it comes to the statements that he thinks that he can do this and he can do that. I mean you know, he’s being programmed and told to say the things and react and think you know the man, the guys from Arkansas, you know he’s a country boy and he’s sitting back and you know he’s being dictated because he just don’t know. You know remind me the day we read error, you know I mean they sit back and they be dictated and then when they find out that it ain’t like it, is they want to come back and be your friend and they want to talk to you and they want to say they didn’t know after the fact.
You know I mean I just sit back and laugh at them because I know the man telling me of a situation where a person is being programmed and told to say these things, whether they’re good or bad, and then they got to get in the ring and realize that Lou DiBella’s not in there with him, Pat Burns is not in with him, his surrogate father is not in there with him. You know, who all else is giving him all this stuff to say and think it’s a joke; they’re not in there with him. The biggest applause and the biggest test is gonna be when all these things were said to say this and say this and they get to the point that now it’s fight night and everybody go down on 3 steps and your left in there with the baddest man in the planet, Bernard Hopkins, and my credentials and I’m coming in there and the first punch is thrown is a punch that’s letting you know from me that this is gonna be either a short night or a slow death and that is what’s gonna make the whole demeanor change and a whole attitude of whatever you said before then, I’m this I’m that, you’re the better man, I’m gonna pass the torch, yeah, you know all this stuff will come into play.
There’s only going to be me and him in the ring as far as fighting each other and one other guy, and that’s the referee. So that’s why I don’t, you know thank God, Bouie and James Fisher who’s Bouie’s son and Andre Fisher and even my lawyer and everybody, the don’t tell me what to say. My lawyer might tell me you know be careful, don’t say this, don’t say that so I don’t want to be an exhibit A in some court room but other than that they don’t give me a script, they don’t tell me say this and say that and say this and say that. It remind me of a guy in the neighborhood when somebody just pushing somebody to fight and they really want to be themselves. Jermaine Taylor, that’s not his style, he wants to be himself, let the man be himself but now when you start telling him to say this and say this for good promotional reasons, fine that’s great because I’m gonna say certain things between now and July 15th, July 14th and July 16th I ain’t gonna say nothing but fight.
So when it’s time for us to get in that ring all that talk don’t mean nothing. One thing I can’t do, anybody that’s listening to this phone I can’t sell you on anything that I can do as a boxer, it’s on the record, it’s on the record, the only thing I can say is it’s gonna repeat of what I’ve been doing 20 times as a title defense but this one is a little bit special. And everybody on the phone and I won’t get into it but you already know we’re not going to make this at any other promotion but Bernard Hopkins – Jermaine Taylor and I cannot and will not lose that fight. I’d rather be carried out on a stretcher than lose that fight to that particular person and give them the day in the sun. That is my demeanor and Jermaine Taylor is going to pay the price for what I feel in my heart that I’ve got to do. Everybody on this phone that’s listening to this interview in their heart, in their lifetime up to now met, or know or had experience where they just want to go ahead and get what they call revenge. Whether it’s small or big everybody had that in them, that’s human nature in some aspects of it, its human nature.
That’s my motivation but Jermaine Taylor’s gonna be the whooping boy of my what you call controlled frustrations, not frustrations but control because I got it under control and then I’ve got an opportunity when I getting incarcerated and make some money to actually take all that I feel and let it go through my 2 fists, ahh it’s a great country. This is a great country where I can go in a ring and do something I love to do and actually assault somebody and got a personal reason why I want to clock this guy, aha, but I got it controlled because if it ain’t under control I leave myself in danger, so I must let everybody know on the phone that it’s control, it ain’t reckless. It’s gonna be controlled anger that’s gonna be displayed July 16th.
FRANKLIN MCNEIL: Will it be similar to what…
BERNARD HOPKINS: Joppy.
FRANKLIN MCNEIL: Do you know where I’m going?
BERNARD HOPKINS: It’s gonna be, I’m telling you where you’re at. It’s not where you’re going it’s where you’re at. Choppy was a personal thing and is not always beneficial for me to knock a guy out when I know I’ve got him, whereby if I just run in there and make him fight every second and surprise him that I’m in there and that I’m just as strong as he is and he want to get out, I’m not going to let him out. I’ll take two steps back before I do it. Pit that old record.
DAN RAFAEL, ESPN: Bernard, I know you’ve talked in veiled ways of why it’s personal; can you at least just for the record, say specifically why it is personal this fight?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Oh, it’s no question, there’s no question why it’s personal I mean look, you’ve got to understand, who’s his promoter?
DAN RAFAEL: Well, I understand that, I know its Lou.
BERNARD HOPKINS: I mean so on the record, on the record I don’t want to make this, I mean on the record this is something that, you know this is something that every fighter needs to be in some way focused to accomplish things. This is, to me this is bit back, I mean come on Dan, I mean you heard him, haven’t you been high school or college where you know this guy might have done something to you or took your lunch or you might have took his lunch, I don’t know I mean and then suddenly you’ve got a chance to go ahead and maybe score a higher score than him in the AC, A, SA, what do they call it, the test that.
DAN RAFAEL: The SAT.
BERNARD HOPKINS: The SAT test, I mean there’s things that are little or big, they don’t have to be huge it can be, whatever it is it’s the same demeanor so is the thing where, is that let’s look at the other side. How gratifying would it be, I mean he’s on record saying it, how gratifying it would be for him if it works out his way. I mean so if it’s good for the goose it’s good for the gander, I’m just saying that I’m gonna play this game and I’m gonna play it July 16th and Jermaine Taylor is the closest guy I can go ahead and physically hurt and physically beat up without going to jail. See I can’t hit the other guy, I can’t hit anybody else bad so I’m not I’m not getting caught up for the trap, in the trap questions, I’m not going to end my career, he would love for me to do that. Ah he’d love for me to be just as emotional as he is, he would love for me to lose my temper and clock him up side the head in front of 30, 40 reporters but I’m too smart for that, but how fortunate Bernard Hopkins is that God gave me somebody who’s closer and just happened to be the only bank roll (inaudible) that he has in his, in his portfolio. I mean how good is that?
DAN RAFAEL: Pretty good.
BERNARD HOPKINS: So I’m geeked, I’m geeked. So I mean this has been the great cap. I got the best spar partners, I’ve got the best jabbers that they can find. I didn’t took away their jabs, I didn’t sent 2 spar partners home that couldn’t keep up and they, and you know Dan, this fight is gonna be a fight that’s gonna be so, so action packed because I really believe in my heart that you’ve got a guy outside of that other mess that really believes he can beat Bernard Hopkins, really believe that he’s stronger than Bernard Hopkins. Hey Dan, he might, can lift more weights than I can, he might, can, he might, I don’t know if the man’s stronger than me until we get into a strong man contest, maybe he’s right but I’ll take brains and skills over muscle any day. I’ll take, hey Mike Tyson was one of the strongest heavy weights probably in my era but when he ran into a Buster Douglas that had some boxing skills, that had a good jab and good right hand and the muscles didn’t work and the shot never hit the target, you can’t hit what you can’t see, and I’m not running.
DAN RAFAEL: Right, let me ask you about the week of the fight then. I know you have obviously animosity towards Lou and I know.
BERNARD HOPKINS: And he has animosity towards me.
DAN RAFAEL: No, no I understand that so I was going to say you both don’t like each other. So, what’s it gonna be like for you know the time when you’ve got to see each other whether it’s the weigh in or it’s gonna be at the press conference or the.
BERNARD HOPKINS: He’s not even there as far as I’m concerned.
DAN RAFAEL: What’s that?
BERNARD HOPKINS: He’s not even there, he’s not even there. I mean I have, I have carried (inaudible) and then I think that’s what kills me, he’s not even there, he’s not even there. It’s like when I was coming up I had a girlfriend and we broke up and she got real animated because I ain’t paying no mind, I ain’t paying no attention like she wasn’t even there. She went crazy, she started jumping up, spinning around and making noise. He remind me of that girlfriend. It’s like a man with woman, with female emotions man he’s unreal. I mean I had a girl friend before my wife, let’s get that straight because I trying to, explain that to my wife Jeanette but before my wife I had a girlfriend that I, that we broke up, this is in the 80’s right before I went to jail, early 80’s, I went to jail in ’84 so in ’81, ’82 I was young, teenager and I didn’t pay any mind, any attention and that brings that back, I remember that, that’s 20 something years ago. And they did everything they possibly to let them know they was in the building but they make a fool of themselves every time and especially when everybody knows the history, everybody knew you was with her, everybody knew she was with you and now everybody is seeing a reaction and then you’re making yourselves look like an ass. Hasn’t he have done that. So to me it’s like I’m gonna continue to keep doing what I’m doing and obviously he’s not listening to you or anybody else, he’s gonna continue to do what he’s doing. So I’m going to act like he’s not even there, like it’s not even important because I know for a fact that July 16th he’s in the ring.
DAN RAFAEL: Before the fight, you mean.
BERNARD HOPKINS: No, he’s in the ring because Jermaine’s face ain’t gonna look like his face, Jermaine’s face is not going to look like Jermaine’s body going to be there but his head will be different.
DAN RAFAEL: You gonna be picturing Lou?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Well whoever’s face is going on it but I know one thing, you know I got a lot of people that say it’s gonna be. I got calls from Butch Lewis, Don King, how many people you want to be on the face. I mean I got a (inaudible) it ain’t just a personal vendetta against this person, that person every, I’ve been fighting like that Dan, for years. This is nothing new.
DAN RAFAEL: Right, but in this particular fight you gonna be looking at Jermaine.
BERNARD HOPKINS: In this particular fight so many people want to see Bernard bite the dust. Dan, to be honest with you Jermaine Taylor is gonna look like 30 different people. I’ve got 30 different people that I know that if I stop breathing in 10 seconds they’ll have party and they’ll have free Cristal for everybody.
DAN RAFAEL: OK.
BERNARD HOPKINS: I feel that in my heart, honestly I mean you don’t have anybody in the world that feel that way about you. I mean you know, fame’s been great for Bernard but I didn’t need a lot of people upset by being successful man. I mean you wrote about me for years, because I mean manager of the year you know I’ve been called stupid for 5, 10 to 15 years of my career and I get manager of the year. I’ve got a lot of people upset at me Dan, and I know you’re gonna disagree with that so I feel that every time that I go and be successful maybe you know, maybe you know is that somebody that I know is gonna go to bed that night or that early morning with a major hangover when they get up because they’ve been drunk all night and they’re trying to drink it away and any other substance they might indulge in. I know that I have sent them in that direction and then to me I ain’t gonna lie, I mean I get off on that. I get off proving people, I get off on proving people wrong because of decisions that I feel that’s better for Bernard Hopkins or as they call me BHOP man. They called, they got that excuse and everybody’s calling me BHOP so I’ll go with the BHOP now.
CHRIS MURRAY, Philadelphia Tribune: Hi. I hope you have everything going. Look, I understand that you like to watch a lot of tape and what have you. What is it about, of Jermaine Taylor’s style that convinces you that you can take him out? He has a stiff left jab, a good right, he’s bigger and stronger and all that. What have you seen on tape about him, about some of his flaws?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Well you mentioned one thing that I’m gonna tell you what I’ve been thinking about and I can tell you this what I believe, because I’m gonna do my part to make it happen. You mentioned that I watch a lot of tapes, right? You know what I’ve been watching every day more than I’ve been watching Jermaine Taylor fights?
CHRIS MURRAY: What?
BERNARD HOPKINS: Marvin Hagler and John Abis Mugambi.
CHRIS MURRAY: OK.
BERNARD HOPKINS: OK, John Abis Mugabi was sort of bigger than Hagler, right?
CHRIS MURRAY: Right.
BERNARD HOPKINS: He put up a gallant performance right?
CHRIS MURRAY: Yes he did, I was there watching it.
BERNARD HOPKINS: He got wore down, he got beat up and he never was the same right?
CHRIS MURRAY: That’s correct.
BERNARD HOPKINS: Next question.
CHRIS MURRAY: OK so that’s, so that’s where you’re coming from on that.
BERNARD HOPKINS: That’s true, I’m telling you that I’ve been watching, I’ve been watching, that’s one of my favorite fights. I’ve got the tape, I take it every camp, I took it for the last 15 fights I had. This one is perfect for that one because again, he’s bigger, he’s strong, he’s not scared, he’s come forward, isn’t that the same type of blueprint to Hagler and Mugabe, dangerous, Hagler’s gonna get tested. Oh let’s not forget, Hagler’s slowing down, Hagler’s old. It’s a perfect…I’ve been watching that man know every round. I know every round to the eleventh round; I mean I know every round, everyone watching that tape says that fight happened man. But I've been watching it especially for this fight here. That's the perfect, perfect way. And that's not giving up any good – any secrets. I'm just letting you know what's – the tape that I've been watching the most at least two times a day is the Marvin Hagler and John Mugabi because for me to be able to put an ass whopping on them I might take two or three shots to show where I'm at, to show where my heart is at, to show where my chin is at; come on in and do that to get some. To get some I wanted to say, fine let's do it, but you'll have to earn it, I'm not going to volunteer and give it, but there's a chance when you're coming to get some, when you're coming to get some you might have to pay a little price here and there. Well, that's the champion – that's what champions do, champions do that, champions don't care about what you're giving they just want to give what they've got to give. John Abis Mugabi, and marvelous Marvin Hagler and I ain't going to tell you who I am.
CHRIS MURRAY: OK, next question then. Speaking of your ranking in history, there have been a lot of great middleweights from Ray Robinson to Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler as you've mentioned and what have you. You say you're more like Marvin Hagler. What have you, how would you rank yourself when it's all said and done? How do you rank amongst all the great middleweights of all time?
BERNARD HOPKINS: And would you name them? Would you name at least five of them?
CHRIS MURRAY: I would say Ray Robinson to Carlos Monzon, Marvin Hagler and then yeah, Marvin Hagler and also – yeah, yeah, those three guys.
BERNARD HOPKINS: Well, I like to be rated – are you going to throw Ray Leonard in there? Are you going to?
CHRIS MURRAY: Yeah, I'll throw Ray Leonard in there. OK.
BERNARD HOPKINS: No, let's not put Ray Leonard in there. I just wanted you to mention him, but I've got a person that I want to put in there and that's Carlos Monzon.
CHRIS MURRAY: Good. OK. Yeah. Well, I mentioned Carlos Monzon.
BERNARD HOPKINS: So, in that list of four or five why would it be five?
CHRIS MURRAY: OK.
BERNARD HOPKINS: I think out of all the middleweights that you've mentioned, I think you were up to four. I'd love to be considered in those in names. I'd be glad and honored to be mentioned as the Top 5 as I've read in many columns. And one of them is Ray magazine, but there's Collins (inaudible) people put Sugar as the best 100 fighters of all times and he got me in there. I think that was great. I got the call from him to say to that, to confirm that, but I mean if I'm five on that or even if he got seven and I'm seven or if he got eight and I'm eight or six or seven or eight. I mean I'm to be mentioned in those names, man, I'm not going to compete to be number one or number two, number three, but how many great middleweights that you and I know that came in the ‘70s, the ‘80s and early ‘90s and anything to do with those three decades that haven't been mentioned and I'm mentioned in the Top five or the Top six, come on man, give me that. I'll take it – don't treat me like that. If I'm in a conversation of great middleweights you're telling me something right there. Hey man, I'll take whatever I can get that's there and as long as I know that when they talk about middleweight divisions, I believe in my heart that Bernard Hopkins’ name will come up 50, 60, 70 as long as this world stands and boxing is still around that my name will be mentioned when it comes to the middleweight division. That's all what I can pray and hope for. I believe that – hello?
CHRIS MURRAY: OK. And one final question. Antonio Tarver. How would you compare him to – is he similar to Jermaine Taylor in any way or are they all different animals, two different animals?
BERNARD HOPKINS: You mean – OK Tarver; no, night and day. I mean you've got – I can easily tell you they're both two different south paw orthodox, but not too different. I mean in the weight difference and all that, but they're two different – Jermaine Taylor is not 100% counter puncher that Tarver likes to be. Tarver is a guy that likes to sit back with his right foot and make you lay there and catch you. Jermaine Taylor's more like, you know with the little guys he's been fighting like a bully. His – listen to what his – he had this interview with somebody in this (inaudible) listened to his interview or somebody would tell him that if you listen to those conversations previous, everything with him is I'm bigger, I'm better and I'm faster. Big is not always a plus in boxing. We know a lot of big guys in boxing that doesn't carry the (inaudible). So, he isn't all that damned big – like I'm a – he must think that I'm five nine or five two. You know, I think that I'm considered big as a middleweight and have always been big. So, when you realize as we did a (inaudible) that I may be an inch taller or an inch shorter, half an inch taller or half an inch shorter than himself, he was surprised at the New York HBO commercial shoot is that he now realizes that he's in there with a bigger guy also, but he's got to tell himself he's bigger. For some reason, he has to convince himself he's bigger to be better or if he's bigger then he'll win. Big don't win fights, not all the time, not all the – and not in this case and I will prove that come July 16.
So watch pay-per-view everybody, on HBO pay-per-view, July 16th. And let me tell you, this isn't a fight that I've got to prove whether I'm pound for pound, whether I've got to outdo (inaudible), whether like I was asked yesterday at the press conference in Miami, this isn't about that. What this is about is longevity; Bernard Hopkins fighting a young, upcoming, dangerous middleweight that I didn't have to fight. And Bernard Hopkins is going to actually kick Jermaine Taylor and get 21 great – 21 title defenses that me, or whether anybody else in boxing right now, don't have half of that right now.
JOHN COTEY, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES: Hey Bernard. How's it going?
BERNARD HOPKINS: I'm doing OK.
JOHN COTEY: Bernard, you were willing to fight Trinidad and you talk about wanting challenges and maybe that's why you want to move up, keep on top of – but why wouldn't you fight Winky Wright who's out class Trinidad and is ranked higher on a lot of – almost every (inaudible).
BERNARD HOPKINS: Well, one of them is it's easy and I'm glad you're calling from Winky Wright State, St. Petersburg. And I can say this to you is that I'm going to remind you of something that you wrote. I read the paper a lot (inaudible) and maybe Wink can understand why I'm doing this because he's done the same thing and it's not a get back thing. It's business and he used that word, and you might correct me on your column. Winky Wright and I had a chance to match up, I think it was a year and a half, maybe two years tops ago and at that particular time I felt that me and Winky had a tentative deal to square off for my undisputed middleweight championship. At that time, Winky had a choice to fight Bernard Hopkins, which we talked about through them and then through media and he sort of romanced the thought to entice the Sugar Shane Mosley fight and he ran for the Sugar Shane Mosley fight, which I assume and I don't think any other reason, is an easier fight than fighting Bernard Hopkins as it played out the beat and he got more money. Well, it's three years later or two years – two and a half to three years later Bernard Hopkins is in the same position – situation that Winky Wright in – is in and Winky Wright happened to beat the same guy that I considered damaged his whole career. And anybody, I think can beat him with skills right. Not taking it away from Winky Wright, but I'm in the same situation that Winky Wright is in. So, my understanding, it's what I've been told by a lot of reliable sources, that I make more money cause the ring is just bigger and the challenge is bigger, fighting Antonio Tarver isn't fighting a Winky Wright.
I mean we can cry the blues when things isn't the way we want it, but you've got to remember that's why you've got (inaudible). That's why you've got things you can go back on and read from yesterday and see what happens now and say: “No, I'm not being unfair. I'm not beating anybody else that might have duck Winkie Wright dude.” You right played a hell of a waiting game that I played. He suffered the same politics that I suffered. And me and Winky Wright are athletic friends. I don't go to his house, never been to his house, never been to my house, when we see each other we respect each other, we hug each other, we laugh and we talk, we share one of the same sponsors, so we see each other at least twice a year. But to answer your question that less is not to defend anything, it's to let you know that, hey man, this isn't about giving Winky Wright a shot. Winky Wright had a shot if he has to fight me before let's say Mosley, but the business reasons and a smart reason I'm glad he – for his sake he did the right thing and I'm not knocking.
So, let me – well, I'm not asking for permission, but let me, Bernard Hopkins, do what's good and right for Bernard Hopkins, especially at this time of my life and my career. I think I should be commended after July 16th when I defeat Jermaine Taylor. Women should go up and fight a guy that walks around 200 and something pounds. I think I should be commended for that. I think I should be held in an honor of great fighters that came before me, like the Ray Robinson attempt to go right from middleweight, and go right to light heavyweight and be called the light heavyweight champion and one for the heat exhaustion in New York City. In the stadium as you remember, or might have been told, failed to come out because of the heat, knocked him out, not the fighter. So, I want to do things that's going to entice Bernard Hopkins to do something. I can't get motivated strongly enough to fight Winkie Wright like I can get motivated with a threat that's major to fight Antonio Tarver. That's the next fight that I see Bernard Hopkins. And Antonio Tarver's crazy because he bleeds out a second time and who knows he might go right back to that, then Winkie Wright might have a fight coming around, who knows he might Vargas, I mean I don't know, but let Bernard Hopkins do me. And remember when Winkie Wright had the chance to do and not do and not a whole (inaudible), I just want to do me like he had a (inaudible).
JOHN COTEY: Well, that's understandable. And – because I just want the question cause you've been quoted as saying…
BERNARD HOPKINS: I don't want to be talking in (inaudible). Do you remember that type of romance conversation about a year and half or two ago?
JOHN COTEY: Do remember the reports that you guys were close to a…
BERNARD HOPKINS: Yeah, and it said the Mosley fight, he took the big money, he took the less risk – smart! Whether it's better that Jerry Saw involved at the time or James Kent, it was a good choice, but unless Bernard Hopkins is out there to win I think fighting isn't even mandatory. So, I mean for God's sake, I mean what's good for the goose is good for the gander.
CHRIS GIVENS, ARKANSAS DEMOCRAT Good to talk to you. A lot of the knocks on this time Jermaine is right now that he's too young and too inexperienced and really hasn't fought anybody nearly of your caliber, notwithstanding the fact that you believe that you're going to win this fight handily, do you feel that Jermaine is ready for a fight of this magnitude?
BERNARD HOPKINS: I think he is. I think he's ready. I think it's just the person he's fighting. I mean I think if anybody else had this bout or anybody else that was behind, he can beat, but it's just – I mean – you know, I have a lot riding on this fight as far as the timing of it and what's going on Bernard Hopkins right now knows that I have to, myself, that I have to do what I have to do to secure my legacy and there's a lot riding on this fight for me personally. You've heard from me so many times that you know I think it's just the wrong fighter who has all the belts right now and Jermaine is in a win-win situation no matter what happens, because he's (inaudible) Bernard Hopkins. You know, no one is going to be surprised when I beat Jermaine Taylor, but they will be surprised in a way if he beats Bernard Hopkins and no matter what happens he gets paid $1.8 million and I mean that's not a bad payday. I mean my first world title fight I got paid $60,000 fighting Roy Jones Junior in 1993. So, I mean he's getting paid handsomely. I mean he's getting a chance to fight the undisputed middleweight champion in the world, hey, he's rolling the dice right now, but as far as his capabilities and his talent it's not a mixed match, it's just where I'm at in my life that I feel. This is what I feel and I'm not making claims on what people think about my age or think about whether I can do this do that, that's fine. I mean (inaudible), that's good. That's speculation. That's curiosity. Hopefully, these people buy tickets. Hopefully, these people have got pay-per-view. That's good. But I know what's in me to not lose not only this fight, but this particular year to go out undefeated is so important to me, it's just as important to me as beating Pretty Tito Trinidad, beating Oscar De La Hoya and other accomplishments of 20 defenses, all this falls into this. This is – you know, people always say that this isn't personal, it's business without getting into it again and I keep reminding everybody that this is both. This is both. This is both.
CHRIS GIVENS: You mentioned a couple of times how you're the country boy from Arkansas not a major media market, do you feel that hurts him that you're stepping onto kind of the world stage in Vegas for this fight?
BERNARD HOPKINS: No, not really. Roy Jones from Pensacola, Florida and you pick Arkansas and Pensacola, Florida, I mean I think Arkansas is like LA. So, I mean – no, talent is talent. I don't care if you can batch a rues in Louisiana, but when you think and fight and you've got an Olympic background which Jermaine Taylor has, he sleeps and lives in Arkansas, but Jermaine Taylor fights like he's from Philadelphia, he fights like he's from LA, he fights like he's from New York, because of his amateur experience, he's been all over the place and met all kinds of other styles and athletes from different parts of the world. You can't judge a man by his living in Arkansas that he can't fight and I know you're not saying that. I mean, no, he just lives there. It's not a known fight (inaudible) like Philadelphia, of course, or New York, but every now and then you get those fighters that don't have to live in a what you call a fight city, like a Pensacola, Florida. I mean Roy Jones put Pensacola, Florida on the map not Smoke Daynor. And Jermaine Taylor's trying to put Arkansas on the map by trying to dethrone Bernard Hopkins. And you know what, Arkansas, I know you're all good people, but it ain't going to happen, not now. Not now and maybe sometime in the future, but not now.
XAVIER JAMES: Well, I think actually Bernard, you know we've got to get going. Could you please talk specifically some of the things specific to Jermaine that you've been working on that you feel you're going to prepare for in the ring?
BERNARD HOPKINS: To outwork Jermaine Taylor, to out-jab Jermaine Taylor and to take everything that he does well and use it against him.
XAVIER JAMES: Do you feel he has one of the best jabs in the business right now?
BERNARD HOPKINS: It all depends on where you fight. I mean that the jab that he had used against opponents that I have seen in his 20 plus fights was accurate when the guy moved his head. You know, you're going to have 100% accuracy when you've got a guy that doesn't know how to take the jab away from you. Choppy did a lot better than most fighters did and that's why he gave Jermaine Taylor a lot of problems earlier. And because of Jermaine Taylor's jab and William Choppy’s considered a good jabber too and Jermaine Taylor puts a lot of emphasis on his jab. And for Jermaine Taylor's arson that they had better teach him something else just in case the jabs don't work. See, I don't take emphasis on one punch or one thing that I do good. I don't take emphasis on, oh, I've got a good right hand or I've got a good left hand or I've got the best jab in the world, because it comes a time when you run into a (inaudible) like Trinidad ran into me where backing up it made the fight easy for me, stepping to the side made the fight easier for me and he can back up to give himself a break to find another way to try to win. So, when Jermaine Taylor gets his jab taken away from him, let's see if that the great potential or heir apparent that we all think he is. See, because I never put emphasis on I've got a great jab or great right hand, I say I'm an all-around fighter and I'm going to prove that I'm an all-around fighter come July 16th. And I think that's a handicap.
In Boxing News: Floyd Mayweather An All-Time Great, Valuev & More
A Shot of Boxing on the Last Day of the Year
The Guardian reports that talks have already taken place between Nicolay Valuev‘s co-promoters – Don King and Wilfried Sauerland – and Danny Williams‘ promoter Frank Warren for Nicolay Valuev to face Danny Williams. I’d suggest Danny Williams needs to worry about Matt Skelton (who Williams is reportedly scheduled to fight in February) before he entertains notions of facing the Beast From The East.
The Mirror in the UK looks forward to a big year in boxing for 2006. The Mirror considers what the future might bring for Joe Calzaghe, Amir Khan and Ricky Hatton, among others.
The Parksville Qualicum News has an interesting column on the travails of former Canadian Super Middleweight title holder Mark Woolnough. Woolnough’s career turned controversial – as widely reported in the Canadian press – at the beginning of this year when Woolnough and four other men were charged with manslaughter and assault after a fight outside a Parksville nightclub. The case returns to court next month. It’s an interesting read, as Woolnough is still looking to the future with hope.
Our own Marc Lichtenfeld provides plenty of food for thought with his Top Ten Wish List for boxing in the New Year. There’s plenty of good stuff here, but what really jumped out for me is Lichtenfeld’s opinion that a win over Zab Judah could have Floyd Mayweather knocking on the door of all-time great status. Seems to me this might be jumping the gun a little. Or is Marc right? Will it soon be time to call Floyd Mayweather Jr. an all-time great?
(More Boxing News Links at TheSweetScience.com)
ShoBox Friday Night Fights
Hot bantamweight prospect Raul “The Cobra” Martinez heads back to Chicago next Friday night as he is featured in the co-main event of SHOBOX “THE NEW GENERATION,” an action packed evening of professional boxing presented by Dominic Pesoli’s 8 Count Productions,’ HOME OF THE BEST IN CHICAGO BOXING, Kathy Duva’s Main Events Inc., along with Miller Lite and TCF Bank.
The two-time national amateur champion sporting a perfect 12-0 record with 9 knockouts, six of which have come in the first round, will take on Colombian Andres “Andy Boy” Ledesma, 13-1 (8 KOs) in a scheduled eight round bout.
Speaking after a training session at his home gym in Georgetown, Texas, Martinez said, “I’m truly looking forward to returning to Chicago. The fans were terrific in September, they were very supportive from the start of the fight,” an internationally televised first round knockout of Miguel Martinez on September 16th at the Aragon Ballroom.
Regarding his upcoming fight with Ledesma, “The Cobra” said, “I haven’t seen him fight, although I understand he’s fought at higher weights and will be naturally bigger than me. I’ve had great training for this fight and feel very confident. I really haven’t left the gym in months, just taking off Sunday’s and even then I get my running in. My thinking is that fights are won in the gym and complete preparation is the key.”
When asked about his being mentioned by Dan Rafael, ESPN’s boxing writer as one of the top prospect’s in the boxing world the 23-year-old San Antonio native said, ‘It’s a great compliment, but I still have much work to do. I want to be a champion for Main Events like Fernando Vargas and Arturo Gatti. But like Fernando said while he was in town, ‘be patient, work hard and your time will come.’”
Finishing the conversation, Martinez said, “I’m looking forward to starting out this year with a bang. I might have a couple less fights than the seven I had in 2005, but I’m looking to stepping up the competition, move up to ten-rounders and climb in the rankings.”
Headlining the evening is a ten-round welterweight showdown between boxing’s hottest prospect, unbeaten Joel Julio of Monteria, Columbia, and Ugandan native Roberto “The Doctor” Kamya. Julio, turning 21 years old the day before the fight, is 25-0 with 22 knockouts, twelve of which have come in the first two rounds. Kamya, now fighting out of West Palm Beach, Florida is 15-5 with four knockouts.
Tickets, starting at $30, are on sale in advance by calling 312-226-5800. Cicero Stadium is located at 1909 S. Laramie, at the corner of 19th and Laramie, just ten minutes south of the Eisenhower Expressway and ten minutes north of the Stevenson Expressway. Doors for this evening will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.
The full bout lineup for the evening is:
Joel Julio vs. Roberto Kamya, ten rounds, welterweights
Raul Martinez vs. Andres Ledesma, eight rounds, bantamweights
Miguel Hernandez vs. Butch Hajicek, eight rounds, middleweights
David Pareja vs. Derek Andrews, eight rounds, light heavyweights
Mike Gonzales vs. Tony Kinney, four rounds, lightweights
Omar Reyes vs. Luis Navarro, five rounds, featherweights
Reynaldo Reyes vs. Ricardo Swift, four rounds, middleweights
Pick ‘Em: Plenty of Big Upcoming Fights in ’06
Here’s the early call on many top matches scheduled for the first half of 2006: Happy New Year!
As the new calendar dawns, there are already a considerable amount of premium bouts on the horizon. Things don’t look to be bogged down by undetermined championships next year. In many cases the scheduled face-offs involve the best fighters in the division, or at least close enough for general bragging rights. If anybody else with proper qualifications signs up to force the issue, all the better.
It can be argued that some pairings could have taken place within a more optimal timeframe, or that some headliners carry distracting baggage, but there are certainly enough heavy hitters on deck. That nobody can deny.
It doesn’t matter whether one considers the proverbial glass half empty or half full; there’s still the same amount of juice in the vessel. It’s nice to know that even with a high number of cancellations, there will still be plenty of important contenders on tap.
With elite fighters in weight divisions from top to bottom on the agenda, it’s an equivalent to what fans in more mainstream sports expect in a consistent championship format.
Baseball fans can almost always count on a World Series. Some hoops fanatics say too much attention to playoffs distracts unmotivated NBA teams during their regular season. In college, they project Sweet Sixteens. Football fans know there’s always a Super Bowl ahead to raise advertising dollars and test the USA’s halftime morals.
So too, there is method in boxing’s current madness.
The midnight crystal ball hasn’t even been unveiled in Times Square and there are already a number of potential thrillers scheduled. Most feature contrasting personalities that almost guarantee going along for the ride will be worthwhile. Any subsequent drops will probably be cheered.
Don King jumps right out of the auld lang gate with a January 7th Showtime card featuring Zab Judah against Carlos Baldomir and Jean-Marc Mormeck in a cruiserweight unification against O’Neil Bell.
It will be the upset of the year, bar none, if Baldomir can tip the applecart before Judah gets to his scheduled super-showdown with Floyd Mayweather Jr. Meanwhile, Mormeck is emerging and should keep on rolling against Bell, who can expose him if he’s not for real.
The proverbial Big Bang starts with a January 21st rematch of one of the finest fights of ‘05, when Erik Morales goes against Manny Pacquaio for the second time on HBO pay per view. The fact that Morales was upset by Zahir Raheem after beating Pacquaio was no real loss in box-office luster. Artful Raheem will get a spot on the undercard and hope his patience is rewarded.
Everyone figures Morales and Pacquaio will pick up where they left off. Like the first time, the rematch is a pick’em contest. Management distractions and glove restrictions cited as Pacquaio’s previous problems won’t matter this time. The two are very evenly matched and their styles will make for another whapathon. It could come down to corners, where Freddie Roach gets the edge since Morales will have a new trainer for the first time since replacing his father after the Raheem lesson.
February features four of the game’s most enduring attractions, in a pair of crucial matchups.
First up, Showtime presents the Jose Luis Castillo – Diego Corrales tiebreaker from El Paso on Feb 4th. This is another pick ‘em pair, barring any sideshow. In boxing that disclaimer may be a stretch, since the sideshow is part of the act and the charm.
As far as action inside the strands goes, every round these guys have fought has been great. There’s no reason to think that pattern won’t continue. Regarding the result, Castillo keeps the pressure on as he did in the second fight, but he’ll walk into trouble from a more reserved Corrales. We still don’t know which coin to flip.
February also holds a better late than never affair between two perennial favorites as Shane Mosley collides with Fernando Vargas on the 25th. This fight could lead to a winning ticket in the Golden Boy sweepstakes for a fall bonanza against Oscar De La Hoya.
Vargas has been in tougher recently, based on comparable strength of opposition stats, but he’s seen little action. What weight they enter the ring at may have a lot to do with the result. If Vargas has to struggle at the scale, Mosley might have the battle in the bag after round nine.
It’s hard to imagine Mosley getting stopped early, but Vargas doesn’t have to hurt him, he just has to knock him down three times. With natural size, he may be able to do just that, but Mosley would have to box uncharacteristically flat.
Unless Mosley decides to heed the crowd, the most likely scenario is that Shane plays it safe, picks a few shots, and stays away enough to capture a comfortable, dull decision. An unbowed Vargas maintains his fan base but not his bettors.
March both comes in and goes out as a lion.
On March 4th Joe Calzaghe welcomes Jeff Lacy to Manchester UK for what may be the biggest blowout of the headlining bunch. Calzaghe gets the chance to prove his considerable home-based reputation once and for all, but if Lacy creams him as we expect, that glossy record will be severely tarnished.
All Calzaghe has to do is make a respectable stand, but that’s no small task against the rising Lacy. A motivated Calzaghe, songs of England ringing in his ears, could pull a big surprise if he can exploit Lacy’s relatively limited technical development, but that’s a longshot indeed.
It looks like Lacy can get by on power alone. He could soon emerge as a pound-for-pound leader. Old Joe’s hometown advantage will last about two left hooks.
March 11th has the Ides of history to beware for at least one old lion, with farewell (we’ll see) fireworks featuring Roy Jones Jr. against Bernard Hopkins. Less than two years ago they were considered untouchable all time greats. Now between them they’ve lost five in a row.
This goodbye fight is contracted at light heavyweight, for what seems like an oldies night. Hopkins is the senior at age 41 to Jones’s 37, but Roy seems more the grandpa figure, last seen hanging on against Antonio Tarver. Youth, as it were here, will prevail.
This bout was signed quickly as each principal, usually sticklers for favorable contract clauses, agreed to parity in a demonstration of businessman first and fighter second. They may both expect easy marks. How much the boys have left by the time they get down to business remains to be seen. The history books will show this as a climactic career bout between Hall of Famers.
At 175 pounds, Hopkins may be in for rude awakening. Jones may have been more thoroughly outfought recently, but he was rumbling with bigger, tougher men than Jermain Taylor or Howard Eastman. Respectable as he is, Taylor still falls short of the level of Tarver, at least for now. The difference is still fifteen pounds less pop.
It will be quite a feat if Hopkins can stay in the fight, even at Jones’s advanced age. Our stars point to Jones winning in overwhelming fashion.
On March 18th, James Toney meets Hasim Rahman in another pairing of seasoned war-horses.
Toney and Rahman already had their introductions, when they brawled in Mexico during a WBC gathering to bestow Rahman’s new belt. Between formalities, Toney got married, which could bring up the old questions about carnal training.
Let’s hope when they meet in the ring, they restore some of the fire missing from the heavyweights in ‘05. Toney might have an edge in recent form, but Rahman shows fine tuning he previously lacked. The winner might get newly “crowned’ Nicolai Valuev, an easy payday outside Germany.
Rahman could be the heavyweight that finally makes Toney look like a blown up middleweight. But anything less than a top effort will probably lead to embarrassing night for the Rock and give Toney solid claim to being the true heavyweight champ.
This might not be the most artful fight of the new season, but it could well be the most grueling, and the closest. He who’s faced the better big boys gets the nod. Advantage Rahman.
March 25 features Marco Antonio Barrera, probably the strongest overall claimant to 130 pound honors. The likely opponent is said to be always tough Jesus Chavez.
Chavez seemed rejuvenated when he met Leavander Johnson, but Johnson’s tragic death may have taken some of the steam out of thoughtful Chavez, said to have received Johnson’s family blessing to continue in Leavander’s name. That could mean a lot of inspiration. Either way, if he does meet Chavez, who hung tough with one arm against Erik Morales, Barrera won’t get any slack. The Fates say Chavez, whose wife recently served in Iraq, is a live, live underdog.
Another clash to be King of the Hill finds Floyd Mayweather Jr, arguably the game’s finest practitioner, bumping heads with Zab Judah, one of very few boxers who rivals Mayweather in speed, skills, and brashness.
Their hoedown, scheduled for April 8th, is one of the top pound-for-pound pairings in recent years. Judah will need a career best performance to have a chance of victory. That’s not to say he can’t pull it off, but currently Mayweather is in a different galaxy in terms of punching power. Slow-motion replays may be the only way to follow the flying fists once these two whirlwinds unload.
Mayweather should be around a 4-1 favorite. Judah is good enough to make taking the odds an attractive proposition, since that’s probably as good of odds as one is likely to see on Floyd for a while. Mayweather will stop Judah in his tracks.
The first half of next year is set to conclude with the star power of Oscar De La Hoya, probably against noteworthy foil Ricardo Mayorga on May 6. There could be some snags before a contract is finalized, but if it comes off count on Mayorga for promotional sound bite nastiness. One of the questions is whether or not he’ll be able to get under Oscar’s skin, and it might actually be entertaining to see the classy, model perfect De La Hoya show he’s human and freak out against the Nicaraguan maniac.
Mayorga may have burnt his best bridges already. De La Hoya has not only the boxing skill to negate Mayorga’s offense, but enough power to end it early. If Mayorga rushes in and causes a cut, De La Hoya might get ruffled enough to duck into defense and Mayorga could get a decision that goes to the cards after six rounds or so. It will be wild for as long as it lasts.
Pro boxing, like many sports, had its share of problems during 2005, but there were also many positives. Most notably, as usual, was superior and inspiring action inside the strands. Unless there’s a mass freeze-up at the top, early 2006 figures to see decisive interaction among many well-known fighters.
If even fifty per cent of the aforementioned pairings come to fruition, it’s a strong likelihood the upcoming year has at least one very positive half. Arturo Gatti, Miguel Cotto, Antonio Margarito, Brian Viloria, and Shannon Briggs, to name a few, are also on deck. No matter how you chose to look at or measure mass qualities, there’s still just as much good to be seen.
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