By Raj Sharma
Former world middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins held an open workout this afternoon at Oscar De La Hoya’s private gym in Big Bear, California. Hopkins has been training here for his December 3, 2005 rematch with Jermain Taylor, after discovering that his preferred location of Miami could be hit by heavy storms. After the workout, Hopkins once again discussed the scoring controversy in the first fight, his game plan against Taylor last July, and also dropped a minor bombshell on the assembled press: ailing trainer Bouie Fisher will likely not be in Hopkins’ corner for the fight with Taylor.
Shortly after 1:30 pm on a sunny autumn afternoon, Hopkins arrived and the media soon followed “The Executioner” and fight publicist Debbie Caplan into the gym, which sits inside a cabin. Hopkins, attired in a black sweat suit and a white skull cap, bantered with the press while getting his hands wrapped by Naazim Richardson, known as Brother Naazim. Gene Chandler’s doo wop classic Duke of Earl played in the background, and Hopkins seemed to be in a loose and talkative mood. “No ice cream and cake” he joked when asked what his secret for staying in such good shape was.
Those in attendance at Big Bear were able to witness firsthand some of the boxing skills that make Hopkins an almost certain first-ballot Hall of Famer. As Hopkins shadowboxed for three rounds, his graceful footwork, effortless rhythm, and punching form were all plainly evident. A few rounds of mitt work followed before Hopkins, the Executioner moved over to the heavy bag. Then, as he was getting toweled off, Hopkins gave us the bad news about Bouie Fisher, who was conspicuously absent.
Bouie Fisher is not well. The 77 year old longtime trainer of Hopkins could not make it to training camp, and will probably not be in attendance at the Mandalay Bay on fight night. Out of respect for the privacy of the Fisher family, Hopkins would not go into specifics regarding Bouie’s condition. He did however mention that Brother Naazim is handling training duties for the Taylor rematch.
“I’m a pro’s pro. I’m not gonna postpone a fight.” said Hopkins while discussing the change in trainers. “I’m not going to go out and look for a trainer of name which I easily could have done. I could have grabbed Floyd Mayweather Sr. But here’s a guy to my left, Brother Naazim, who’s been with me ten years or more. Naazim Richardson got the call, which is really no call, got the mission and the mission will be fulfilled. If anyone thinking that for any reason that I won’t be Bernard or better, I’ll be in good hands, man.” Brother Naazim has worked in the past with fighters such as Hasim Rahman, and is the father and trainer of 2004 Olympian Rock Allen.
Hopkins again expressed his displeasure with the scoring of judge Duane Ford, who gave Taylor the last round in their July bout, which cost Hopkins a draw that would have allowed him to retain the world middleweight championship. “Thank God I’m leaving boxing soon” he said, when a photographer informed him that Ford is giving a judging seminar in Connecticut in December. He also again explained his strategy in the first fight: let the younger, more inexperienced fighter expend his energy early so he could take over later in the bout.
We all went back outside for the final part of the workout, which featured Hopkins chopping wood. This was more of a final photo op. Hopkins posed with two axes forming an “X” over his chest, and split a couple of logs with an axe. He then produced a severed mannequin’s head that resembled Taylor before laughing reporters. “You know I had to have a show for y’all. Thanks for taking the long ride up here”, said the gracious fighter, in what may be the final open workout of his career. Love him or hate him, Bernard Hopkins is a true original.
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