Hopkins pumped for Taylor

By Rea Frey


Hopkins pumped for Taylor

July 16, 2005 will be the sternest test possible for undefeated heir apparent Jermain “Bad Intentions” Taylor. He will face one of the best middleweights of all time, undisputed world champion, Bernard Hopkins on that date in Las Vegas. A conference call was held on Wednesday to discuss each boxer’s plans for victory.

Hopkins waxed poetic about his blueprint for attack, showing his passion in his every word and response. This “passion” has remained throughout twenty title defenses, and has him hungry for twenty-one. “I’m preparing to execute all my experience and abilities. I will not look like others that are referring to us as old versus young. With Jermain Taylor, there is no comparison talent-wise. There’s no pressure on me in the middleweight division to win this fight. There was pressure to get twenty title defenses in the book, but this is one fight I can say is a personal victory I’ve marked down in my head, my spirit, and my soul. And after this fight, I’m going to continue to rack up title defenses. I have a personal reason to win this fight. It doesn’t take a lot to motivate Bernard Hopkins.”

When a reporter asked Hopkins if he expected Taylor to  box with him, Hopkins was quick to reply: “You need an athlete to emulate and imitate, and very few athletes can be told what to do. If I was Jermain Taylor, I would have to have five or ten sparring partners that can roll, that can slip, that can counter, that can move. They would have to have all-around abilities in order for him to prepare for me. He could never convince me that I’m forty – only the boxing ring can tell me that, only father time, not man. People want to put subliminal messages out there, like telling a pretty girl that she’s not pretty just so she gets low self-esteem. You can tell me I’m old, but I won’t believe it. That’s what it’s like, but whatever he do, I can do better. I’m a better athlete, I’m a better fighter. Come July 16th, I’m not going to win by any accident or any favors from the boxing community. I want people to remember that I want no excuses when Bernard Hopkins makes Jermain Taylor look amateurish, when Bernard Hopkins dissects an Olympian. Just understand I’m not going to be around forever – so enjoy me now. Don’t say he was too young or wasn’t experienced enough. Just give me the credit I deserve.”

When asked what his future plans are beyond this fight, Hopkins explained that he wanted light heavyweight champion of the world Antonio Tarver. Hopkins has not fought at light heavyweight since his pro debut in 1988, when he was served his first loss to Clinton Mitchell. He concluded that when his career ends, he has other goals in sight. “There may be movie scripts or book scripts in my future. And I want people to remember after my career is over that I didn’t go out fighting the bum of the month. This wasn’t a mandatory fight. I think Jermain Taylor is the only middleweight behind Bernard Hopkins that is the best. But the adjustments I can make in a split second will have him looking at his corner, asking what to do. You can’t teach a fighter how to react. This is a different ballgame. I feel like the New England Patriots at the Super Bowl. You don’t know until you get there. The boxing world is desperate to find someone they can hold onto, and I’m the guy.”

Hopkins was asked about the recent “trend” with big name fighters quitting on their stools when the going gets rough, such as Mike Tyson, Kostya Tszyu and Arturo Gatti have done recently. “I won’t do that,” Hopkins replied. “But guys know when they’ve had enough. Kostya Tszyu stopped for many reasons, mainly because he was getting pretty beat up. As far as Mike Tyson – you can see why he didn’t come out. You got all different kinds of fighters out there, some that would rather die in the ring than lose, some who quit. Me, I’d rather die in the ring than quit or have someone take this belt away.”

“What keeps me going?” Hopkins laughed when asked about his continuing hunger. “Look at my life before I became a professional fighter. I haven’t forgot that, even with the millions in the bank, even with the beautiful wife of fourteen years, even with the beautiful daughter, I haven’t forgot. Jail changes you, and I fear no man on this earth that breathes the same air that I do and do the same things that I do. My past gives me that little edge that seems minute, but if you forget, then you become average. Compared to what my life used to be before boxing, this is like being in Walt Disney World – compared to where I’ve come from. So quitting is not even in my DNA, it’s not in my genetics.”

Hopkins then took a long breath, his message apparent. When asked how proud he is of his twenty title defenses, it was almost as though you could see the smile through the receiver.   “I’m so proud,” he said. “I don’t think it will be done again in my lifetime. How many fighters stay that focused after a few dollars get in the bank, after they get a taste of that life? What keeps you hungry, what keeps you running in the hot Miami sun, what keeps you getting up everyday?”

Bernard went on to discuss how Taylor has made this fight a personal battle but only because he was told to, perhaps a veiled reference to Hopkins’ ex-advisor Lou DiBella, now Taylor’s promoter. “He’s being programmed and told what to say. He’s a country boy, he’s being dictated to and then they got to get him in the ring – no one’s going to be in there with him. You’re left in there with the baddest man on earth, and when I throw that first punch to let him know whether it’s going to be a short night or a slow death, he’ll see. They don’t give me a script. He wants to be himself, so they should let him be himself. When it comes to fight night, all that talking don’t mean nothing. I’d rather be carried out on a stretcher than lose to that particular fighter. Jermain Taylor is going to be the whipping boy of my control frustrations. And I didn’t say frustrations, but control frustrations. I’m going to take all my frustrations out on him. I mean, man this is a great country! This is a great country where you can go and actually assault someone and not go to jail for it! So, this is control anger. It’s going to be like Joppy [a brutal twelve round beating in 2003 that left Joppy nearly unrecognizable]. Joppy was a personal thing, and I took care of business. So when Jermain Taylor wants out of that ring, I’m not going to let him out. So there’s no question why it’s personal. How gratifying would it be if it worked out Jermain Taylor’s way? What does he have to lose? Jermain Taylor is the closest guy I can physically hurt without going to jail. How great is that? I’m geeked! I’m geeked!” Bernard laughed before continuing, his voice loud and passionate. “I got the best sparring partners – it’s going to be so action-packed. He really believes he’s stronger than me, maybe he’s right, who knows? But I’ll take brains and skills over muscle any day.”

A reporter from ESPN then asked Hopkins about  DiBella, point blank. There is bad blood between Hopkins and DiBella that resulted in a lawsuit in which DiBella successfully sued Hopkins for libel. Bernard was more than happy to expound. “He’s not even there as far as I’m concerned. You know, he reminds me of this girlfriend I had before my wife – let me just clarify it was before my wife, so I don’t get in trouble later when she reads this – this was before I went to jail, so probably around 1984. We broke up and I didn’t pay any attention to her after that, though she did everything in her power to get me to notice her. To me, it’s like I’m going to continue to do what I’m doing, and when Jermain Taylor gets in that ring, I’m going to see Lou’s face. I know a lot of people that face can be. I’ve been fighting a long time. If I stop breathing, I know some people would throw a party in ten seconds and break out the Cristal. Maybe you don’t have people like that in your life, but I do in mine because of my success. I’ve been called stupid for ten, fifteen years, and a lot of people are upset with me, but I get off on proving people wrong. I get off on that.”

The conversation then turned back to Taylor’s style. “Have you ever seen the fight between Marvin Hagler and John Mugabi? Mugabi was supposed to be the bigger, stronger, faster guy, and he got wore down, beat up and never returned, right? [Editor’s note: Mugabi actually did return to win a WBC junior middleweight title against Rene Jacquot] Next question. He was bigger, stronger, and not scared? Well, it’s the same blueprint as this fight. I watch that fight at least two times a day. Bigger is not always a plus in a fighter. Jermain Taylor must think I’m 5’9” or 5’2”. I think I’m big as a middleweight. But big don’t win fights, not all the time. I might take two or three shots to show where my heart is at, where my chin is at. When you’re coming to get some, you got to take some. What this is about is longevity. Bernard Hopkins is going to execute Jermain Taylor and going to get twenty-one title defenses. End of story.”

Asked how he would rank himself with the top middleweights in history, he explained that he would be honored to be even at the bottom of the list. “To be mentioned in those names… put me last and I would be honored. I’ll take whatever I can get that’s fair. As long as this world stands, I hope that my name can be mentioned and to read that I’ve actually been considered in the top five… it’s an honor.”

As the conference wrapped up, a reporter asked if Hopkins felt that Taylor was ready for this caliber of fight.     “I think he’s ready, but I just think it’s the person he’s fighting. I have to do what I have to do. I have a lot riding on this personally. Jermain is in a win-win situation. No one’s going to be surprised if Bernard Hopkins wins this fight. They’ll be surprised if Jermain Taylor wins. He’s getting $1.8 million for this title shot whereas I got $60,000 in 1993 to fight Roy Jones Jr. This is what I think: to go out undefeated is so important to me. Talent is talent. This doesn’t have anything to do with where you’re from because a lot of people are saying, ‘Oh, Jermain Taylor is from Arkansas.’ Jermain Taylor fights like he’s from Philadelphia, like he’s from L.A., like he’s from New York. He just lives in Arkansas – you can’t judge a guy for where he lives. Jermain Taylor is trying to put Arkansas on the map by beating me, but it’s not going to happen.”

He concluded by explaining his game plan: he intends to outwork, outjab and outbox Jermain Taylor, “using everything he has against him.” Bernard laughed. “They better teach him something else in case the jab don’t work. When he gets that jab taken away from him, we’ll see how good he is.”
Tomorrow: Jermaine Taylor


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