View Full Version : Hopkins-Wright Pre-Fight Press & Predictions
02-02-2007, 10:22 PM
Bernard Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) will return on July 21 to face Winky Wright (51-3-1) in a pay-per-view showdown on HBO-PPV. The bout will take place at a catchweight of 170 pounds. Wright's adviser and attorney Jim Wilkes told the St. Petersburg Times that contracts haven't been signed and the site (New York or Las Vegas) hasn't been chosen, but those issues are formalities and the deal is for the most part done.
02-02-2007, 10:30 PM
I don't care much about this fight (I am tired of "name" guys facing each other about 4-5 years later than they should have). Plus their styles will likely make for a stalemate-type match. The main positive I see coming from this is that it may force Calzaghe to stop ignoring Kessler. Yeah right....
02-02-2007, 10:51 PM
I like the fight, I think the timing is perfect to make it a pick em fight. I think BHop would have been too much for Winky to move up years ago. Considering how neither moves their feet much anymore, I expect a tactical chess match in the center of the ring. It has the potential to stink but I think Winky will force BHop to throw. What I don't like is I thought BHop looked rejuvenated at lt heavy & think he should stay there. I hate to see him any lower ever again.
02-03-2007, 12:45 PM
Some guys just can't walk away. According to a recent Ring Magazine interview with Nigel Collins, Bernard Hopkins is more than financially secure. He takes in about $300K in interest per year. Millions safely socked away and apparently he doesn't carry any debt at all. House is paid for, cars are paid for. All cash flow. I don't think this will be a good fight even though it should be a close fight. I think it will be tactical and the usual messy Hopkins fight. He likes to fight southpaws and likes to fight them inside with the rough stuff. This is just another in a long line of fights HBO doesn't need to show.
02-03-2007, 05:58 PM
I could care less about this fight.
What does it prove? Hopkins wins and he's still the "Ageless wonder". Hopkins loses and it was because age caught up with him.
Winky Wright. Who cares? Name me one fan Winky Wright has. Most of his fights are fought in front of half-empty arenas. Both Mosley fights were dives at the box office. His fight with Jermain Taylor was a bust and it was in Arkansas - Taylor's home state! The fight with Trinidad were all "Tito" fans. He fought Sam Soliman in Connecticut to an arena that was over half empty. The guy just doesn't sell tickets. If Wright wins - big deal. He should beat a guy that's 42 years old.
Wright should be fighting Jermain Taylor and Hopkins should be fighting Roy Jones. Those are the more interesting fights for me.
02-03-2007, 06:33 PM
I agree with the bulk of what you just said, except that IMO Hopkins-Jones would be way more meaningless than Hopkins-Wright.
02-03-2007, 06:43 PM
Well, I like a Jones vs. Hopkins II fight for many reasons. The primary one is that it would be a rematch of two big names all of these years later.
Sure, both guys have slipped over the years and are nowhere near their primes, but that's precisely what would make the fight competitive and interesting to see.
The rematch would be a good sales angle and both guys talk a good fight. Jones brings in casual boxing fans and Hopkins is fairly well known for signature wins over big names such as Trinidad and De La Hoya.
To be honest, I was looking forward to that fight. This Hopkins vs. Wright thing is a bit of a letdown.
02-03-2007, 06:57 PM
Well, I'm rooting for the HBO/Showtime/PPV money to be channeled to the top young fighters to fight each other, and not to the same old/shot/recycled guys who continue to lurk and set the sport back. A rematch between Hopkins and Jones would have been somewhat interesting up to the early 2000's. Now it's utterly meaningless.
02-04-2007, 01:07 PM
I'm really looking forward to this match up. It will be extremely interesting to see how each deals with the puzzle the other presents. Ought to be a great chess match. :)
Can you say , "Stale - Mate?"
02-09-2007, 02:43 PM
The bottom line is that Hop, Winky & Jones are the three most boring "name" fighters extant. I don't want to watch any of them ever again.
02-09-2007, 03:41 PM
Has there ever been a PPV bout where no punches were thrown?
02-15-2007, 09:30 AM
Hopkins to fight Wright
Bernard Hopkins, one of the great middleweights of all time, recently announced he wanted to come out of retirement.
Speculation immediately began as to whom he would fight. The speculation is over. Richard Schaefer, CEO of Oscar De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, told this newspaper Wednesday that Hopkins and Winky Wright have signed contracts to fight each other July 21 at a site to be determined.
"It's signed, sealed and delivered," Schaefer said. "We signed it last weekend (Saturday) in Las Vegas. Different sites are interested. Las Vegas is interested."
Wright, of St. Petersburg, Fla., trains in Las Vegas. Hopkins, a partner in Golden Boy Promotions, was there playing host to the Golden Boy-promoted welterweight title fight between "Sugar" Shane Mosley and Luis Collazo.
Hopkins, 42, held at least one piece of the middleweight championship for 10 years before he lost all four belts via split decision to Jermain Taylor in July 2005. It was somewhat controversial in that most ringside observers had Hopkins winning.
Taylor again emerged victorious via narrow unanimous decision in a rematch five months later.
But six months after that in June, Hopkins moved up to light
heavyweight and beat people's champion Antonio Tarver with a lopsided decision. Hopkins then announced his retirement, but it didn't last long.
"It's going to be an interesting showdown," Schaefer said. "It's Bernard fighting another big fight. For him, it's fighting one of the best fighters again, one who hasn't lost in a long time.
"For Winky, a win over Hopkins, think what what would do. Then he would be the only fighter who fought and won against the three guys Oscar lost to. So it is a very interesting fight. A very big fight."
Wright has two wins over Mosley and a win over Felix Trinidad Jr. He has not lost since 1999.
Wright and Hopkins will meet at a catch-weight of 170 pounds, two pounds over the super middleweight limit.
Hopkins, of Philadelphia, is 47-4-1 with 32 knockouts. Wright is 51-3-1 with 25 knockouts.
Israel Vazquez of Mexico City will defend his World Boxing Council super bantamweight belt on March 3 against countryman Rafael Marquez at Home Depot Center in Carson.
Marquez, a bantamweight world champion the past several years, will be moving up in weight. But he is a consensus top 10 pound-for-pound fighter and one of the meanest men in the sport.
He also has one of the game's best trainers in Nacho Beristain.
Even though Vazquez is the champion at this weight, he undoubtedly will be in the toughest fight of his esteemed career. And he might be in it without his trainer, Freddie Roach, who is scheduled to leave on March 1 with the rest of Team De La Hoya to Puerto Rico. Roach will train De La Hoya for his May 5 mega-fight against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in Las Vegas.
Prior to a news conference Wednesday in Los Angeles promoting his fight, Vazquez was asked about the scenario.
"He (Roach) formally told us that he is going to be there, that he is going to be in my corner," said Vazquez, who is co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Sycuan Ringside Promotions.
Schaefer also was on hand at the news conference and sang a different tune. He said the plan right now is for all of Team De La Hoya to leave for camp in Puerto Rico the day after a Feb. 28 news conference in Los Angeles.
"I have to talk to Oscar and see what his plans are," Schaefer said. "Maybe he \ stays for the fight. I can't really answer you. It's an Oscar issue. If Oscar wants to start camp on the first \, with the whole team flying back together, then, you know ..."
That means Roach won't be in Vazquez's corner unless De La Hoya says he can. Told about this, Vazquez expressed cautious optimism.
"I hope Oscar understands that this is a big fight for us," Vazquez said. "I belong to his company. I also have to prepare. I hope he will understand and let Freddie stay with me that night."
Frank Espinoza of West Covina is Vazquez's long-time manager. He expressed concern Tuesday that Vazquez might be without Roach for the most important fight of his career.
"Here you have a Golden Boy fighter in Israel Vazquez," Espinoza said. "Why wouldn't they let him \ stay?"
Should Roach not make the fight, he most likely will be replaced by Justin Fortune, Roach's assistant at Wild Card Gym in Hollywood.
"I guess Israel feels OK with him," Espinoza said.
Vazquez, 29, is 41-3 with 30 knockouts. Marquez, 31, is 36-3 with 32 knockouts.
02-15-2007, 04:28 PM
I could care less about this fight.
What does it prove? Hopkins wins and he's still the "Ageless wonder". Hopkins loses and it was because age caught up with him.
Winky Wright. Who cares? Name me one fan Winky Wright has. Most of his fights are fought in front of half-empty arenas. Both Mosley fights were dives at the box office. His fight with Jermain Taylor was a bust and it was in Arkansas - Taylor's home state! The fight with Trinidad were all "Tito" fans. He fought Sam Soliman in Connecticut to an arena that was over half empty. The guy just doesn't sell tickets. If Wright wins - big deal. He should beat a guy that's 42 years old.
Wright should be fighting Jermain Taylor and Hopkins should be fighting Roy Jones. Those are the more interesting fights for me.
I'd call myself a Wright fan, if I usually enjoy watching his fights. I thought his bout vs Soliman was pretty entertaining, and his fights with Taylor and Vargas were great.
That being said, this will not be a great fight. Hopkins will maul his way in and just dig a few here and few there and hope to steal rounds, all the while ducking and posing in front of Winky's jab.
Decent free fight but PPV . . .no way, and they'll be stupid to make this PPV b/c I think it will bomb.
05-16-2007, 11:34 AM
Will Hopkins and Wright Make A Noise?
by TK Stewart from Boxing Scene
LAS VEGAS - You know the age-old question don't you? If a tree falls in the forest and nobody is there to hear it, does it make a noise?
This same question can be applied to this summer's match between Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright.
While Golden Boy Promotions and HBO are still delirious over the record setting success of last week's Floyd Mayweather, Jr. versus Oscar De La Hoya blockbuster, they kick-off this week with the press tour for the July 21st contest between Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright. Notice I call it a contest and not a fight?
Unfortunately, Richard Schaefer, Mark Taffett of HBO pay-per-view and the Mandalay Bay hotel and casino have a tough sell on their hands.
The initial press conference for this fight actually took place last weekend in Las Vegas on the morning of the Mayweather versus De La Hoya fight. It was scheduled to begin at 11:00 a.m. and boxing scribes were told to show up at the 740-seat Hollywood Theatre inside the MGM Grand hotel and casino. I showed up there at the anointed hour, and while the press conference was tedious and monotonous, I'll say this for Golden Boy Promotions and Richard Schaefer - they do put on a helluva spread. I helped myself to several pieces of fresh fruit, a delectable serving of scrambled eggs, home fries and a cold glass of orange juice.
My plate and me managed a seat in the front row and as close to the center of the stage as we could get. I sat next to Claude Abrams, the editor of Boxing News magazine from the United Kingdom. The first thing Claude said to me was, "How the hell are they going to sell this one?" I just shook my head because this fight makes no sense to me and I have no idea how they plan on making money at it. But, that is likely the reason why I'm a writer - and not a big-time fight promoter.
This fight is only happening because Bernard Hopkins didn't like his life in retirement and because nobody at heavyweight, namely WBC titlist Oleg Maskaev, wanted to bother with Hopkins' outrageous financial demands. Bernard apparently played his own version of pin the tail on the donkey and eventually managed to stick the tail on Winky Wright's behind. So the fight was made.
According to Richard Schaefer, who was the master of ceremonies on this morning, "Bernard Hopkins called me and told me he wanted to solve the puzzle. The puzzle that is the southpaw Winky Wright and a man who has not been beaten in 10 years." Apparently calls were then made back and forth and a deal was hammered out between the two and now they'll meet in the sweltering summer of Las Vegas.
There is a lot that is wrong with this fight and it has gotten a lukewarm reception by boxing fans. The new mantra of Golden Boy Promotions and those that are behind the purse strings at HBO is "to make fights that fans want to see" and "to match the best against the best".
While Hopkins and Wright are certainly two of the best fighters in boxing there is a lot about this fight that just doesn't make sense. Fights should be made for many reasons and I can't think of one good one as to why this one was made or why it matters.
Firstly, neither fighter has much of a fan base. Whenever either of them has been in a big fight it has been because they had an opponent in with them who was the real headliner and the real draw. Bernard Hopkins once defended his Middleweight title against Antwun Echols in Miami, Florida and less than 300 people bothered to show up.
All of Hopkins' big fights since then have come against opponents that have been responsible for selling the majority of the tickets. Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Antonio Tarver all sold the majority of the tickets when they fought Hopkins. Bernard may point to his fight against Howard Eastman in Los Angeles at the Staples Center as a ticket selling success, but many of the tickets for that bout were actually given away.
Same goes for Winky Wright. What is his fan base and when has he ever attracted large amounts of fans that come just to see him? Most of his fights, even the two against Shane Mosley, were fought inside half empty arenas. His fight against Sam Soliman in Connecticut had more empty chairs than a barroom at closing time. His fight against Jermain Taylor was also another empty seat festival. Like with Hopkins, it was Felix Trinidad that was responsible for the full house when Winky fought him in 2005.
Secondly, this fight is taking place in the middle of the brutally hot Las Vegas summer. Only a few creatures are in Vegas in July, scorpions and rattlesnakes. It is so hot in Vegas in July that your skin begins to sting after just a few minutes in the sun and you feel like a cat on a hot tin roof. Temperatures will be in the triple digits and many people avoid Vegas in the summer for the very reason that it is just too damn hot.
With Hopkins being from Philadelphia and Wright having been born in Washington, D.C. this fight is a natural for that area of the country. The fight would have been much more appealing were it being held in Philadelphia or 50 miles away on the beach in Atlantic City.
Thirdly, there is no title at stake in this fight and it is being fought at a catch-weight of 170 pounds. Say what you want about meaningless title belts, but one of the first questions a casual boxing fan will ask about a fight is who the champion is and what title they are fighting for. In this fight you would have to explain that even though the fight is on pay-per-view, neither one of them is an actual world titleholder nor is there a title at stake. It's also being fought at a weight that is make believe and not even a real weight class.
Lastly, neither one of these guys has a style that is crowd pleasing. At age 42, Hopkins is a safety first boxer who is content to figure out a way not to get hit. He's a guy that lives by the saying, "He who fights and runs away lives to fight another day". Truth be told, Hopkins hasn't looked like he really wants to fight anymore. The last person he knocked out was his business partner, Oscar De La Hoya, and that was with a kidney shot against a guy whose best days were at much lighter weights. Seven of Hopkins' last eight fights have gone the distance so to say he is a go getter would be a gross misrepresentation. Yes, the science of boxing is to hit and not get hit, but lately Hopkins as been interpreting that phrase to an absurd degree.
Same rule applies to the 35 year-old Winky Wright. While Richard Schaefer misspoke when he said Wright had been unbeaten for 10 years, he has been unbeaten since losing to Fernando Vargas in 1999. And of the thirteen fights Wright has fought since then only one ended in a knockout while another ended on a disqualification. Aside from that, every fight went the distance.
Both Hopkins and Wright are safety first boxers that don't take risks or chances. Neither fighter really wants to get hit or go toe-to-toe. While not every fight is going to be Arturo Gatti vs. Micky Ward, neither should they be ballet dance recitals either.
At the initial press conference, Bernard, as usual, did most of the talking. He said he was going "to solve the Winky Wright puzzle" and defeat him. He said that Wright only fought his "sloppy seconds" and because Hopkins fought Felix Trinidad and Jermain Taylor before Wright did that "I destroyed Trinidad and "Jermain Taylor hasn't been the same since he fought me," claimed Hopkins.
Even Bernard seems to know this fight is going to be a tough sell. He tried to goad Wright into a verbal exchange by asking, "How is a 42 year old man gonna' whoop your ass?" Then he went on to poke fun at himself when he said, "I even got a cane," meaning he is so old he needs it to help him walk. Try as he might to egg Wright on, Winky just sat at his table next to the Hopkins, smiled, shook his head, stared off into space and didn't say a word. Way to sell a fight Winky.
The problem with this fight is that there is no animosity between Hopkins and Wright. Neither guy really resonates with fans and neither fighter has anything to prove. If Hopkins wins it will be because he's Bernard Hopkins and win is what he's always done for the most part. If Wright wins then everybody will say it's because Bernard was an old man.
So, July 21st is not noteworthy for anything boxing related, but it is the day that the seventh Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows book is being released by author J.K. Rowling. Even though Richard Schaefer claims, "50% of the arena is sold already with $2 million worth of tickets," he really means that's the amount of tickets that the casinos in Las Vegas have bought so far.
Hopkins claims "I'm going to solve the puzzle of Winky Wright and I'm going to be right again."
While that may be the case, will anybody hear it?
05-16-2007, 01:41 PM
Hopkins is still a big strong guy compared to who Wright normally fights. Hop also roughed up a bigger stronger Taylor who has a jab as good as Wright.
Wright can outwork Hopkins, but is he strong enough to outlast the rough tactics? I'd favor Hopkins who likely has enough pop to hurt Wright. This is gonna be like Jack Johnson against Philly O'brien in terms of strengths and style.
What's killing boxing is PPV and age. Where have all the young guns gone? They ain't bein' developed so the public has no favorite to watch, plus these matches are taking place late Sat evenings when much of the public has other things going. I guess Oscar has to appease his partner Hopkins and put it on PPV, but when John Q Public goes flippin' through his channels Sat, he ain't gonna suddenly come on to this fight and say, "Hey, I've heard of Hopkins, let's see how he does?" No, he'll watch the HBO movie oblivious to this fight.
05-16-2007, 02:34 PM
Just what we need .... a one armed jabber and a guy that throws 20 punches a round coming off a long layoff ... it will be a boring fight. I would not pay $ 5.00 to see it and I respect both fighters.
05-16-2007, 06:04 PM
As I've stated before, this fight is going to TANK BIG TIME. HBO boxing should be shot for putting on a PPV fight with two over the hill fighters who are not know for their exciting styles (well I'll say Wright can be depending on the opponent in that respect b/c since Tito Bernard is boring against everybody) and neither of whom has a sizable fan-base. And what the hell was Hopkins thinking? . . . he could have gotten much more $ and accolades coming back to fight Calzaghe or even Kessler. No-one cares about this matchup b/c A) it will be boring B) it means nothing in the landscape of boxing . . . this is like Roy Jones Jr v Montell Griffith III.
Since this is a predicition thread, I'll go ahead and say Wright MD. Outworks the old guy.
05-17-2007, 03:01 AM
I agree this should not be a PPV. Unfortunalty I will be buying it...I can't help it I'm an addict.... and I am intrigued by the fight. I know it will not be a great fight, in fact both guys have the styles that say this will be a slow very technical chess match. But god help me I don't mind. I rather enjoy a good solid boxing match when I know that is what I can expect. And when it is fought a high level of talent it can be very entertaining.
When the level of expectation is so low from everyone you never know...you may be plesenlty surprised.
AS for a prediction I think Hopkins is too big for Wright. ALthough I see Wright coming at him and throwing at a higher rate than Hop., he's not a LT.Heavy. And Hopkins looked good at 175 lbs. against tarver.
05-17-2007, 05:43 AM
I'm looking forward to this fight. After what he did to tarver, I'm not betting against hopkins ever again. Too bad its in vegas. It would easily sell out in atlantic city. you have winky, who hasn't lost in 7 years vs kopkins, who's only lost to jermain taylor in the past 14 years. unfortunately, we are hyped out from the dlh/pbf extravaganza. This fight will fall way short of the hype no matter how many cities they visit. On the one hand, its great to see a no holds barred slugfest like hagler/hearns, buts its also interesting to see 2 masters of their craft playing physical chess in the ring without holding on for dear life..
My only complaint about the recent mayweather/delahoya match is both seemed to have plenty left in the gas tank. It just seemed like they didn't give it their all. After the fight, it was like business as usual for delahoya instead of being upset he lost. The smile also never left mayweathers face even though he couldn't put oscar away and got tagged more than he's ever been in any other fight.
That being said, winky and bernard both really hate to lose and I think at the end of the fight, they'll have given it their all.
05-17-2007, 05:50 AM
Hopkins a few years back I would have picked to win no doubt, but Winky is the fresher younger and busier man who I feel will outwork Hop to a boring decision
05-17-2007, 11:59 AM
Contrary to popular belief, I think this fight has 'slugging match' written all over it. I say both guys will go down but will get up a la Castillo-Corrales & Gatti-Ward to have even the pickiest of fans at the edge of their seat.
If anyone can give boxing the boost it needs it's definetely these 2 guys, for they like to duke it out in the trenches and go 'mano a mano', abandoning their game plan and strategy for the sake of thrilling the fans. You can't blame'em if this fight is PPV, these fighter are entertainers. They'll give you your money's worth, even it means getting or bruise or two along the way.
05-17-2007, 05:53 PM
Call me boring but I've been looking foward to this matchup for a long time. I think it will be an interesting chess match similar to that of Winky/Taylor. There is some potential for them to both fight a bit out of character since BHop is coming off such a big win and will want to impose himself as the bigger man. I'm hoping the 2 square of & treat us to some moments of good in-fighting. I have a feeling Winky will fight BHop much the same way he fought Taylor except he won't have to contend with jabs coming through the guard all night but he will face better precision & body shots.
BHop will hopefully not bother to be too mobile since I doubt he respects Winky's power & Winky isn't all that mobile either. Winky doesn't seem to respect anyone's power & I think he will be looking to make a statement in this fight. I'm not saying he will go for a KO that is not there but he will do his best to be sure to remind BHop that he is the younger & fresher boxer of the 2...
I don't like betting against BHop but I can't see him outworking Winky. He surprised everyone in the Tarver fight but that was a whole other story. On the other hand, Winky doesn't have enough pop to keep BHop honest all night so this may turn out to look very much like the Taylor/Winky fight after all. I am not sure how Winky will handle another 10lbs, I thought he looked as big as he could get at 160 but I thought he handled it very well. It will be a close fight & providing the extra 10lbs doesn't affect him late in the fight, I think Winky will get the nod.
05-24-2007, 04:14 PM
Hopkins vs. Wright: Business Transaction or Prize Fight?
By Doug Fischer from Max Boxing
Bernard Hopkins couldn’t have written a better ending to his wayward career eleven months ago in Atlantic City. Last June at the Boardwalk Hall, the former undisputed middleweight champ erased two very disputed losses to Jermain Taylor and added a degree of “pound-for-pound”-level achievement to his already historic 160-pound resume by soundly defeating the reigning light heavyweight champ Antonio Tarver over 12 masterful rounds.
It was the perfect conclusion to a hall-of-fame career that had been a long and winding journey for the former resident of the Graterford State Penitentiary in Pennsylvania. Hopkins, age 41, had once again denied Father Time, once again proved the experts wrong, and with the help of fitness guru Mackie Shilstone appeared to reinvent himself by building his once narrow frame into a statuesque 175-pound physique.
It was a perfect conclusion to a boxer’s career, even by Hollywood standards.
Hollywood, by the way, was the final stop of a six-city press tour to hype Hopkins’s July 21st showdown with former undisputed junior middleweight champ Ronald “Winky” Wright. The unlikely matchup, which will take place at a 170-pound catchweight, will be televised live on HBO Pay-Per-View from the Mandalay Bay resort & casino in Las Vegas.
Oh yeah, despite the story book ending to his last fight, despite a promise to his late mother that he would quit boxing before his 40th birthday, and despite a very active partnership role with Golden Boy Promotions, the promoter of the July 21st bout, you just knew that Hopkins was going to keep fighting.
Why? He’s a born fighter, and fighters will fight for as long as they are able to.
Hopkins, now 42 years old, is just as able bodied as any of the current world champions of the sport, some of whom are literally half his age, but he has a wealth of ring knowledge that rivals that of many of the game’s most respected trainers. So why quit?
The only dilemma facing Hopkins following the Tarver victory was finding a worthy opponent to fight. Taylor, who had fits trying to contain the ultra cagey veteran en route to two controversial decisions, had seen enough of the Philadelphia native’s old-school ring generalship. Overtures were made to both Roy Jones Jr. and Oleg Maskaev in hopes of securing a match that would capture the public’s imagination, however, Hopkins’s old-foe may actually rival him in terms of stubbornness and the Russian-born heavyweight titlist opted to stick to fighting guys his own size.
So, according to Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer, Hopkins had no choice but to call out a fellow veteran who has also been avoided by many of the sport’s elite fighters: Winky Wright, the former undisputed 154-pound champ who in recent years has twice bested his GBP partner Shane Mosley, shut-out Felix Trinidad and held Taylor to a controversial draw than many observers thought he deserved to win.
It can be argued that Wright, who holds a 51-3-1 record, dominated Trinidad more complete than Hopkins did and the Florida-based southpaw fought Taylor on more even terms than the aging middleweight champ did.
Maybe that’s why Hopkins, 47-4-1, sought a fight with Wright? Perhaps his fiery fighter’s ego was bruised by Wright’s shinning performances vs. his former foes.
Or perhaps, as some boxing writers have suggested, a showdown with Wright was merely convenient.
Perhaps the making of Hopkins vs. Wright was just a simple matter of business on the side of Golden Boy Promotions, which has a “strategic alliance” with Wright’s promotional entity Winky Promotions, and HBO, which has exclusive contracts with both fighters.
Truth be told, the first 30 to 40 minutes of the last stop on the Hopkins-Wright press tour, which took place at the swanky Cinegril inside the historic Hollywood Roosevelt Hotel yesterday afternoon, sounded more like a business seminar than a media conference for an upcoming prize fight.
The title to Hopkins-Wright is “Coming to Fight”, but for at least half an hour nobody mentioned the fight. All anyone at the podium talked about were the record numbers posted and revenue taken in by the Oscar De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather event earlier this month and the projected stats of the July 21st bout.
Schaefer let the assembled press know that over 5,000 tickets for Hopkins-Wright, which are priced from $100 to $850, have already been sold at the Mandalay Bay before quickly commenting on the “great partnership Golden Boy has with the MGM-Mirage group”. The former banker-turned-promoter introduced the guy who sells closed circuit venues for pay-per-view events, who let everyone know that a record 2,000 locations were sold for De La Hoya-Mayweather.
Schaefer talked about the many corporate sponsors of May 5th, July 21st, and all of Golden Boy’s big fights – Rockstar energy drink, Southwest airlines, Tecate beer, and a large Hispanic phone card company. In-between the usual corporate back-slapping between promotional company, network and venue representatives, Schaefer went on and on about – the fight? – no, business.
By the time the “brand manager” of Tecate was introduced and got up to discuss the various marketing strategies the Mexican beer company has involved in this and every Golden Boy event, the press conference had officially taken on the feel of a stock holder meeting.
Thank goodness HBO Pay-Per-View’s Tony Walker brought the focus back to the fighters when it was his turn to speak at the podium.
“They both love the big challenge,” Walker said of Hopkins and Wright (before thanking the reps of the host casino and DirecTV, and then letting the press know that the July 21st show will be available in 60 million homes for a suggested price of $49.95).
Walker is correct. Despite Hopkins’s current business interests and the future business ventures that Wright hopes to be involved in, both veterans are among the few remaining elite-level boxers who are willing to fight anyone, anywhere, any time.
Both were avoided for most of their careers, which began in 1990 (Hopkins actually turned pro in late ’88, lost his debut, took ’89 off and began his career in earnest the following year).
The real story of this showdown is not the fight itself, but rather the fact that Hopkins and Wright are in the position they are in today. The fact that both fighters are now staples of HBO’s boxing programming, fight for seven-figure minimums, and now face each other on a pay-per-view main event is a testament to the incredible perseverance that both men possess.
For most of their careers, they were on the outside looking in. Now, they are not only inside the Ivory Tower, they sit at the table with the rest of the lords.
Hopkins was once a maverick of the sport, a tireless rabble rouser outside of the ring who was diabolically crafty in it. Promoters and managers viewed him as much of a threat as fellow 160-pound title holders and contenders. Wright was an outcast, a tough guy technician with an impenetrable defense, boxing’s version of the immovable object. His high guard, piston-like jab, and penchant for distance fights made him the bane of matchmakers, network executives as well as his fellow fighters.
Wright asked the assembled media not to “hate” on his defensive style or the ring generalship of his opponent.
“People are sayin’ that both of us are defensive fighters,” Wright said. “No, both of us are smart fighters. We know how to win. [That’s why we’ve had] longevity. I’ve been a pro since 1990 and I did that ‘cause I’m smart.
“I don’t want to be out here like some of these fighters who can’t talk or their faces are rearranged. I’m trying to do some other things after boxing, so I got to block a lot of shots.”
Hopkins, ever the predator, immediately jumped on the opportunity to scrutinize Wright’s words, hoping, as always, to gain some kind of psychological edge:
“Sometimes you listen to a person and you know where his heart is at, where his mind is at,” Hopkins said. “He said that he don’t want to look like this; his face don’t want to be rearranged.
“Well, Winky, out of all the fights you have and all the years you been boxing, I hate to break this news to you but I’m in the hurt business and I get paid to get my nose bloodied, sometimes. I get paid to have my eye – sometimes in a fight – get swollen. But it doesn’t bother me because I know what I’m in this thing for.
“So if you have that one doubt in your head that you don’t want to do this or you don’t want to do that because [of that doubt] that all gonna change come July 21st.
“He said it! I didn’t. I’m going by what his first heart instinct said.
“I seen something. I felt something today and I’m going to bring it out of him.”
With that said, Hopkins launched into his oft-repeated rant about being cast as the underdog, not only in boxing but in life, and overcoming those odds – from five years in prison to the many lawsuits against managers and promoters to bigtime prize fights in recent years, the last one being his bout vs. Tarver.
“You see him now,” he said of Wright, “take a good look. You won’t see him again.”
Hopkins then pulled out a milk carton with a picture of Tarver on it.
“This is what happens to guys who fight Bernard Hopkins.
“[This is] what happened to the guy who got the titles but lost his career. I ruined Jermain Taylor.”
Wright shook his head at that statement, “I ruined him.”
“You got my seconds,” Hopkins said. “You put the finishing touches on him. I’ll give you that. But bottom line, if you run it down, Tito haven’t been right [since I fought him]. Antwun Echols, you never heard of him, a big puncher in the middleweight division, [and] Robert Allen, [I fought him] three times and he was done. Maybe they get lucky, maybe they go 12 rounds if they can take it but they gonna lose something in their career.
“Come July 21, [Wright’s] gonna be with his friend [Tarver] on a milk carton.”
The milk carton shtick led to a lively stare down for the photographers.
Holding his right hand close to Wright’s smiling face, Hopkins told his foe that there is no secret to his strategy for their fight.
“I’m going to land this all night, you’re going to eat it like the PacMan game,” he said. “I’m going to beat you up and knock you out.”
“Bet on it, then!” Wright snapped back. “It’s never happened and it never will.”
“I’m going to ruin your career,” Hopkins told Wright.
“I’m going to end yours,” Wright replied.
The tough talk in front of the media this past Tuesday makes one hopeful that the fighters will remember to bring the hurt business to the business of their July 21st event.
05-24-2007, 06:39 PM
I predict that many will be sound asleep some time during the ring walks.
The best thing this fight has going for it is the age and heart of these guys, imo. They are both still technically sound and as someone pointed out earlier, I wouldn't at all be surprised if the boxing match turned into a brawl. I can see that sort of escalation as a result of these guys wanting immediate retribution for anything landed on them.
Because of this, I'm going with Hopkins by UD12 and Winky has at least three definitive strolls down Queer St., maybe not on the canvas but damned close.
05-25-2007, 09:48 AM
Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright – It’s No Joke
By Dave Sholler from Boxing Scene
As they creep toward the age of 40, some fighters lose their speed and reaction time. Others just struggle to maintain a semblance of their old in-ring self.
Don’t count Bernard Hopkins as one of them though.
Judging by his demeanor at Tuesday’s kickoff conference in New York for his July 21 bout with southpaw Winky Wright, Hopkins, 42, hasn’t lost a step. Speaking in his well-known confident tone, Hopkins controlled the room using his usual antics, the same way he did before his 2006 bout with Antonio Tarver in Atlantic City.
Just like last June, some questioned Bernard’s ability to perform past age 40 at the conference Tuesday. Regardless of their skepticism regarding his in-ring abilities now though, no one could deny that Bernard is still a performer. One that seems to always have the first AND last laugh.
“History shows you’re only as good as your last fight,” Hopkins said at the conference. “And look at my last fight. I crushed Antonio Tarver.”
“All you (Winky) are is a Twinkie,” he added, pulling out one of the sweet treats and squeezing the filling out of it. “Winky’s a Twinkie.”
While he’s no Bernie Mac or Dane Cook, Hopkins certainly has a knack for getting his point across in a comedic manner and Tuesday was no different. However, July 21 will be a serious challenge for Hopkins. Wright is a polished boxer, one who causes opponents’ fits by effectively using his jab and relying on accurate counter punching. Wright, normally a quiet, “see me in the ring” type, had counters for Hopkins’ jokes, too.
“All you are is a boogeyman,” Wright said to Hopkins. “And after July 21, the boogeyman will rest. Nobody’s got to be scared of the boogeyman anymore.”
Even though the war of words between the two leading up to July 21 will continue to be entertaining, the dissection of the meat and potatoes of the fight is one that is all business. Whether they admit it or not, both fighters are aware of the skills one another possess and will have to be cautious in their preparation. For Hopkins, he has to try to work around Wright’s jab and use his size, much like he did against Oscar De La Hoya. For Wright, he needs to be a pest - similar to the way he was in his bout with Jermain Taylor - and force Hopkins to deviate from his game plan.
With two months to go before fight night, this bout may prove to follow the De La Hoya-Mayweather technical, sweet science mold. Hopkins himself admitted that he’s looking to take a page out of Sugar Ray Robinson’s book by out working and out styling Wright. Both hinted though, that there may be a glimpse of a brutal, Arturo Gatti-style fight.
“I’ll never back down,” Wright said. “I’ve never been scared and I’ll never be scared.”
Hopkins concurred, adding his usual flavor.
“Come July 21, Winky Wright will be no more,” Hopkins said. “Anyone who’s got something against Winky, no worries. As of July 21, Winky Wright is over. I’m 42 years old and I’m going to whoop his ass.”
It’s only May and the battle has begun. Which fighter will be laughing on July 21 remains to be seen.
06-27-2007, 10:55 AM
Hopkins getting ready for Wright on the left coast
By Robert Morales
To say Bernard Hopkins has the gift of gab would be like saying the Yankees have baseball's richest tradition. Both go without saying. Hopkins was at his entertaining best last Thursday at Freddie Roach's Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, where Roach is training Hopkins for his 170-pound fight against Winky Wright on July 21 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. HBO pay-per-view will televise for $49.95.
After several rounds of crunching the hand mitts held by the hard-working Roach, Hopkins began to shadow box in the middle of the ring. Moving with the grace most fighters only dream of, the 42-year-old living legend began to field questions from reporters draped along the ropes.
Hopkins is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions. Its CEO, Richard Schaefer, had just told yours truly that Hopkins' goal is to knock out Wright. Schaefer admitted that is not going to be easy, considering Wright might be second only to Floyd Mayweather Jr. as far as defensive greatness. So we asked Hopkins how he was going to go about knocking out Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs), who has never been stopped in 55 fights.
“Well, you gotta hit him to knock him out, right?” Hopkins said, as he glared at this reporter, like only he can glare. “You want to know my plan? You know I'm smarter than that.”
Hopkins was just getting started. He then walked over toward the ropes to make sure we all knew exactly where he was coming from.
“Listen, in any history of battle, you're a fool if you give up your plan before you do it,” Hopkins said. “When I sit down and play chess – which I'm very good at; I'm not saying I'm the best, but I could probably beat 80 percent of the people in here – it's a thinking game. I may want to sacrifice my bishop to set you up for what I want to do. And you think I'm giving you something. I'm not giving you nothing.
“I might drop my left hand for Winky to throw that jab because I want to come over there and do a lot of other things that you all haven't seen nobody do to Winky. His style fits like a perfect shoe. I wear a 12.”
Then Hopkins got even closer, just to make sure he got his point across. “You've been watching me for so many years,” he said. “I dissect guys. I figure out puzzles within seconds. You've seen me figure out these things. You've seen me pick a guy apart, destroy him. So Winky is no different.”
Having stopped working for a minute while he tried to get through to us, it was time for Hopkins to get the blood flowing again in those middle-aged veins.
“When you're 42, you can't talk too much,” Hopkins said. “You gotta keep working When I stop, I freeze. I gotta keep moving.”
That prompted another reporter to ask Hopkins what, at 42, doesn't work as well on his body. His answer shocked the house, and brought roars of laughter.
“My penis,” Hopkins said. “But they got doctors for that. I got a great doctor.
Seriously, it doesn't work like it used to.” Uh, OK. Let's just put that in the “too much information” file.
Anyway, Hopkins was also asked why he continues to fight even though he had promised the world he was going to retire and stay retired after he moved up to light heavyweight last June and won a unanimous decision over Antonio Tarver in dominating fashion in Atlantic City.
Hopkins gave no answer. Just ignored the question. But Roach, during a telephone interview Tuesday, offered his opinion on the matter.
“Boxing is a very addicting sport,” Roach said. “It is very hard to quit. His last fight was a very good performance, so he is still on top of the game, even at 42. He has discipline, just in life in general. He never lets himself go. He stays within striking distance, where he can still compete at that level.”
Hopkins, perhaps one of the best middleweights in history, also remains a formidable foe because he has never been truly battered in a fight. He is 47-4-1 with 32 knockouts. Two of his losses were via decision to Jermain Taylor, and he did more damage to Taylor than Taylor did to him.
Hopkins also lost a decision to Roy Jones Jr. way back in May 1993, but he certainly was not knocked silly in that one. Hopkins was floored twice during a draw with Segundo Mercado in a December 1994 battle for one of the vacant middleweight belts. Proving his mettle, Hopkins stopped Mercado in the seventh round five months later to win that title.
“He is not an old 42,” Roach said. “Forty-two, in numbers, that might sound old. But how many wars has he really been in? And how many beatings has he taken? Not any, that I know of. He is actually a fresh 42. In boxing, age comes with how many wars you've had and how many tough fights you've had.”
Robert Morales can be reached at email@example.com
06-27-2007, 09:47 PM
I'm a Winky Wright fan.Have been for years.Told everyone if he got the chance he would take down all the big names.
07-18-2007, 09:28 AM
Hopkins & Wright will be coming to fight
By Robert Morales
There we were, a group of reporters sitting at a table during the social hour phase of Bernard Hopkins’ retirement party last September in a banquet room at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
To a man, including HBO commentator Jim Lampley, no one could remember a stronger closing statement than the one Hopkins made when he moved up from middleweight to light heavyweight and defeated Antonio Tarver in dominating fashion in June 2006. Hopkins won by three scores of 118-109, and he scored a knockdown in the fifth round when Tarver’s glove touched the canvas after he was cracked with a right cross.
There were more than a few of us experts who figured Hopkins bit off more than he could chew when he decided to take on Tarver, one of the better light heavyweights in recent times.
But Hopkins won easily. Then he retired and promised he would never come back.
Prior to beating Tarver, Hopkins’ legacy was that of one of the best middleweights in history. Beating Tarver helped that legacy grow legs, and left some shaking their heads in amazement.
However, if Hopkins loses to Winky Wright on Saturday at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, he will have taken some of the luster off what could have been the most compelling exit in boxing history.
It’s seldom that an athlete gets an opportunity to leave his or her sport in such a way.
But Hopkins is not only a rare physical breed, he’s a rare psychological specimen as well. He might have something to lose, but that doesn’t scare him.
During the promotion for Saturday’s fight, Hopkins was asked why he decided not to let the victory over Tarver stand and sail off into the sunset to the applause of so many. As Hopkins does, he embarked on one of his long, drawn-out answers. But the long and not-so-short of it was, he’s too good to go.
He said that after consulting family and friends, he asked himself three things: “How do I look, how do I feel and what do I have left?”
As tempting as it was to stay retired, Hopkins simply could not do it.
“Why tease myself and leave?” Hopkins said. “Yes, for others it (the win over Tarver) was a great outing. Yes, for others it was perfect, it was the perfect ending. But I have to feel comfortable and I have to be in the position where I say to myself, five years from now when I won’t be back, three years from now when I won’t be back … I have to be able to sit back and say to myself, well into my 40s, and say that I was satisfied completely with my career to the end.”
Hopkins is 42. He believes that people should “enjoy me while you can.” That fencing technique that he does so well, moving back and forth with the greatest of ease, his demeanor calm and collected.
“Let’s face it, he’s not your usual fighter,” Hopkins’ trainer, Freddie Roach, said.
“He’s very smart. He thinks, he sets things up.”
Roach referred to Hopkins as a “throwback,” unlike Roy Jones Jr., who, Roach said, got by on his athletic abilities alone.
“Bernard Hopkins knows the art of boxing,” Roach said. “He doesn’t make mistakes.
You should watch him shadow box. His feet are always under him. He’s always on balance. His chin’s always down. He’s just very, very well-rounded. He reminds me of just an old-school fighter. Yes, he’s a rare breed, that’s for sure.”
We did recently watch Hopkins shadow box at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. If Walter Payton was “Sweetness,” Hopkins is “Smoothness.”
As for Saturday, let’s face it, Hopkins will be in a tough fight with Wright. But Hopkins pointed out something very interesting that perhaps some of us never thought about. He was asked if, at his age, he has to pace himself a bit more these days. On the contrary, he said. He found that moving up to light heavyweight was just what the doctor ordered. In his fight with Tarver, he said he didn’t have to hold back to make sure he had something left at the end.
“The blueprint is June 10, 2006,” Hopkins said, referring to the Tarver fight. “I came out blazing, came out boxed and fought every round … One of the reasons I’m back is because I found a new body.”
One that now sports a waist of 30 to 31 inches instead of the 28 it was when Hopkins was at middleweight.
“It feels so great that now I can step back on a gas pedal and not have to worry about, you know, I’m going to take him to deep water, I’m going to get him here and I’ll pick my spots here. I can go full blaze.”
Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs) and his trainer, Dan Birmingham, have said that they are going to go after Hopkins and make him fight every second of every round. With his new 42-year-old body and his always strong psyche, Hopkins wants Wright to bring it on.
“If you believe what Winky says, he’s coming right after Bernard Hopkins, then trust me, you will see come July 21 that I’ll have a high (punch count),” Hopkins said.
Hopkins has always talked a lot. But he has usually backed up his talk with a victory, as his record of 47-4-1 and 32 knockouts attests. Besides, after what Hopkins did to Tarver, it’s hard not to believe everything he says.
Regardless of what happens Saturday, Hopkins should be saluted for taking a chance at reducing the magnitude of his victory over Tarver by going after one against the 35-year-old Wright.
Interestingly, according to Oscar De La Hoya, we may be watching Hopkins fight for a couple of more years. De La Hoya promotes Hopkins under the Golden Boy Promotions banner.
“With Hopkins’ dominating performance (against Tarver), and him knowing that he can still do this, and he feels young and fresh, there’s many more fights out there for him, there’s many more big events that he can be involved in,” De La Hoya said. “I think he’s really re-motivated and really looking just to stay on top for years to come.”
Hopkins will be defending his Ring Magazine belt at a catch-weight of 170 pounds, five under the light heavyweight limit. HBO pay-per-view will televise for $49.95.
Robert Morales can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
07-18-2007, 09:49 AM
I suspect all Hops did to Tarver was show up his newfound Hollywood legs and timing.
Tarver could always be outboxed anyways. Wright has a good work rate, rapier jab, and is strong enough not to be intimidated by Hopkin's grappling and rough stuff. Gonna pick Wright in a fight that should be more interesting than it appears on paper.
07-18-2007, 11:29 AM
I have to admit, HBO's always well produced Countdown show got me more intrigued about this fight.
Still not buying it though.
07-18-2007, 11:46 AM
BTW, I know back in May I was picking Hops, but the more I thought about what Tarver's lifestyle had turned into, it seems more like Tarver was ripe low hanging fruit than Hops turning around his basic style or finding new life.
So, Wright has the better style and youth advantages and I don't think Hops is much stronger.
07-18-2007, 09:32 PM
I have to admit, HBO's always well produced Countdown show got me more intrigued about this fight.
Still not buying it though.
You hit the nail on the head. HBO does almost perfect Countdown/hype shows.
In reality, boxing doesn't need Bernard Hopkins. Bernard Hopkins needs boxing.
07-18-2007, 11:15 PM
Has there ever been a PPV bout where no punches were thrown?
Not that I know of..
But Saturday and this fight hasn't happened yet.
07-19-2007, 02:01 AM
this one spells STINKER. no way i pay.
07-19-2007, 06:54 PM
Decent card but $49.95? I figured it would be a little lower.
07-19-2007, 09:03 PM
this one spells STINKER. no way i pay.
This fight will be like The Mama's & The Papa's following Hendrix & The Who at The Monterey Pop Festival. We've had some uplifting fights with Williams - Margarito & Cotto - Judah, not to mention Pavlik - Miranda.
Now comes the letdown.
07-20-2007, 01:25 AM
Does anyone really think Wright has a chance? I don't. A one sided boring fight. No knock downs, no knock out, no nothing. Not worth the money.
07-20-2007, 02:00 AM
I really don't like the fact he's fighting at 170 but I'm leaning towards Wright honestly. I don't think BHop will be active enough to make Winky look bad. The last time BHop saw a jab even somewhat close was Taylor & we know how well he did in that fight. I think Winky will only offset his gameplan more. This is not a listless Tarver with a jab thrown when he feels like it. Wright will come forward all night and force BHop to fight outside of his comfort zone. The Tarver he faced was tailor made for him that night & that will not be Winky in any shape or form.
07-20-2007, 11:45 AM
B-Hop Aging Like Fine Wine
By Bernard Fernandez from Max Boxing
Nature or nurture? Tastes great or less filling? Is it live or is it Memorex?
There are many possible answers why some elite athletes can not only survive into their 40s, but prosper. It can be as simple as an accident of birth. It can be as complex as scientific treatises on the human body and what it is capable of performing under extreme duress. It can be some combination of innate talent, good genes and a high pain threshold.
Sometime in the distant future, when Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins succumbs to his final opponent, death, it’s a pretty safe bet that scholarly researchers in the field of physiology will want to examine the cadaver to determine just what it was, exactly, that made him such an anomaly.
Even the 42-year-old Hopkins – rated the sixth-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in the current edition of The Ring magazine – is curious as to what has kept him going so long at such a high level of productivity. It can’t all be because he claims to have gone 20 years without eating a cookie or a doughnut, although, if true, that probably qualifies him for a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records, or maybe Ripley’s Believe It or Not.
“I’m seriously thinking about taking a test on my DNA,” said Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs), who puts his Ring light heavyweight championship belt on the line against Winky Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs) tomorrow night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. “In the course of Bernard Hopkins being born, something slipped inside my system that helped me to get to where I’m at.
“When you’re young, you eat the bad foods, the candy bars and stuff like that. But I think it comes all the way back to genetics, and taking care of yourself. You have to understand the physical part of the sport to be able to give yourself your best chance to win. That means training hard and living right.”
There is a school of thought, evidently subscribed to by Wright, that Hopkins’ lengthy run as one of the best fighters on the planet must be nearing an end because, well, his birth certificate mandates it. Calendars don’t lie, even if aging fighters reflexively attempt to shield themselves from certain harsh truths. Sure, Hopkins might have the body of a 25-year-old – an extremely fit 25-year-old – but nobody goes on forever, particularly in a sport where some practicioners (like, say, fellow Philadelphians Meldrick Taylor and David Reid) find themselves on the downsides of their careers while still in their 20s.
When Wright – no spring chicken himself at 35 -- looks at B-Hop, he sees what a lot of doubters see: an old man who should have stayed retired after he trounced Antonio Tarver in his “farewell” bout of June 10, 2006.
“You ain’t never seen Bernard’s face all swole up – yet. You ain’t never see Bernard beat up – yet,” Wright said. “But on July 21, it’s going to happen.
“Maybe he should have stayed retired. After this fight, he’s going to know he should have stayed retired.”
Or maybe Hopkins will continue to roll on, like the mighty Mississippi, accepting and winning high-profile fights into his mid-40s because, by dint of his unmatched work ethic and some rare and mysterious gift other fighters don’t receive, he is as resistant to the laws of diminishing returns as it ever gets in boxing.
Given what he has been and very well still might be even at his advanced age, it wouldn’t be a shock if Hopkins were to go down in history as the most accomplished boxer ever to step inside the ropes beyond his 40th birthday.
The incomparable Sugar Ray Robinson? Yes, Robinson soldiered on until he was 44, but he captured the last of his astounding six middleweight championships, on a split decision over Carmen Basilio in 1958, when the most superb fighting machine that ever drew breath was a relatively spry 37. For the last seven years of his career the original and best Sugar Ray mostly was a mere shadow of his former self, only occasionally capable of summoning flashes of the old magic.
Archie Moore? No doubt, the “Old Mongoose” – who was 49 at the time of his retirement from boxing in 1963 -- was a rare breed, winning or defending the light heavyweight title nine times while in his 40s. But even Moore’s familiar luminescence was flickering badly in the latter stages of his career.
George Foreman? Hey, Foreman’s second reign as heavyweight champion came at the improbable age of 45, when he dispatched Michael Moorer with a single, crushing overhand right in 1994, but then punching power is the last attribute any fighter yields to the ravages of time. Besides, Big George – who claimed to be on a “See Food” diet (he ate everything he saw) – was hardly anorexic in his dining habits. During his comeback following a 10-year retirement from boxing, the George Foreman we all came to know and love might not have been able to go 20 minutes without a doughnut, much less 20 years.
So perhaps the fortysomethings against whom Hopkins is most accurately gauged are not other fighters, but golden oldies in different sports such as pitchers Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens and wide receiver Jerry Rice.
In one of those Top 20 lists that are such a staple of ESPN Classic’s programming, the sixth and seventh no-hitters thrown by Ryan – a power pitcher for all of his 27 major league seasons – while in his 40s took the top spot. Roger Clemens going 18-4 with a 2.98 earned run average and winning his seventh Cy Young Award in 2004, at 42, was No. 2, and Rice catching 92 passes for 1,211 yards and being named to his 13th Pro Bowl in 2002, at 40, was No. 5.
The only boxing feat to earn a mention was Foreman’s whacking of Moorer, at No. 3. Hopkins’ total domination of Tarver, then widely recognized as the premier light heavyweight, presumably would have drawn an honorable mention, had there been such a thing.
Hopkins doesn’t mind being compared to standouts in other sports – he is an admirer of Rice, another renowned workout warrior – but he said the role model he patterned himself after is a similarly special middleweight with six-pack abs and a dedication to conditioning that bordered on the fanatical.
“Early in my career, I made the decision to never do anything that would prevent me from giving myself my best chance to win,” said Hopkins, who for five weeks trained at the Wild Card Gym in Los Angeles with new chief second Freddie Roach. “That’s a real powerful statement. I got up at 4:30 a.m. – on my own, with no alarm clock -- to run those (southern California) hills. That is the profound discipline I have followed over the last 15 or 20 years.
“I love Jerry Rice, but the guy whose book I took a page out of was the great Marvelous Marvin Hagler. He always came in great shape and he never had an excuse. Nobody ever expected him to NOT come in shape.
“Hagler was the most disciplined fighter of his era. I remember watching Marvin Hagler against a young, strong guy like John `The Beast’ Mugabi. They went at it for 11 hard rounds, but it was conditioning, experience and who wanted it the most that won that fight for Hagler. He’s the one I took my work habits from.”
Whatever the inspiration, Hopkins’ work habits are exemplary to the point of taking on an air of historical perspective. Two of the most respected leaders in the once-revolutionary field of sports medicine, Mackie Shilstone and Pat Croce, consider Hopkins a leading example of what can happen when a freakish physical capacity – a glitch, Shilstone calls it – combines with a driving desire to excel.
“I’ve dealt with 3,000 world-class athletes,” said Shilstone, the New Orleans-based conditioning guru whose list of boxing clients has included Michael Spinks, Roy Jones Jr. and Hopkins, whom he helped gain weight the proper way for bouts in higher weight classes, and heavyweight Riddick Bowe, whom he helped to take excess weight off. “Probably Roy Jones had the best innate skill set. (Baseball Hall of Fame shortstop) Ozzie Smith had the best reactions. And Bernard Hopkins, without question, has the greatest discipline. Bernard Hopkins can outcondition anyone.”
So is Hopkins one of those so-called “freaks of nature” that you sometimes hear about? Someone who emerged from the gene pool dripping with physical advantages?
“I wouldn’t exactly call it that,” said Shilstone, who helped Hopkins bulk up for the Tarver fight but declined an offer to be involved in the preparations for Wright because, he said, the matchup did not excite him. “But Bernard has a gift. Some would call it a glitch in his physical makeup. I’ve read research studies on (soccer’s) Mia Hamm and (cycling’s) Lance Armstrong. They had physiological glitches, if you will. That kind of glitch does exist. I know it. I can see it.
“But even elite athletes can fail to nurture that gift. It can go out the window if you don’t work at it.”
The relentlessly upbeat Croce is perhaps best known as being a former minority owner and team president of the Philadelphia 76ers during their run to the NBA Finals in the 2000-01 season. But he made his fortune as the perpetual motion machine behind Sports Physical Therapists, which he founded in 1984, expanded into a chain of 40 fitness centers and sold in 1993 for $40 million.
Unlike Shilstone, whom he lauds as another “pioneer” in the field of sports medicine, Croce said there is such a thing as a freak of nature.
“Look at Allen Iverson,” he said of the longtime Sixers superstar (now with the Denver Nuggets) whose disdain for practice nearly matched the boundless energy he always brought to game night. “He’s a prime example. He really is a physical freak. For 11 years he’s been a great basketball player and at no time did he ever do much in the way of conditioning.
“On the other hand, you have guys like Jerry Rice and Michael Jordan. Jordan used to have something called the `Breakfast Club.’ Every morning he and other athletes would work out to the point where everyone else was utterly exhausted, but Jordan could still go on.
“Usually, (great athletes) are the product of genetics and conditioning. I always used to tell Allen, `You have no idea how great you could be if you physically prepared the way you need to.’”
Croce said the three best-conditioned athletes with whom he worked -- Mike Schmidt, Julius Erving and Bobby Clarke – are Philly legends for a reason. All are in their respective sport’s Hall of Fame.
“Mike Schmidt trained so hard that when he got the 1980 MVP he thanked me as one of the people who helped take him to that level,” Croce recalled. “He didn’t know what his body could tolerate until he pushed it beyond the normal boundaries of baseball.
“Dr. J would train extremely hard. Bobby Clarke, too. All three of those guys were willing to pay the price for greatness. It’s not just how much time you devote to practicing your sport. They also put the time in with me.
“Some of the stuff I did I took from the Russians because they were kicking the United States’ ass (in international competitions) at the time. They were so far advanced in things like biometrics, diet, nutrition and rest/work intervals. We weren’t doing any of that here. But now science has become a part of general training principles.”
And his thoughts on Bernard Hopkins?
“I don’t know him, but I wish I did because I’m a big fan of his,” Croce said. “Not just because he’s from Philly and he’s a stone-cold killer, but because I love the way he trains.”
Even Croce, who keeps tabs on premier athletes with gonzo training regimens, hadn’t heard of Hopkins’ two-decade no-doughnut and no-cookie fast. (B-Hop now admits to having had a dessert or two during his monitored climb from middleweight to light heavyweight.)
“Oh, my goodness,” Croce said. “You want to talk about mental fortitude and discipline? Come on. Who can compete with that? That’s amazing.
“But that gets back to what I’m talking about. Guys like Hopkins, you have to marvel at their cardiovascular capacity. It’s also their mental capacity. The best of the best push themselves to an anerobic threshold. There’s a level at which your body produces lactic acid. You begin to feel nauseous, which is when you see people give up.
“For truly elite athletes, though, three things happen. They train in such a way that the lactic acid builds up more slowly. They tolerate lactic acid longer and they dissipate lactic acid more quickly. As they result, they rebound faster and they can tolerate pain better. They’re able to perform at high levels of intense activity for longer periods of time.”
This sort of stuff can fill books, and it has. Not that Hopkins needs to read about all the equations and the formulas that go into explaining why he is what he is. He does what he feels he has to do every day and that’s that. The rest is just details.
“If you can do it with pride and do it with dignity, if you can do it without embarrassing yourself, your family and your sport, fight on, fight on, fight on,” he said of an extended prime he gauges can last another three years.
“Not everyone has that luxury. I’m blessed, man. I’m unique, I’m rare and I’m special.”
07-20-2007, 11:47 AM
Hopkins and Wright - Hitting you with Science
By David A. Avila from Sweet Science
Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright could easily be professors of physics instead of two of the most scientific boxers in the last 15 years.
But geography plays a big part in a man’s future whether it’s the cushy well-manicured lawns of Bel Air or the steamy sewers of Washington D.C. Where a person grows up can have a big impact.
Hopkins barely escaped the hard streets of Philadelphia including stints in juvenile detention centers and ultimately state prison.
Wright found himself in St. Petersburg, Florida where the only recreational outlet was a local boxing gym around the corner.
Now after years of exhibiting technical fighting skills with few peers, Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs) and Hopkins meet for the Ring Magazine light heavyweight title at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino on Saturday July 21. The contest will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.
Hopkins doesn’t feel Wright is on equal footing with himself.
“Winky Wright used to be a boxer. Winky Wright used to move from side to side, box you, box you, box you,” said Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) during a telephone press conference. “In the last say, five plus years or whatever, Winky Wright has adopted a (standup) style because of his balance, which is terrible.”
On two occasions Hopkins, 42, almost retired, but after dismantling former light heavyweight titleholder Antonio Tarver a year ago he decided he had too much left physically to simply stop boxing.
A fastidious athlete who does not eat junk food, party or let his weight fluctuate, Hopkins looked around for challenges and found Wright who many boxing fans feel is the most scientifically accomplished in the sport.
Hopkins scoffs at those assessments.
“Two people in boxing have the worse balance and the worse stance in boxing where they want to just hit you but not hurt you, and that’s why their knockout rates are so low, that is Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright,” professes Hopkins. “It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at Winky and see what he does.”
For the last month Hopkins has been training at the Wild Card Boxing Club in Hollywood under the tutelage of Freddie Roach. One other trainer is also helping and that’s former foe John David Jackson who fought from a southpaw stance like Wright.
A slew of southpaw sparring partners have been giving Hopkins round after round of punches coming from a left-hander. The Philadelphia fighter is quite confident that he’ll be able to figure out Wright’s left-handed style that twice confused Shane Mosley, befuddled Felix Trinidad and dominated Ike Quartey.
“He’s not the slickest southpaw that I’ve fought, I fought many of them. I think I got nine knockouts out of 10,” says Hopkins of his next opponent Wright. “I’ve got one of the slickest southpaws ever in my camp. He’s (Jackson) my second trainer.”
Hopkins beat his trainer Jackson 10 years ago winning by TKO in the seventh round.
Florida’s Wright has emerged from the dog pile of talented but obscured fighters whose style proves too puzzling for elite fighters to untangle. Now the former junior middleweight champion wants to prove his mettle against another defensive specialist much like himself.
“If I beat all the best fighters around my weight class then you can’t say nothing but I’m the best fighter of my own era,” says Wright, 35, who claims his true fighting weight remains 154 pounds and he is jumping up to the 175-pound limit for this fight only. “I feel I earned my place in boxing history.”
Fighting as a southpaw, Wright’s right hand is his true power hand, not his left, and he uses it to ram his jab to the face of his opponents and rattle their thinking processes. Mosley faced that jab two times and made a big adjustment in the second fight but came out a little behind.
“His jab hits you high on the forehead,” said Mosley.
The last four opponents have found Wright more stationary than usual including middleweight champion Jermain Taylor who barely kept his title when they fought last year. Instead of boxing and moving Wright simply bored into his opponents behind that stiff pumping jab.
“I just want to change it up and be more forward and an inside fighter so fans can be more excited,” said Wright adding that the television networks told him his former style was unexciting. “It (his new style) has enabled me to get closer and hit them to the body.”
A battle between two pure scientific fighters is expected. Something akin to Albert Einstein pitting his brain against Enrico Fermi in a battle of big brains.
Hopkins scoffs at any comparison with Wright.
“Winky Wright has the ability to absorb a lot of punishment,” Hopkins insists. “I will never stop punching. His face will change from round one, to round two, to round three, to whenever his corner and the referee feels he’s had enough.”
Wright claims he’s heard it all before but one thing keeps him motivated for this and every subsequent fight in the future: “It’s definitely important for me to be in the Hall of Fame.”
The winner of this fight can definitely claim a spot on that geographic location.
Two other interesting fight cards will also be on display on the July 21st fight card including Australia’s hard-hitting Michael Katsidis facing Filipino Czar Amonsot in a lightweight bout for the WBO interim title.
Another feature bout showcases former world champion Oscar Larios meeting Venezuela’s young bomber Jorge Linares in a featherweight contest for the interim WBC title.
Also on the fight card will be Demetrius Hopkins, Librado Andrade and Rock Allen. It’s a pretty talented bunch of fighters on display.
Andrade meets New York veteran Ross Thompson in a super middleweight bout scheduled for 10 rounds.
“I know he’s experienced and a good fighter,” said Andrade moments before leaving the La Habra Boxing Club for Las Vegas on Wednesday. “It’s a good fight for me and it’s on television.”
07-20-2007, 03:09 PM
Hopkins-Wright: Their Fight, Words and Legacies
By Cliff Rold
Perception is not always reality.
In an excellent match-up, current Ring Magazine light heavyweight titlist and former middleweight emperor Bernard Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KO) of Philadelphia knows it. So too does his opponent this Saturday night at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, former World jr. middleweight king Ronald “Winky” Wright (51-3-1, 25 KO, #1 contender at middleweight) of St. Petersburg, Florida.
They know because, heading into this pay-per-view showdown, they are confronted by a sizable base of fans and pundits who don’t think much of their pending contest. Skeptics look at their age and technical competence, coming away with a single expectation: boredom. It’s the first time I can recall where two of the sports universally recognized best fighters facing off for the first time has met with negative reactions. It’s a bizarre mixed signal. In a sport criticized, falsely, for not presenting enough top tier matches, a top-tier match is being criticized.
HBO boxing head Kery Davis isn’t among the skeptics. I asked him about the criticism of the fight. “I don’t think anyone can prognosticate what is going to happen when two elite fighters get into the ring. This is a fight where two of the top five or six fighters in the world are fighting each other. That’s enough to sell it. What you want is the best fighting the best and let’s see who wins the competition. Every fight doesn’t have to be Ward-Gatti. I have no idea who’s going to win the fight. I watch fights like (Wright-Hopkins) because I want to see who wins.”
Each man can take solace that perceptions of them individually, if not as a duet, in July 2007 are pretty strong. Look around from Ring to ESPN to here at Boxing Scene and you’ll find both anywhere from top five to seven in the mythical pound-for-pound ratings. It’s a remarkable feat considering the age of each man. Hopkins is 42; Wright is just shy of 36. An observer with little knowledge of the past would look at such a thing and reasonably assume that each must have been perceived even greater a decade ago.
They’d be wrong.
Almost exactly ten years ago, on July 20, 1997, Hopkins was 32-2-1 and facing an undefeated Glenn Johnson on CBS in the fifth defense of his IBF 160 lb. strap. Seen as the best of a weak middleweight field, Hopkins was the leading contender for a then five-year's vacant lineal crown. He tortured the future light heavyweight titlist Johnson in front of that national audience, winning every round before scoring a stoppage in the 11th round. Review of the tape leaves one to ponder if it was Hopkins first truly great performance.
Hopkins was faster then, throwing more, throwing harder, all while showing the defensive prowess that allows his aged bones to still carve away at more youthful flesh today. In short, ten years ago Hopkins was even better than he is today. To the public though, he was just another good fighter with a loss to Roy Jones.
Wright was also a titlist then. 1997 was not a banner year; it wasn’t a bad one either. He made the second and third defenses of the WBO’s 154 lb. title, one against an undefeated Steve Dodson, both away from the eyes of the U.S. public. Those were Wright’s nomad days, a period when, from 1993 to 1998, he fought almost exclusively overseas. England, France, Germany, Argentina, South Africa. He finished 1997 with a career mark of 38-1.
Wright, like Hopkins, was physically better in those days. He hadn’t perfected his game yet, he was not as refined, but he was faster, his shots had a tad more snap, his legs allowed him to trade inside longer. Alas the best wins on his record were Tony Marshall, Andrew Council and Bronco McKart; only McKart was considered to be a top ten foe. He was only three years removed from a disastrous five-knockdown loss to then still-reigning WBA titlist Julio Cesar Vasquez.
In short, he wasn’t Winky Wright yet, at least not as the world sees him now. Using it as a reasonable gauge of the times, the December 1997 issue of Ring Magazine rated him the fourth best in his class, three spots behind lineal king and future Hall of Famer Terry Norris.
He was much farther behind in the same issues pound for pound ratings. That top ten featured, in order: Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones, Pernell Whitaker, Felix Trinidad, Ricardo Lopez, Junior Jones, Norris, Evander Holyfield, Johnny Tapia, and a Mark Johnson who moved in just ahead of the previous months ten man Ike Quartey. No Hopkins. No Wright. Yet Hopkins and Wright were better then, faster then, younger then…
Perception is not always reality.
Perceptions and realities change with time and opportunity. The boxing gods had not yet granted Hopkins and Wright their time or their biggest opportunities. So the boxing world went about its conjectures based on what they knew then, not knowing yet that one day rating De la Hoya, Trinidad, Junior Jones, Norris, Quartey or Tapia ahead of Hopkins and Wright would, historically, seem almost absurd.
It turns out that Hopkins and Wright were better than the ‘good’ fighters they were seen as a decade ago. They were great fighters undiscovered, the best of their generation in their respective domains. Hopkins would make twenty defenses of his IBF title, six of them for the true World title he claimed after defeating Trinidad, before his controversial losses to current champion Jermain Taylor in 2005.
Wright would suffer two narrow, controversial losses of his own in 1998 and 99, to Harry Simon and Fernando Vargas respectively, in lost classics. Rising from that adversity, Wright embarked on the defining run of his career.
Wright has gone 12-0-1 since the Vargas loss, to include a 2004 victory over Shane Mosley for the lineal World title at 154 lbs. as well as dominating victories over McKart (twice), former champion Keith Mullings, Trinidad in his first fight after vacating the jr. middle crown and Quartey. His only blemish on this run, the Taylor draw, was of the same vein as his last two losses. Narrow. Controversial.
Thus we arrive at this Saturday, a reckoning between the best junior middleweight of his time and the best middleweight of his time, officially at a catch weight of 170 lbs., and for a light heavyweight title. A conversation with Wright over the weekend indicated that he understands the stakes. “(Hopkins) ran the middleweight division for a long time and I took over the junior middleweight division and chased everybody away from it. It’s a great fight, just for the fans to see two fighters that know how to win, to see two warriors get in the ring with each other that didn’t have to. There were no mandatories or anything like that. We wanted to give the people the best fight out there.”
That brings me to more perceptions and the chance for new realities. If history stopped today, very few would argue that Wright has been a greater or even better fighter than Hopkins. He has twelve rounds to start that argument and that’s usually plenty of time. Wright seems ready for that chance. “Camp has been great. Preparation has been great. I’m definitely just looking forward to whooping on Bernard.”
Wright clearly hasn’t bought into the skepticism of some who are expecting a dull affair. “No matter what the press says, the fight’s gotta’ be a great fight. They always try to say Winky isn’t an exciting fighter but every time I fight it’s exciting and the fans love it…People have certain fighters they like and everyone else they’re down on.”
Wright has a point in that regard. Few if any of his fights are dull. Wright sits in the trenches and throws, his arms held in an awkward high guard, his jab pumping, waiting for openings. It’s a shell game that few have been able to crack.
Hopkins may be one of the few smart enough to do it. A master in the old school vein of the news reel legends, Hopkins best punch has always been the overhand right. The fighters who have had the most success against Wright are those who can pressure him, getting the right hand over and behind his guard. Vasquez, thirteen years ago, did it better than anyone though Winky held his hands much lower in those days. I asked Hopkins earlier this summer if he’d tracked down a copy of that relatively obscure tape and if he was thinking about the right hand as a Wright vulnerability.
“(Wright) is vulnerable to a lot of things and if you picked up something then I’ll look at that and make sure to add it to my reservoir. Thanks for the tip” Hopkins joked, letting me know that anything he needed to know had been seen and played out in his head dozens of times already. “I’m a master of solving difficult puzzles. I’ve been great at that. I’m a boxing student…there are a lot of vulnerable points that Winky will give you. He’s not running no where. He’s right there. It’s about picking the spots at the right time. It’s about tricking the turtle (an allusion to Wright’s defensive stance) into sticking his head out of the shell.”
Hopkins’ reference to himself as a student carries a heavy meaning. Both Wright and Hopkins are attuned to the deep, rich history of the sport. They each know that their fight will play a role in their legacies not only as key pieces in their time but for all time.
“I’m a boxing historic researcher.” Hopkins declared. “I look at the old fighters from yesterday. I am the Jersey Joe Walcott of this era, who won his title at 37 years old. I am the Gypsy Joe, the Ezzard Charles, those throwback fighters who fought way past forty and competed at a high level and they were most feared and most dangerous. We don’t have that anymore. That’s why a lot of writers and a lot of those who have followed me have always called me a throwback fighter.”
Hopkins knows that he has carved his niche, and in the grand tale of the middleweight division no less. Hopkins will one day retire and sit back to watch as historians debate and re-debate where he ranks with the greats at 160 lbs. Could Hopkins have defeated a Carlos Monzon or Marvin Hagler or Mickey Walker? Did his consistency and longevity earn him a top five ranking or was he ‘merely’ top ten? The only fighter of elite stature from near that class he hasn’t faced faces him now.
Jr. middleweight isn’t as rich in history but since its birth in 1963 the division has had its share of great champions. I asked Wright how he feels he rates with the great champions at 154 lbs., where he sees himself in comparison to a Nino Benvenuti, Tommy Hearns or Mike McCallum. “Oh man, those were great fighters. If anyone just mentions my name with those fighters, I’m honored. I don’t want to say I feel I’m better than any of those fighters.” Wright was gracious in stating that it was an honor, but he never denied that he belonged in such a conversation. Not too deep down, he must know he does.
Hopkins, with wins over Trinidad, De La Hoya, his middleweight title reign and his (“Easy,” Hopkins adamantly reminded me) light heavyweight title win over Tarver last year can claim victories over the top welterweights, middleweights of his time and the top light heavyweight of this decade. Of the five division span from welterweight to light heavyweight, the only notable foes he’s missed are Wright and current World super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe.
I asked Hopkins if, with a win against Wright, we could expect him to go after Calzaghe and lay some claim to having defeated all the top dogs from five different weight classes. “I think it would be very important, especially across five weight classes. I think it will be more historic when I knock Winky Wright out. Whether it’s a TKO or a KO, I think that would be a real feather in my cap. Let’s face it, no one can get more than four or five clean shots on Winky Wright…it’s like trying to find Bin Laden in the mountains.”
Wright has a different angle to work towards in contemporary history. He stands out as one of the very few top fighters in his weight range not to secure a bout with future Hall of Famer Oscar De la Hoya even though he has defeated in Trinidad and Mosley two of Oscar’s conquerors. Hopkins of course is another with a win over Oscar and I asked if beating Hopkins would be a win that locks Winky as having a Hall of Fame ledger.
“I feel beating all the dudes that beat him…Oscar’s going to the Hall of Fame, I’m definitely going to be in the Hall of Fame. I’d still love to fight De La Hoya because of his name and in this era, anyone who talks about boxing, they speak Oscar De la Hoya and I want Winky Wright’s name to be spoken in that same breath.” Wright also noted that this sojourn to light heavyweight is likely a one night affair and that fans are likely to see him return to middleweight after this bout.
Clearly, both Wright and Hopkins are fighters of great accomplishment and these great fighters both still have an A-game. Those are the parameters of a great sporting event and, with the addition of leather gloves, blood and sweat, the parameters of a great fight. Maybe the skeptics are right but these are men who have spent the last ten years proving that perception is not always reality and there’s no reason not to think they’ll prove it again Saturday night.
SHOCKER!: I had already submitted my weekly offering when news out of Japan surprised me as much as anything I’d heard in the last couple of years: as of Wednesday night, July 18, 2007, we have a new lineal World flyweight champion. In a rubber match no one who follows boxing closely even remotely took serious, Japan’s Daisuke Naito (31-2-2, 19 KO, #9, new WBC titlist) defeated the division’s record holder for title defenses, Thailand’s Pongsaklek Wonjongkam (65-3, 34 KO). The record (and, yes, padded) run stops at 17 successful defenses. Two of them had been against Naito and that’s where the shock kicks in.
This was supposed to be another WBC-mandated nightmare for fans; it was instead for the champion. The champion since 2001, Wonjongkam, allegedly came out lethargic and paid the price. I haven’t seen the tape yet but no hint of controversy has yet to be whispered. How shocking is this?
Their first bout, in April 2002, ended in 34 seconds of the first round on a single lightning left hook. It was the fastest KO ever in a flyweight title fight. Their second bout in October 2005 was a one-sided technical decision in the Thai king’s favor in a fight he was leading by scores of 68-62 on all cards at the time of an injury stoppage. Today’s result, in light of Wonjongkam’s camp finally talking unification bouts, is just out of left field for this scribe.
This is officially the year of the upset in this talented mini-mite minefield. Lorenzo Parra and Roberto Vasquez found themselves on the wrong side of bouts against Takefumi Sakata, a man both had already defeated; Parra twice over. Vic Darchinyan may still not know he got knocked out by Nonito Donaire. This though is the biggest shock of all.
And perhaps, for fans who follow the flies, the biggest opportunity yet.
Flyweight, as I have written in the past, is a division of talent tragically untested at its peak levels. Yet here we are, with a new world champion and top contender, Sakata, both from Japan. The two faced off years ago, scrapping to a ten-round draw and would make one hell of a rematch today. The former champion of course will want his rematch and that still doesn’t factor in Donaire or one of the sports biggest international stars, Japan’s Koki Kameda.
For the former king, this is both sad and fitting. Wonjongkam has had the talent of a fighter who deserves more but he, or perhaps more appropriately his management, went for business over bad-assery. That neglect, the parade of steady alphabelt mandatories…Wonjongkam may have just rotted on the vine. Maybe though, just maybe, this is the wake-up call his team needed to send him after the greatness the numbers of his long reign deserved. Ball’s in their court. I can’t wait to see the serve.
FOTY: A few days removed, it’s easy to ask where South Carolina’s Paul Williams (33-0, 24 KO, WBO titlist) sensational victory over Mexico’s Antonio Margarito (34-5, 24 KO) falls in Fight of the Year voting. To these eyes, it could possibly have moved to the head of the class over the flyweight rematch between Takefumi Sakata and Roberto Vasquez but there are many varied opinions. Maybe you like Jean Marc Mormeck World cruiserweight title victory over O’Neill Bell? Or Miguel Cotto-Zab Judah? Or Either Marquez brother’s career defining win? Oh, and then there’s Katsidis-Earl and Pavlik-Miranda?
The real point here is that fans of the sweet science are a lucky bunch in 2007. There still hasn’t been a legendary epic this year, but the pool of excellence is deep. There are some ten fights that all can be argued as the best of this earthly trip around the sun and the year has five months remaining. We haven’t even seen Jermain Taylor-Kelly Pavlik or Joe Calzaghe-Mikkel Kessler. Heck with the fights; 2007 is turning into one of the great action years, period, in boxing history.
So why Williams-Margarito for me to day (even if Sakata-Vasquez II again tomorrow)? There are a couple of factors, not the least of which is swings in momentum accompanied by wild spurts of violence. Williams took a solid early lead. Margarito gutted his way back into the fight. Williams then outgutted him in the final round. I had the fight 115-113, or 7 rounds to 5, for Williams as did two of the official judges. That makes it closer, and more competitive, than most any of the year’s best. That counts for a lot.
Aside from where it ranks in the year, let me commend both warriors. I wrote last week in picking Margarito that Williams hadn’t faced the tests yet to know what he brought to the table. Now we know. Margarito hadn’t lost at welterweight in a decade and Williams succeeded where six other top ten welterweights have failed in the last five years. Williams showed not just talent and skill but sheer will, an intangible that truly special fighters carry.
For Margarito, it was a tough loss but fans can salute his blue collar class in taking the fight. Margarito could have, astute business minded types might say should have, taken the route that so many have taken in regards to him. He could have side stepped Williams and gone straight to Miguel Cotto (30-0, 25 KO, and now a deserving #1 contender at welterweight). He didn’t. It cost him but rewarded fans and, according to some reports, may still result in a Cotto fight in the fall. If it does, so be it. That’s still a hell of a fight and Margarito has earned better than to be shuttled all the way down the ladder even if Williams-Cotto or Cotto-Shane Mosley might be more immediately tantalizing.
And let’s all hope Williams talents get him the opportunities he’s earned with this victory as well. His freakish size and speed are a tall order for anyone, ANYONE, at welterweight and it would be a shame if he, like Margarito for years, were made to wait in line for the big names behind Cosme Rivera’s and Miguel Angel Gonzalez’s.
For World welterweight champion Floyd Mayweather (38-0, 24 KO) this much was made clear: the division he reigns over has a new landmine to go with the slew the world already knew was there. History’s greatest weight class might be gearing up for another of its historic runs.
Paraphrasing the immortal words of Librado Andrade, we are all collectors of time and 2007 is a wonderful time for boxing fans.
Cliff’s Notes: The countdown is on. We are officially 107 days from witnessing the best fight in boxing, the World super middleweight title fight between Joe Calzaghe (42-0, 30 KO) and Mikkel Kessler (39-0, 29 KO). As announced last week, negotiations had begun to make this fight part of my honeymoon and I am glad to announce that I have an exemplary fiancée. Now it’s an issue of semantics and budgets. In these notes every week from here to the fight, I’ll keep everyone posted on the navigating I’m making my way though to both get married and make the fight…
Only on HBO would a list of top welterweights, displayed after Margarito-Williams, remove Margarito due to a narrow competitive loss and replace him with a Kermit Cintron (28-1, 26 KO, IBF titlist) who still hasn’t beaten anything more than realistically fringe contenders since being obliterated in five rounds by Margarito in 2005. For those who wonder why Margarito defenders can be so passionate about the perceived slights against their guy, that’s a pretty good clue…
No Hopkins-Wright is not for the lineal World light heavyweight title, but Zsolt Erdei’s (27-0, 17 KO) lack of challenging fights recently in a pretty solid division make his historic distinction an embarrassing, idiosyncratic footnote…
Former pound-for-pound king Roy Jones (51-4, 38 KO) continued his comeback with a strong decision win over fringe super middleweight contender Anthony Hanshaw (21-0-1, 14 KO) last Saturday but one wonders what it means. Jones best hope to finally redeem his three losses in 2004 and 2005 is for Hopkins to beat Wright this weekend and have a taste for avenging his 1993 loss to Jones. Those two have had negotiations in the past that make the Cold War look docile so, really, where does Roy go from here?...
What does it say that 6’7, 25-year old Ukrainian heavyweight Alexander Dimitrenko (26-0, 16 KO), who defeated fringe foe Malcolm Tann (23-4, 12 KO) last Saturday in Germany, has defeated lesser foes than Russian prospect Alexander Povetkin (13-0, 11 KO) in twice as many fights? Maybe nothing, maybe a lot. Time will tell but Dimitrenko is certainly a fighter worth keeping an eye on regardless…
Former Olympic medalists Amir Khan (13-0, 10 KO, a lightweight) of the UK and Andre Ward (13-0, 8 KO, a super middleweight) of Oakland, CA are both beginning to look like future champions. Ward faced some tough tests early in his career and looks to have learned from them. He was solid in the highlights seen of his Margarito-Williams undercard bout with Francisco Diaz (16-2, 8 KO) on HBO. Khan survived a huge scare overseas and off U.S. TV, rising from the deck Saturday in the sixth to stop rugged veteran Willie Limond (28-2, 8 KO) of Scotland in eight. Getting up off the floor is what future champions do and Khan, only 20-years old, might just be the goods…
For those still on the fence about ordering the Hopkins-Wright show, the undercard should put you over the top. Jorge Linares-Oscar Larios pits one of the best featherweight prospects in the game, Linares (23-0, 14 KO), against a rugged veteran and former titlist, Larios (59-5-1, 37 KO) who only a year ago went twelve hard with Manny Pacquiao. Then of course, there is WBO lightweight titlist Michael Katsidis (22-0, 20 KO). If you were lucky enough to see his brawl with Graham Earl earlier this year, knowing he is on the card is all one needs to know…
Finally, one last thank you to Arturo Gatti. He gave more of himself than any fan ever had a right to ask for and will be talked about as long as boxing elicits a reaction. Considering that it’s been getting a reaction since Homer’s Iliad, Gatti can rest assured he got himself a little piece of forever.
Cliff Rold is a member of the Ring Magazine Ratings Advisory Panel and the Boxing Writers Association of America. He can be reached at email@example.com
07-20-2007, 05:10 PM
[Quote]I am the Gypsy Joe, the Ezzard Charles, those throwback fighters who fought way past forty and competed at a high level and they were most feared and most dangerous. [Quote]
Ol' man Hops better study up some more. Charles was done as an elite fighter by his early 30s. No shame since he was a brilliant fighter in his day in some epic wars, but Hops better be a better fighter than he is historion or it's gonna be WinkyWhoopTime.
07-20-2007, 07:58 PM
Just watched the weigh in. Both look to be in fine shape, However, Hop rushed Winky & shoved him in the face with his whole hand & then started screaming like a maniac as they were separated & Hop was dragged off.
Hagler covered the scene on ESPN & called Hop classless.
It could have been the lighting but I seemed to see a small scratch or mouse beneath Winky's left eye. But like I said it could have been the lighting.
Hop can really be an A-hole like the time he stomped on the Puerto Rican flag. He''s not only a boring fighter he's a boor.
07-20-2007, 08:59 PM
I'm sure he was just trying to hype the fight which is destined to tank PPV-wise.
Looking forward to seeing Hagler & DLH on ESPN tonight...maybe more so than Hop's fight.
07-21-2007, 03:33 AM
Great article, Cliff. One thing you should know about the Wonjongkam-Naito fight. Wonjongkam first weighed in at 113.1 lbs and then had to sweat off the excess. He tried valiantly to come back, but gave away too many early rounds to the aggressive Naito who was literally fighting for his career. So, yes Wonjongkam was unfocused and ill-prepared for Naito, who had guaranteed retirement if he had lost for the 3rd time to Pongsaklek (and in the Japanese culture, that means he wouldn't have pulled a B-Hop).
I agree with the analysis on Hopkins-Wright and I like all the angles you covered, but disagree that Wright would be considered the better fighter if they retired today. Hopkins fought all the title defenses in which he barely lost rounds and fighters like Candelo, Hernandez, and others gave Winky tougher than expected fights. Hopkins's masterpiece win over Trinidad, considering the backdrop and hype equals Wright's two wins over Mosley (especially considering Shane didn't change for the better in the rematch). But the beauty of this is that this fight, with both fighters at relative primes but at the tail-end of their careers, will answer the question.
Hopkins-Wright will be not just a good, but a great fight for those that are fans of the sweet science of boxing. No, they won't wildly brawl or anything like that, but for any longtime boxing fan that can wax poetic about the beauty of an Archie Moore-Harold Johnson matchup, or Pernell Whitaker-Benny Leonard in a fantasy matchup, those fans will love this fight. While$49.95 might be a stiff price to pay for a chess match, this is the kind of matchup that years later boxing historians like all those on this board will be glad it took place.
07-21-2007, 07:54 AM
This fight will be a stinker.
Save your money.
I'm calling it a draw.
07-21-2007, 09:00 AM
Can Hopkins keep promise?
He insists his bout against Wright won't be dull, but the styles of these fighters suggest otherwise.
By Steve Springer, Times Staff Writer
July 21, 2007
So much for the fear there won't be sufficient action when Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright square off tonight at Mandalay Bay Events Center.
The two fighters took care of that concern at Friday's weigh-in at the Las Vegas hotel.
After both had come in at 170 pounds, the catch weight for this match, Hopkins shoved Wright in the forehead, igniting a scuffle between the two entourages. Calm was soon restored, but not before Freddie Roach, Hopkins' trainer, fell on the scale and bruised his ribs.
Hopkins may have been trying, one last time, to send a message to Wright, who has been frustrating him throughout the promotional tour by refusing to buy into Hopkins' typical baiting tactics. Or perhaps Hopkins was sending a message to critics, who have predicted a boring match because of the clash of styles.
Styles make fights. But styles also sometimes make good fights unlikely.
That has been the concern here, especially considering that Hopkins is 42, Wright 35.
Wright (51-3-1, 25 knockouts) is the best defensive fighter in the sport. He has made a career out of standing in the center of the ring, hands plastered to the sides of his face, elbows tucked into his rib cage, forming a shell, a turtle with gloves. And from that position, Wright has attacked, his arms lashing out, inflicting damage and piling up points, before retreating to a defensive posture.
Pleasing to the judges if not the spectators.
Wright won an easy decision over Ike Quartey last December but fought to a draw against Jermain Taylor in his previous bout. Wright has not lost in 7 1/2 years, since being on the short end of a controversial majority decision against Fernando Vargas.
Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 knockouts) has tended to start slowly and play it conservatively in recent matches with the exception of his total dominance of Antonio Tarver 13 months ago. Hopkins, in reviving memories of the man who held the middleweight title for a record 10 years, beat Tarver, 118-109, on all three judges' scorecards.
But before that, there were consecutive losses to Taylor, one by split decision, one by unanimous decision, both fights in which Hopkins appeared to be conserving his energy for long stretches against his younger opponent.
So could we be looking at a boring match tonight, one in which neither fighter presses the action, one staying in his shell, the other holding back and only the referee showing an interest in picking up the action?
No way, insists Hopkins.
"I am going to make this a fight," he said. "People are going to be surprised. Brawling is not my style, but if Winky goes into his shell, what do you think I'm going to do, just stare at the guy? If he just stands in the middle of the ring, it will be the easiest $4 million I ever made."
A few years ago, Hopkins scoffed at the idea he would be making any money in the ring at this point in his life. He had vowed to honor a promise to his mother to quit fighting at 40. But then along came Taylor and a chance for Hopkins to close out his career against the man touted as his middleweight successor.
And then came the rematch.
And then came a chance to move up to light-heavyweight to fight Tarver.
"I'm pretty sure if [Michael] Jordan could have one more historic event on the court, he'd do it," Hopkins said. "Why not get that itch, satisfy yourself and be happy, no matter what happens? ….
"I don't want to have this good-looking new body just to walk around and look handsome."
Said Wright: "My aim is to make him re-retire, make him wish he never brought my name up."
And if the fight indeed turns out to be a dud, at least they can always point to the weigh-in.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Bernard Hopkins, left, shoves Winky Wright, touching off a scuffle during their official weigh-in for tonight's light heavyweight fight in Las Vegas.
(Ethan Miller / Getty Images)
Roach is trying to win his own fight
BY ROBERT MORALES, Columnist
FREDDIE Roach moved about the ring at his Wild Card Gym in North Hollywood. Holding punch mitts, he yelled commands to Bernard Hopkins.
"Give me two jabs," Roach instructed Hopkins, who delivered them crisply.
This is a daily ritual for a trainer and his fighter, but Roach is not just any trainer. He suffers from Parkinson's disease, a neurological disorder characterized by tremor, hypokinesia, rigidity and postural instability.
Roach, a lightweight who was 39-13 with 15 knockouts fighting from 1978-86, was diagnosed with Parkinson's in 1992, six years after he retired from a career that saw him stand toe-to-toe with some of the best. Fifteen years later, he is one of the hardest-working trainers in boxing.
Roach's condition has progressed, but he vows to work hard as long as he can. At the moment, that would be six 12-hour days a week; he takes only Sundays off to enjoy his two favorite hobbies - a movie and some grub at a local restaurant.
Roach, 47, will be in Hopkins' corner tonight when he takes on Winky Wright in the light heavyweight main event at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas.
Roach has the shakes and impaired speech and walks funny because the Parkinson's won't allow him
to strike his heel correctly on the left side. He has developed torticollis, a neck malady that causes his head to lean to one side or be pulled forward or back.
Roach also has double vision, but if he moves his head a certain way, it goes away. He still drives.
With all this, it would seem what Roach is doing for as many as 72 hours per week not only would be difficult but detrimental. Roach, however, said he and some of his doctors believe training boxers - especially working the punch mitts - could be the best thing for him.
"I don't want my problem really getting in the way of my life, so I just work through it," Roach said. "You know, I think my symptoms are pretty much at bay right now because of what I do, my hand-eye coordination with the mitts and so forth. And I think this really helps me with the disease. Parkinson's, it's a progressive disease, and I think if you let it take over it will.
"And I just refuse to do that. Some doctors say I should slow down and some doctors say it's the best thing in the world for me."
Dr. Malcolm Dick, a neuropsychologist at UC Irvine, agreed that Roach likely is doing the right thing.
"I think most physicians probably would recommend that a person try to maintain some kind of activity or exercise to help with that stiffness and try to help them maintain some of that flexibility," said Dick, who treated the late Mike Quarry for years before the former world-class light heavyweight died last year from dementia pugilistica.
Roach has no intention of slowing down and has a large stable of fighters that includes Hopkins, Oscar De La Hoya, Manny Pacquiao, Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista and Gerry Penalosa, to name a few.
When Mexico takes on the Philippines in the De La Hoya-promoted World Cup of Boxing on Aug. 11 at ARCO Arena in Sacramento, Roach will be working the corner in six fights - all in one night.
Two of them are title fights and two are title elimination fights. That means all four are 12-rounders.
"The thing is, I have trouble saying no to fighters," Roach said.
"That's why I have so many."
The bigger fighters like De La Hoya and Hopkins are more taxing to Roach, but it's easy to see he thrives on the work.
As Hopkins cracks the mitts, Roach grimaces, then smiles as Hopkins playfully talks a little smack to him. From time to time, Hopkins will get carried away and land a punch on Roach instead of the mitts, but nothing that would be really harmful.
"He knocked the wind out of me one day with a good body shot and he gave me a little cut on the eye one day, but he's not really trying to hurt me or anything like that," Roach said. "I learned with him after I call a combination, I gotta move a little bit."
Hopkins said he is amazed by Roach, who recently turned part of the strip mall that houses his gym into his residence.
"I work with a lot of guys with mitts, and I think boxing, being on top of your game (with) mitts, thinking strategy, that keeps Freddie Roach intact, man," Hopkins said. "I think that all he do in the ring, not only with me but with all the other fighters, I mean, this guy, he sleeps on top of the gym. That man never leaves.
"He makes me, at this stage of my career, want to win even bigger for him. The man ain't two-time Trainer of the Year for nothing."
Roach has received his share of accolades, and they have been hard-earned. To coin a phrase, he eats, sleeps and drinks boxing.
"I sleep next door, but my life is in the gym," he said.
Dick said Roach's life may or may not be shortened by his current situation.
"I think a lot just depends on the person's age when they have it," Dick said, "and how quickly the disease progresses."
Roach realizes his Parkinson's is, indeed, going to progress, but he plans on staving off the worst of it as long as possible. He said he also doesn't want any sympathy because few have jobs they love as much as he loves his.
"You don't usually die from Parkinson's per se, but the symptoms can get you to a point where you are almost catatonic, you know, where you can't function," said Roach, who said if he doesn't take his medication three times a day, he begins to shake more. "And I think that's why what I do in staying active, it helps me.
"Parkinson's makes you rigid. Like when somebody calls a person and you turn toward them quickly with your neck. A Parkinson's person would turn toward you with his whole body. It makes you rigid, slow-moving. It's like your nerves don't have any oil in them anymore.
"I don't have that problem at all yet, and I think it's because of the punch mitts. Again, most of my doctors say that what I do is very preventing."
And very impressive.
07-21-2007, 11:09 AM
Atlas: Hopkins/Wright Weigh-In Mayhem Staged?
By Michael Woods from Sweet Science
A shoving match broke out at the Bernard Hopkins/Winky Wright weigh-in ceremony today. Diehards like us know that weigh-in beefs are oftentimes the only way to get the Sweet Science onto SportsCenter, and we've seen it three times in the last two weeks, so that didn't qualify as news to us.
If you didn't catch the tusslin,' Hopkins got up in Wright's face and jawed at him. He wagged a finger in Winky's face and Winky wagged right back at him. Hopkins answered that by palming Winky's face, and shoving him backwards. Wright took umbrage to that move, and leapt at Hopkins as a mellow melee broke out.
Did any part of you wonder if the fussin' and feudin' was a work?
Did you think that maybe Bernard took it upon himself to do a little 11th hour marketing, guerilla style?
If that crossed your mind, my allies in cynicism, you weren't alone.
ESPN boxing analyst Teddy Atlas took the "guerilla marketing" angle a step further, and wonders if Hopkins and Wright acted in concert at the weigh in, and decided to stage a beef to juice the hype flow a day before the bout.
"Call me the old cynical party pooper," Atlas told Friday Night Fights viewers after the Fres Oquendo/Elieser Castillo main event finished up. "I have a funny feeling that it's possible, and I like both these fighters, but it's possible maybe they orchestrated this, because when we watch it, you don't usually let a fighter get into the face without doing something to keep him from getting that close.
"So I was a little suspicious about what I was seeing. Let's face it, going into this fight, a lot of people had their doubts about how exciting a fight it would be, they were talking about both guys being in the twilight of their career, they were talking about both guys being defensive fighters.
"Even though I don't think Winky's really a defensive fighter, but it's a pay per view fight and you got to sell pay per view, what better way to sell something that might not be stimulating then all of a sudden maybe, just maybe to orchestrate a little bit of a fracas," Atlas said.
Play by play man Joe Tessitore played into the theorizing, saying that the promotion has looked more like a business arrangement than a real-deal pairing.
Atlas then dissected the shoving session frame by fame, Zapruder film style.
Re-form the Warren Commission, and let Teddy chair the thing, I think we'll finally get to the bottom of JFK's assassination!
What about it readers, was the weigh in mayhem legit, or pre-planned?
07-21-2007, 03:43 PM
I'm calling Winky Wright in this fight, big. He'll always be jabbing, and I think he'll find a way to land it and use his hand speed and activity to easily beat Hopkins.
PS... weigh in scuffle, pure stunt. That's the most action you'll see from Hopkins.
07-21-2007, 05:06 PM
Dn: agree wholeheartedly with you sentiments on the impact one day on history. However, re-read this sentence. "If history stopped today, very few would argue that Wright has been a greater or even better fighter than Hopkins." I was saying Wright lags behind Hopkisn in historic esteem. :)
Roberto: I knew that when Hopkins said it but I'm not correcting him. :)
07-22-2007, 12:45 AM
well it was a STINKER like most predicted....they better start thinking about cutting the price of these cards or forget about it.
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