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Thread: Taylor-Hopkins 2 Prefight Press & Predictions

  1. #31
    What’s up with Bernard Hopkins?
    by Rick Folstad from Sweet Science

    It has to hurt, walking around with Jermain Taylor stuck in your craw like a large chicken bone. Can’t cough him out, spit him out or perform the Heimlich maneuver. He’s lodged in there pretty good, a nagging reminder of what could have been.

    Or, according to Bernard Hopkins, what should have been.

    Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs) won’t be looking for redemption Saturday night when he faces Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) for the middleweight title at the Mandalay Bay Casino in Las Vegas (HBO PPV). It's bigger than that.

    Still, you can‘t blame him if he feels revenge would taste pretty sweet.

    But he’s looking for more important things. Confirmation. Legitimacy. Some kind of proof that he’s still king of the middleweights and will stay that way until he decides it’s time to go. History is important to Hopkins. He‘s looking to leave behind the kind of legacy that requires years of doing something better than anyone else in the world.

    Considered one of the best middleweights of all time, maybe he feels he has to justify the high praise, knock this Taylor kid on his butt and send a message to the record keepers that “The Executioner” is back, though he never really left. That first loss to Taylor? A silly mistake at the scorer’s table.

    At least that's what some believe.

    “Whatever Jermain Taylor brings, I’ll make sure it backfires on him,” Hopkins said on a recent conference call. “Taylor is in great denial right now. I hope he comes in confident. I’m going to sit back and let him run his mouth.”

    Hopkins understands the “mouth” part. He‘s taken that particular skill to new levels of excellence in the course of his enduring career. He doesn’t talk as much as he preaches and lectures, offers up thoughts and sentences in sometimes random order, everything spilling out of his mouth like bats storming out of a dark cave at dusk.

    But he knows what he’s saying, even if some of the rest of us get lost trying to keep up.

    In the first fight against Taylor, Hopkins assumed too much, which is always a mistake in the fight game. He had successfully defended his title 20 times. He figured he’d successfully defend it 21. Take something for granted and it’s gone before you can tie your shoe lace.

    If Taylor, 27, has youth and the confidence from that first big win on his side, Hopkins, 40, has history backing him up. He’s undefeated in rematches and claims he “destroys guys the second time around.”

    Of course, there hasn’t been that many “second time arounds.”

    But maybe he’s right. Maybe this is his turn. The bookies have him slightly favored, which comes with a mild surprise. Bookies seem to lean toward young talent instead of old experience.

    If cockiness wins this fight, it’s already over.

    “The only thing that needs to be tweaked is that when I get him hurt - and he is going to get hurt - he’s going out this time,” Hopkins said.

    As for Taylor, well, this is his chance to prove he’s as good as his corner thinks he is, that the first fight back in July wasn’t an anomaly, but a quick peek at the future of the division.

    A nice, quiet, polite kid from Arkansas, Taylor is quickly picking up a few bad habits from the unofficial Hopkins bag of dirty tricks. Trash talk didn’t seem to come natural to Taylor until he started answering the rants and raves of Hopkins, who thinks he got robbed that first time.

    He probably isn‘t above a few low blows, either.

    Whatever works for the kid.

    “This is going to be a fight that people will remember for a long, long time,” said Hopkins, an irritating tickle in his throat.

  2. #32
    I hope Bernard wins...I just hope this is not like Holmes/Spinks 2 where the moe disliked fighter gets jobbed.

  3. #33
    Hopkins isn't fighting a blowed up lightweight or welterweight. He's fighting sure nuff middleweight. I'm taking nothing away from Hopkins, but he's no spring chicken. This may be his last chance. Lose this one and it may be time to retire.

  4. #34
    Taylor, Hopkins: it's time to clean up unfinished business

    By Chuck Johnson, USA TODAY

    LAS VEGAS — Jermain Taylor had to overcome more than just Bernard Hopkins, the man, in winning a split decision for the undisputed middleweight title.

    &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Jermain Taylor, left, and Bernard Hopkins stare each other down during Wednesday's news conference.&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
    By Jae C. Hong, AP
    In Taylor's mind, the most daunting enemy he faced July 16 was the aura of Hopkins' long and impressive reign as champion.

    "I was just too anxious and overhyped," Taylor says. "It was the biggest fight of my life. I kept thinking, 'I'm in here with the champ. He beat (Felix) Tito Trinidad. He beat Oscar (De La Hoya).' It was just a big hype thing. But now, he's nothing but a regular opponent."

    Taylor, 27, vows to be a smarter, stronger and better fighter in Saturday's rematch, but Hopkins, 40, has other plans. The 12-round main event at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino could be the last bout of Hopkins' Hall of Fame-bound career and a golden opportunity to cement his legacy.

    Taylor vs. Hopkins: Tale of the tape
    Jermain Taylor&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Bernard Hopkins
    Little Rock
    Aug. 11, 1978
    Birth date
    Jan. 15, 1965
    78 inches
    75 inches
    44 inches
    Chest normal
    39 1/2 inches
    46 inches
    Chest expanded
    42 1/2 inches
    16 1/2 inches
    13 inches
    14 inches
    11 inches
    31 inches
    31 inches
    28 inches
    21 inches
    12 inches
    14 inches
    17 inches
    15 inches
    7 inches
    6 inches
    13 inches
    12 inches
    24-0, 17 KOs
    46-3-1, 32 KOs
    "It couldn't have been a better script for Bernard Hopkins," says the former champion. "I understand the blessings of the July 16th fight. ... The only regret I have, knowing what I know now, is not knocking out Jermain Taylor when I had him. But come Saturday night, I'm going to right that wrong."

    Vegas oddsmakers view the rematch as a virtual tossup after Taylor's controversial victory five months ago ended Hopkins' division-record streak of 20 successful title defenses.

    Both fighters are determined to win decisively this time. Even then, Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) says a victory won't be complete for him until Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs) acknowledges him as champion.

    "That's very important to me," the 2000 Olympic bronze medalist from Little Rock says. "He is one of the greatest fighters. But he has to respect me. It's going to mean a lot after the fight when he comes over and tells me I am champion."

    Hopkins remains adamant as ever that the judges' scoring beat him the first time, and has criticized Taylor for being an ingrate.

    "I gave him an opportunity. I didn't have to fight him," Hopkins says. "I could have fought Manny, Moe and Jack and went about my business. But since he was the only middleweight of curiosity or danger or a threat and he was HBO's heir apparent, I gave him an opportunity to make millions for his family. But he forgot about that. He's saying he's got to win by knockout because he knows he didn't win. ... I hope he comes trying to knock me out. But his time is up."

    Reiterating this could be his last fight, the Philadelphia native spoke emotionally at the final pre-fight news conference and issued an ominous threat toward Taylor. "When you step in that square circle, there's no guarantee, so hug your wife and daughter," Hopkins said. "This is the last dance of greatness to show that not only did I do it my way, but (for Taylor and others) to pay homage and bow down."

    Taylor said it was a "stupid" attempt to get into his head.

    "Hug your wife and daughter? What's he going to do, try to kill me? I wouldn't let anything like that come out of my mouth," Taylor said. "This is a sport. I'm not out there trying to kill nobody. I hope he's able to go home to his family like I plan to go home to mine."

    How boxing writers see the fight
    Name&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Affiliation&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Prediction
    Ron Borges&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp The Boston Globe&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Hopkins TKO 11
    Bernard Fernandez&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Philadelphia Daily News&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Hopkins decision
    Chris Givens&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp (Little Rock) Arkansas Democrat-Gazette&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor TKO 11
    Richard Hoffer&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Sports Illustrated&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor decision
    Kevin Iole&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Las Vegas Review-Journal&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Hopkins decision
    Chuck Johnson&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp USA TODAY&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor decision
    Dan Rafael&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp ESPN.com&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor decision
    Steve Springer&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Los Angeles Times&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Hopkins decision
    Bert Sugar&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Boxing historian&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Hopkins TKO 11
    George Willis&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp New York Post&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor TKO 10
    Vic Ziegel&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp (New York) Daily News&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp Taylor decision

  5. #35
    Taylor must use bread and butter or risk being toast

    By Dan Rafael

    LAS VEGAS -- Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor's left jab is widely considered one of the best in boxing, the bread and butter of his impressive arsenal.

    But that wasn't always the case for Taylor, who defends his title for the first time on Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at Mandalay Bay in a rematch against Bernard Hopkins, whom he beat on a controversial split decision in July.

    When Taylor was 16 and a blossoming amateur in Little Rock, Ark., he was, as he likes say, "right-hand crazy."

    All Taylor was concerned with was pounding his opponents with his right hand. He admits that he gave very little thought to setting up his shots or using strategy to win.

    HBO PPV Saturday 9 p.m. ET
    Mandalay Bay Events Center
    Las Vegas, Nev.
    • Middleweights: Jermain Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) vs. Bernard Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs), 12 rounds, rematch, for Taylor's unified title.
    • HBO PPV: Tale O' The Tape
    • Junior featherweights: Oscar Larios (56-3-1, 36 KOs) vs. Israel Vazquez (38-3, 27 KOs), 12 rounds, rubber match, to unify titles and for vacant Ring magazine title.
    • Junior middleweights: Ike Quartey (36-2-1, 30 KOs) vs. Carlos Bojorquez (25-7-6, 21 KOs), 10 rounds.

    His left jab was nonexistent, a deficiency noticed by Ozell Nelson, Taylor's father figure and amateur coach who now assists head trainer Pat Burns.

    "When Jermain first came into my gym in Little Rock as a 13 year old, he was more of a street fighter, a brawler, just toe-to-toe. But with his long arms, for him to be successful in boxing he had to use his reach instead of brawling. So a jab was a big part of it," Nelson said.

    "Jermain had bad intentions, trying to knock you out [with] that right hand," Nelson said, chuckling at the memory. "He could kill you with his right hand, but he wouldn't use his left. I said, 'I'm gonna fix you, boy. I'm gonna make you use a jab.' I was trying to think, how can I make him use a jab?"



    The answer turned out to be quite simple.

    "Ozell took a pair of hand wraps and used them to tie my right hand up, so all I had was my left hand to work with," Taylor said. "He did it because I was going right-hand crazy in the gym."

    Day after day, Taylor would come to the gym and Nelson would tie his right hand up, connecting it to his head gear through the ear hole.

    This went on daily for two months.

    "He could block punches but he couldn't throw punches with it," Nelson explained. "If he threw it more than a couple of inches, it would spin his head gear around and he wouldn't be able to see. So he had to use that left hand, either jab or hook or uppercut. He could not spar with two hands."

    Taylor did not like it initially and would try to throw the right hand. But it was tied tightly, and he spun his headgear around more than a few times. Eventually, Taylor adjusted.

    "I thought the man was crazy at first, but you know what? It worked," Taylor said. "He explained to me why he was doing it. I didn't like it, but he said it would help, and it did. I owe it all to Ozell that I have the jab that I do and that it is as good as it is."

    Said Nelson: "Yeah, when I first did it, he thought I was crazy. But he got good at it. He caught on, and he used that left hand. He was whipping good guys with one hand. After two months, I thought he was ready to go back to two hands."

    When Taylor's right hand was finally free, he found that he was relying on it less than he had before.

    “&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp It's a beautiful, damaging punch. Some guys use the jab to control the fight and to set up other punches. Jermain does that, but when he's really on, his jab will hurt you. ”
    — Promoter Lou DiBella on Jermain Taylor

    "He had tied my right up for so long that I got used to using the left," Taylor said. "I got so used to it that when he untied my right I wouldn't even throw it at first."

    Eventually, Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) did use the right again, and his two-handed attack carried him to a 2000 Olympic bronze medal and ultimately the undisputed title.

    "I'm thankful that Ozell did that because this kid's jab is a beautiful thing," said Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter. "It's a beautiful, damaging punch. Some guys use the jab to control the fight and to set up other punches. Jermain does that, but when he's really on, his jab will hurt you.

    "Very few guys in the modern history of our sport have had jabs that were weapons. Larry Holmes' jab was a weapon. Jermain has hurt people with his jab. His jab is also a weapon."

    Although it was effective at times, Taylor's jab was not the weapon it figured to be in the first fight with Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs).

    After landing almost 40 percent of his jabs in the four bouts leading up to Hopkins, Taylor landed just 36 of 264 against him, a paltry 14 percent, according to CompuBox statistics.

    “&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp You can make a fight hard or easy for you, depending on if you use that jab. In this rematch, I'm just looking for us to use it more and for Jermain to let Bernard know he's got one of the best jabs out there. ”
    — Ozell Nelson

    "He knows he didn't use [the jab] enough last time," Nelson said.

    "We've told him he's got to use it more. That's really his bread and butter. You can make a fight hard or easy for you depending on if you use that jab. In this rematch, I'm just looking for us to use it more and for Jermain to let Bernard know he's got one of the best jabs out there."

    Taylor admitted that he got away from using his jab as much as he intended, which he said made the fight a lot tougher than it should have been.

    "I made a lot of mistakes in that fight but it will not happen again," Taylor said. "I chased him around the ring and I should have stayed on my jab. But I still won. This time I am bringing my 'A' game. I will be more relaxed. I will use my jab more."

    Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

  6. #36
    &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
    Hopkins Faces Unkind History

    by Matthew Aguilar from Sweet Science

    Bernard Hopkins tries to get back what he lost Saturday in Las Vegas.

    What he lost — the undisputed middleweight championship to fresh faced Jermain Taylor in July — was his treasure, his pride and his identity for a decade and 20 title defenses.

    The odds are stacked against the decorated “Executioner” this time, however. Taylor is young, fresh, hungry and determined — determined to repeat a victory and finish off the old king once and for all.

    History isn't kind to deposed champions. The old boxing axiom is: "If a fighter is dethroned in the original, he is more easily defeated in the rematch."

    As he can learn from these defeated champions who struggled in rematches with their conquerors, "Ex" can probably expect an uphill battle.

    • Larry Holmes: Holmes was bummed when he was upset by light heavyweight champ Michael Spinks on Sept. 21, 1985 in Las Vegas. So bummed, in fact, that he insulted the judges, Spinks, and legendary heavyweight champion Rocky Marciano all in one ill-advised post-fight interview. The sour grapes were out-of-line, but you could understand Holmes’ disappointment. He had come within one win of tying Marciano’s all-time heavyweight record of 49-0, and his seven-year reign as heavyweight champ came to asudden, unceremonious end. To add insult to injury, he became the first heavyweight champ to lose his crown to a light heavyweight. So, in the rematch on April 19, 1986, he decided to take Spinks seriously. And he performed much better. So much better that most ringsiders figured Holmes deserved the victory. But, he didn’t get it (remember the judge insult?). Spinks’ youth, speed and bizarre game plan exposed Holmes’aging reflexes twice. And, though Holmes would challenge for his old title three more times (coming close to re-winning it 10 years later from Oliver McCall), he was finished as a legendary champion.

    What Hopkins can learn: Don’t depend on the judges tobe kind.

    • Mike McCallum: McCallum had already been a champion in two divisions when he met the streaking Toney on Dec. 13, 1991. In that time, he became known as one of boxing’s more skilled practitioners. His body attack was so brutal that he was nicknamed “The Body Snatcher.” His showdown with Toney, who had knocked out Michael Nunn earlier in the year to win the IBF middleweight title, was something of a unification fight since McCallum had been the WBA 160-pound champ. It was one of the most anticipated fights of the year, and it delivered. But McCallum seemed to get the worst of the brutal action, especially in the final round. He lucked out with a draw. When he fought Toney again eight months later, McCallum was boiling with anger. The smart-mouthed Toney had crawled beneath McCallum’s skin, and the Body Snatcher wanted to exact revenge.However, McCallum’s better days were behind him, and Toney cruised to a decision. It wasn’t the end of McCallum’s championship days — he won a portion of the light heavyweight title from Jeff Harding in 1994 — but the native of Jamaica was never as good as he was in the first fight with Toney again. He fought "Lights Out" twice more, and lost both times.

    What Hopkins can learn: Don’t let the trash talk deter you from your game plan.

    • Ray Mancini: “Boom Boom” certainly was not the dominant champion that Hopkins was. He was, however, a rock in a what was then a fairly-talented division. So when it came time to defend his WBA lightweight against unheralded Livingstone Bramble on June 1, 1984, in Buffalo, Mancini was a heavy favorite. Bramble had done little to convince experts that he would record one of ‘84’s biggest upsets. On that night, however, Bramble fought the fight of his life, ripping Mancini with a smooth counterpunching style that negated the champion. The slaughter was finally called inthe 14th round, with Mancini virtually helpless. The rematch was eight months later, on Feb. 16, 1985, in Reno. This time, Bramble was the heavy favorite. Most didn’t think “Boom Boom” would last beyond 10 rounds. But he courageously fought through a mask of blood, and, at the end of 15 furious rounds, seemed to have made a pretty good case for himself. But Bramble’s harder, sharper punches carried the day.

    What Hopkins can learn: Fight like the challenger — with hunger and desire.

    • Julio Cesar Chavez: The great Chavez was 94-0-1 when he stepped into the brand new MGM Grand arena on Jan. 29, 1994, to defend against tough-but-unspectacularchallenger Frankie “The Surgeon” Randall. Until then, there had been little indication that the Chavez train had slowed down — other than a gift draw against Pernell Whitaker in 1993. But that was considered an aberration. No way would he lose to Randall. However, after 10 rounds, the underconditioned Chavez was dead-tired. And when Randall fired a perfect right hand in the 11th, it connected, and Chavez fell for the first time in his career. He got up, but the fight was over. Afterward, Randall deservedly got the decision. Five months later, Chavez fought Randall again. It was obvious that “J.C. Superstar” had trained this time, and he went after Randall immediately. Randall was ready too, though. He fought Chavez on even terms, and rocked him again with the same right hand. Chavez seemed stunned, and never quite got into a rhythm. The fast start paid off for Chavez, though, as the fight was called in the 7th, when JC Superstar sustained a nasty cut on the hairline. The technical decision victory for the great Mexican champion was a bit dubious — Chavez probably could have continued — but boxing royalty is sometimes provided a gift. Or two.

    What Hopkins can learn: Go for the kill early. It’s your best chance against a younger opponent.

    The final tally for dethroned champs in rematches: 3-1 for the young guys.

    Yes, the hill is steep, and Hopkins likely will go home a loser again. But B-Hop has always been different. He’s certainly not your typical 40-year-old.

    If anyone can buck the odds, it’s him.

  7. #37
    Hopkins still bitter over loss, but happy with rematch


    LAS VEGAS (AP) - The fighter in Bernard Hopkins still grows bitter when he thinks about the narrow loss to Jermain Taylor that cost him both his middleweight titles and one of the most remarkable championship runs in history.

    The promoter in Hopkins looks at it differently. He sees nothing but opportunity because that July fight set up Saturday's rematch rematch for the 160-pound (72-kilogram) titles Hopkins once owned.

    ``I didn't plan for it this way,'' Hopkins said. ``But the positive thing is we get to do it again for my family, for my bank account, and for boxing.''

    Hopkins finds himself in an unfamiliar position as he heads into what he swears will be the last fight of his career. For the first time in more than a decade he will be going into the ring as a challenger instead of a champion, thanks to the split decision Taylor won in their first fight.

    He'll go in angry, still upset that one judge scored the 12th round that he seemed to dominate for Taylor, costing Hopkins a possible draw that would have allowed him to retain his undisputed middleweight titles.

    ``I've been crucified my entire career,'' Hopkins said. ``But I beat the guy the first time and I'm going to beat him again.''

    Taylor would disagree, but whatever happens, Hopkins says the fight will be the last meaningful bout of his career. He turns 41 next month, is already a partner with Oscar De La Hoya in his promotional business, and seems to understand that the end is near.

    He's giving up youth, speed and power to Taylor, but his ring savvy and accurate punching ability have prompted oddsmakers to make the fight a pick 'em affair.

    ``Father Time has knocked on my door, but there just hasn't been anyone home,'' Hopkins said.

    Time is something Taylor has plenty of. The 2000 Olympic bronze medalist is a champion at the age of 27 and promises to get nothing but better as his career goes along.

    Though Taylor won the first fight, he faded badly toward the end and admits he was both overwhelmed by his first big title fight and awed by fighting a legend in Hopkins.

    He says that won't happen again.

    ``I know I didn't prove myself last time but I did enough to win the fight,'' Taylor said. ``Everybody who knows me knows I'll take care of business this time.''

    The scheduled 12-round fight at the Mandalay Bay hotel-casino is a classic matchup of an aging but wily veteran against a future star who has the skills to dominate the division the way Hopkins has the past 10 years.

    If that wasn't enough, there are subplots that include a bitter feud between Hopkins and Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, and Hopkins' belief that everyone in boxing is out to get him.

    Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 knockouts) added fuel to the fire by mocking Taylor's stuttering problem and claiming that Taylor turned his back and ran during much of the first fight. Taylor responded by bringing out a doll with Hopkins' name on it at the prefight press conference, and calling him a crybaby.

    ``I really do believe Hopkins has awakened the young lion,'' said DiBella, who used to promote Hopkins and recently won a $600,000 (512,000) slander suit against him. ``This kid walked into the first fight awed by the circumstances, the magnitude of the fight and his opponent. This kid is going to walk into this fight awed by nothing, plus with a lot of anger and a lot to prove.''

    Taylor (24-0, 17 knockouts) admits to not being up to the moment in the first fight, when he chased Hopkins in the early rounds and ran out of gas late. But he says things will be different in the rematch, when he won't waste energy chasing Hopkins or wrestling with him.

    ``That was the worst night of boxing I've had in my life,'' Taylor said. ``He's accurate with his punches but he never hurt me. He gave it his all in the first fight but he doesn't have enough power to hurt me.''

    Hopkins points to the fact he has knocked out all three fighters he has faced in rematches as evidence he knows how to adjust and get better. And he also points with pride to the fact he has fought in the same 160-pound (72-kilogram) class for 15 years now.

    Hopkins says he won't allow himself to leave boxing with a loss.

    ``There's a lot riding on Saturday night,'' he said. ``This is the one where Bernard Hopkins is leaving on top.''

  8. #38
    I'm going with Taylor by 10th round stoppage. I think Hopkins will fight a lot harder in the early goings, and will find out later why that's not his style.

  9. #39
    Let’s Do the B-Hop Again

    by Phil Woolever from Sweet Science

    Attempting to determine which man has more to lose when Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins clash again Saturday night is as difficult as making the call on who will triumph in the rematch or even who deserved the nod last July.

    For Taylor, the future is at stake. A repeat victory over Hopkins means a bigger piece of history.

    Taylor could subsequently engage some relatively safe challengers like Ike Quartey while gaining marketability, then add piles to his bank account with payday opponents like the winner of Shane Mosley – Fernando Vargas, leading up to a mega-fight with Jeff Lacy.

    For Hopkins, the past is at stake. A glorious past tainted by a split decision, fair or not. A revenge victory over Taylor means a bigger piece of history for him, too. If Hopkins is indeed the all-time great he was pegged to be before Taylor put the skids on his 20 title defense winning streak, the old boy should find a way to win, big.

    Since the first fight, Hopkins has emerged bitter but more determined than ever. He wants his marbles back. Unless Taylor completely and immediately implodes after the holidays, he’d be recognized as a quality close to a Hall of Fame career. Hopkins wouldn’t have to worry about criticism for his grand finale against mild opposition.

    Taylor- Hopkins II is one of those intriguing scenarios with many feasible conclusions, as close as the split second it takes for a punch to land or miss. There’s really no way to know what’s likely to transpire, unless, as some including Hopkins have implied, it’s a set-up. If so, how much we’ll never know. The first fight looked like a legitimate, squeaker win for Taylor, but the argument for Hopkins was certainly realistic.

    “This is going to be the storybook ending to my American dream,” said Hopkins, “Certain things you can’t turn the other cheek on.”

    Hopkinsfudged a little on retiring by his forty-first birthday this January, now reportedly indicating he wants a farewell bash not long afterward. He was quoted saying Taylor will be his last “meaningful” ring battle, with a goodbye gala early in the year. Whatever happens Saturday night, Hopkins will fight again as a pro at least once more.

    “I don’t think anybody’s going to bust my chops for being an hour late on my promise (to retire),” said Hopkins.

    The latest dismissal of Bouie Fisher shows Hopkins has kept his latest game face on, financial motivations aside. Hopkins didn’t appear to enter the ring in that fine-tuned frame of mind last time. Complacency can be as eroding as time.

    Taylorhas progressed in handling his newfound attention. He’s getting more and more comfortable in the spotlight and he won’t surrender his undefeated slate easily. Taylor has grown more callused in his respect toward Hopkins, with some real resentment possible for the way Hopkins refused to give him proper post-fight due.

    When Taylor says he wants to erase any doubt, you can count on him giving everything toward that end. Which could be the new kid’s demise. If Hopkins can get inside Taylor’s head and get him throwing wildly, there will be no doubt for sure. Except Taylor won’t be happy.

    “I’m gonna take it out of the judges’ hands this time,” said Hopkins.

    “Anybody that knows the real me knows I’m going to take care of business, no question,” said Taylor.

    We have here the classic conflict of youth versus experience. It’s still just a matter of whether Taylor’s strength can overcome Hopkins’s guile. Clues to the rematch come based on how you scored the first affair, but no head-banging hints get any clearer.

    The odds are basically pick ‘em all around. Our handicapping logic leans a little to Taylor, but you’d still have to be crazy to bet against Hopkins. Crazy isn’t always bad.

    So, the foundation is set for a great night at Mandalay Bay to wrap up what’s been a fine fistic season for most of 2005. We could see the Fight of the Year for an early winter treat. Let’s hope nothing spoils it. Win, lose, or not such a long shot draw, may Hopkins go into that sweet sunset with the class he, Taylor, and the sport deserves.

  10. #40
    &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp
    Taylor-Hopkins: Encountering Danger

    by Patrick Kehoe from Sweet Science

    “Boxing is a way of life. But the real thing, the thing that sends it right through you is the moment two strange men seek each other out in that ring. They come together and find out who will succeed and who will fail.” – Floyd Patterson, Former World Heavyweight Champion

    Bernard Hopkins made it clear as he spoke to a national Canadian television audience that he absolutely believes he must win his rematch with champion Jermain Taylor by a knockout. “There is no doubt… I must take him out!” His eyes sunken and blackened with what appeared to be fatigue, Hopkins gave the impression of a man bundled inside the kinetic energy of frustration fed by irritation. By comparison Jermain Taylor looked invigorated and youthfully energized, his eyes shifting as if to see the completed vision just beyond viewing, his near future which he trusts will bring him an ultimate victory over the strident figure of the ex-champion Hopkins.

    “I’m a lot less nervous than I was, you know, the first time going around. Now it’s a different kind of nervous anyway this kind of nerve. I want to go in here and I want to look good. I want to – I want to make sure all my punches land. I want to make sure every combination I throw hits him,” Taylor admits with assurance.

    “I must execute… that’s the key difference… this time I must finish the job; I must execute,” was Hopkins counter. Hopkins’ body slightly lifts out of his seat as he says the word “execute.” Staying in the intensity of the committed moment, that’s what Hopkins has been doing in the run-up to their middleweight rematch showdown. Keeping on message, the verbal reiteration of bringing a definitive ending to brief reign of Jermain Taylor and showing that justice shall be served has kept Hopkins, almost via a hypnotic sense of certitude, grounded within a resolution of purposefulness.

    The ex-champion looked almost burdened by the compulsion he bares, the hunger for revenge and the need to again be the middleweight champion. No doubt we are letting literary license and imagery run too far a field; of course, Hopkins encourages the use of descriptors and metaphors and indulgent symbolism himself. He’s made his late career fame out of such self-stylization. He often invokes phrases like “the American Dream” and “the people’s champion” and “I’m street, he’s country” to put himself forward as an iconic figure in his sporting time. We can let pop cultural mediation decide.

    One thing we do know is that Hopkins has always been able to channel what we might call negativity and harness it for the purposes of self-interested intention. That’s why he’s been so careful to explain to boxing writers and other journalists how he has always reacted to facing up to rematches. Familiarity with the subject has, in Hopkins’ case, always provided him with ammunition and confidence to better him, to assert his dominating characteristics. Taylor remains unconvinced, almost indifferent to what Hopkins says about their rematch. As in the quote by Patterson above, Taylor seems that he’s already found out what he needed to know about Bernard Hopkins. Having engaged Hopkins, having encountered the man and the myth, Taylor stripped away his sense of unknowing, the inevitable doubt that manifests itself as apprehension.

    “He put no fear in my heart,” the champion Taylor tells boxing fans. “All of boxing want to see a fight, a real fight and that’s exactly what I am going to give them… I’ll be a lot more relaxed in the ring.”

    Taylor has met Hopkins at ring center; he’s mixed it up with Hopkins and in so doing has now reduced “The Executioner” to “just another fighter” whom he intends to defeat. The challenge of character and facing the unknown that Patterson referred to has already been encountered by Taylor. And in the days leading up to the fight Taylor has looked a man who doesn’t have to indulge in the nervous energy of doubt. That’s a transformation of major significance as he readies to fight Hopkins again. What Hopkins has been trying to seed in the mind of the champion is the notion of doubt as a portent to inadequacy. If Hopkins can internalize the battle, make it a contest of image projection and applied psychology, he believes he can dilute the champion’s fortifying reserves of emotional energy reserves, that natural bounty of the young he can take away that which separates them by the simple fact of chronology. There’s a lesson in how Marvin Hagler made Thomas Hearns wear himself down emotionally in the weeks and day leading up to their classic middleweight showdown.

    How do we consider then the irony that it was Hopkins who’s looked slightly frayed this week? Taylor puts it clearly, “I’m the champion now; he’s got all the stuff in his head because I have all the belts now.” It’s an interesting notion of transference. For months Hopkins has denied the validity of the middleweight belts and that Taylor usurpation of them only proves how vacuous his standing is. But the new middleweight champion stands his ground then changes the course of the preflight war of words by saying, “I’m going to have to work every round and now I know that… I feel like Bernard has no power, he has no speed. He’s just looking for a way out. And I’m going to give it to him!”

    So we must infer that Taylor has been listening, at least to some of Hopkins’ ranting rhetoric about being denied his just due, victimized for being a career long critic of “the system” as he calls it in Oliver Stone terms. But Taylor listens to bantering Bernard and hears rationalization and excuses. Where is the calmed assurance of knowing, the deep unspoken belief in the obvious? Probably, the champion is applying traits he fancies he would show were he in Hopkins’ situation. Still, when the champion says he believes that Hopkins, warrior extraordinaire and divisional menace is “looking for a way out” we cannot help but take notice.

    Does Taylor really believe that with the right amount of applied pressure it will be the bully in Bernard that will come to the surface and not the avenging spirit of Philadelphia maulers past? No Mas! No Mas? Astoundingly that one very contentious line of quote passed earlier this week – until now – almost innocuously, not so much as raising a comparison to Duran and Leonard. Was it just a passing phrase, an exaggeration on the part of a fighter feeling the movement toward the absolute prime of his career? If the truth can be ascertained, it appears that Taylor’s self-belief is more deeply founded, his confidence more essentially grounded in the total belief he’s now the force in the middleweight division. Naturally enough Hopkins radiates his own sense of missionary conviction, though there’s a strained willfulness where once there was brazen certitude. Are we splitting semantic hairs merely for the sake of doing so or have we defined variance, the generational cleaving from one dominating persona to the next figure of the middleweight high command?

    We restate to make our case transparent. Championship boxing has been Bernard Hopkins’ life as it is becoming Jermain Taylor’s way of life. How essential the mantle and recognition of being a world champion is to both fighters. Between them remains only the issue of their personal vanquishing of the other, the figure in the mirror, haunting them, shadowing them. Since his July 16th loss to Taylor, Hopkins has effectively denied the factual basis which has rendered him and labeled him a former world champion. Each day “The Executioner” lives out the personal conviction envisioning him bringing himself back to ‘his’ championship, though stating all the while – as if by common report – his status as “the People’s Champion”; Bernard will always be Bernard.

    The former heir apparent and now middleweight champion Taylor has done his best to embody the championship, his final stewardship, of course, still all for the making. Rhetorically unsophisticated, shy by natural temperament and as well mannered as a diplomat, Taylor’s public face has matured over the four and a half months since his title win. Speaking with something like reticent assertiveness – charmingly contradictory – Taylor declares his intention to “leave no doubts this time” and effectively silence Hopkins on the matter of their rivalry for good. He’s not about symbolism or self-aggrandizement or the insulting invective, not this middleweight champion. He’s never even thought about an all-time middleweight dream opponent for himself; he’s just dealing with his own near future, the responsibilities he feels to his loved ones, his fans and his sense of himself as a champion. Jermain Taylor has his feet on the ground; he dug in, ready to rumble, intent on laying some serious heat on the old man he once had nothing but respect for.

    But you cannot engage, let alone beat, Bernard Hopkins without throwing out the rule book, getting down to the basics and taking it to him, right where he lives. That’s what it means to fight Bernard Hopkins. For all the disciplined applications of technique necessary to match up with Battling Bernard, you have to fight it out. In the end, the man that beats Hopkins, the guy that banishes Hopkins from the middleweight thrown for good will have to subdue and destroy him as a predatory force, a relentless survivor of all-out championship fighting. There’s nothing neat and analytical to be done with Hopkins raging at you; even as he boxes, he’ll find moments to hold and hit and go low and butt and forearm and generally break the rhythm and eventually the mind and heart of the man who dares to better him.

    In the end, victory for Taylor can only be about vanquishing, winning about annihilating, because masterful threats of mere excellence Hopkins counters with ease, eats it for lunch. Just how basic can Taylor get? If Hopkins is ‘street’ then Taylor will have to leave him for lost, deep in the woods.

  11. #41
    From grudging respect to simply a grudge

    By Dan Rafael

    LAS VEGAS -- Before Jermain Taylor faced Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight championship in July, Taylor was quietly confident and extremely respectful of his opponent.

    He recognized Hopkins' historic title reign, during which he had made 20 consecutive defenses, easily the division record. Taylor spoke about how, some day, he hoped to carve out a legacy just as impressive as Hopkins'.

    Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) defeated Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs) on a split decision to win the title, but it was a decision many fans and media members disputed.

    Hopkins disagreed, too, and has spent the past four months railing against it -- particularly judge Duane Ford's scoring of the 12th round. Although Hopkins gave away many of the early rounds, he rallied in the second half of the fight and was clearly in control.

    Ford, however, gave the last round to Taylor even though it was an obvious Hopkins round to most. Had he given it to Hopkins, the fight would have been a draw and Hopkins would have retained the title.

    "At best, a robbery would have been a draw," Hopkins said. "A rape was to give it to Jermain Taylor."

    HBO PPV Saturday 9 p.m. ET
    Mandalay Bay Events Center
    Las Vegas, Nev.
    • Middleweights: Jermain Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) vs. Bernard Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs), 12 rounds, rematch, for Taylor's unified title.
    • HBO PPV: Tale O' The Tape
    • Junior featherweights: Oscar Larios (56-3-1, 36 KOs) vs. Israel Vazquez (38-3, 27 KOs), 12 rounds, rubber match, to unify titles and for vacant Ring magazine title.
    • Junior middleweights: Ike Quartey (36-2-1, 30 KOs) vs. Carlos Bojorquez (25-7-6, 21 KOs), 10 rounds.

    Hopkins, 40, has also aimed his considerable wrath at Taylor, 27, derisively calling him a "fake champion" and the "disputed champion."

    Now, Hopkins and Taylor are set for the Saturday night rematch (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at Mandalay Bay in the last major fight of 2005. The fight is dubbed "No Respect," and both fighters are living up to the title because they are not showing each other any respect.

    Taylor said his respect for Hopkins is gone because Hopkins has complained so bitterly about the decision in the first fight.

    "I'm so sick of this man crying," Taylor said. "If he thinks he can beat, then beat me. But shut up about it already.

    "I've got the mind-set of no respect. I feel like that he's disrespected me to the utmost and I am just sick of it. He puts no fear in my heart. I don't respect him, not one bit, and I am looking forward to a knockout."

    Decision aside, Hopkins is mad about Taylor's attitude toward him.

    "I put millions in Jermain's account but he runs his mouth and he doesn't show appreciation," Hopkins said.

    AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
    Hopkins (at podium) promises to knockout Taylor (right), who is promoted by DiBella (center).

    "How can you have no respect for someone who was champion for a decade? I'm not saying he should kiss my ass. But I gave him the opportunity when I didn't have to fight him. He forgot that. I gave him an opportunity, and now that he got a gift, he has no respect. I put millions in his account by giving him an opportunity and then you turn around and act like an ingrate? To me, it's personal because he forgot what I did for him, and now I got to spank him."

    Lou DiBella, Taylor's promoter and Hopkins' former adviser before a brutally acrimonious split in 2001, said he is glad to see Taylor less respectful of Hopkins this time around.

    "I'm thrilled because I have a fighter who is [ticked] off and has less respect, so he will go out and make this a different fight," DiBella said. "He will put a period on the exclamation point of the last fight and send Bernard off into retirement."

    Taylor, whose mild speech impediment is no match for Hopkins' gift of gab, instead used props to illustrate his disrespect at this week's final news conference. Taylor pulled out a tape player, pressed play and unleashed the sound of a wailing baby, explaining that it was what Hopkins has sounded like since July.

    Then Taylor reached into a bag and grabbed a baby doll dressed in pink, held it aloft and displayed its shirt, which read "Cry Baby Hopkins."

    "It shows you the type of man he is," Taylor said, referring to Hopkins' complaints.

    “&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp He is not a true champion. If I lost I would have gone home, looked at the tape, looked at what I did wrong and came back and did better. I wouldn't say I got robbed. I ain't got time for that. ”
    — Jermain Taylor on Bernard Hopkins

    "He is not a true champion. If I lost I would have gone home, looked at the tape, looked at what I did wrong and came back and did better. I wouldn't say I got robbed. I ain't got time for that. I'm just sick of him saying that he won the fight and that I didn't beat him. That was the worst night of boxing I've had in my life, but I still won the fight.

    "I'm stronger than he is, I'm faster than he is and, of course, I'm younger. I do everything it takes to be champion. Experience is all he has. He had the belts, but he doesn't even have that anymore."

    Naturally, Hopkins has a different view.

    Hopkins -- who will be participating in his 25th world title fight to Taylor's 25th overall fight -- said the only thing he plans to change in the rematch is that he won't let Taylor finish on his feet.

    Hopkins hurt Taylor twice late in the fight, but didn't knock him out or even knock him down. This time, he said, he will knock Taylor out because he doesn't feel like he can win a decision.

    “&nbsp &nbsp &nbsp &nbsp But when I get him hurt -- and this is a quote -- when he gets hurt, and he's going to get hurt, he's going to get knocked out. That's the only thing that I need to tweak. ”
    — Bernard Hopkins on his plans for Jermain Taylor

    "I'm going to do the same thing that was so easy for me to do the last time," Hopkins said. "But when I get him hurt -- and this is a quote -- when he gets hurt, and he's going to get hurt, he's going to get knocked out. That's the only thing that I need to tweak.

    "I have to knock Jermain Taylor out to win. If I don't, I don't win. And not only am I going to beat him, I will destroy his future, and he won't be able to be recycled. It's not good for Jermain Taylor to get back in the ring with me. I beat the guy the first time and I'm going to do it again. This time, it won't go the distance."

    Hopkins does have history on his side when it comes to rematches, going 4-0:

    • After a draw with Segundo Mercado in late 1994 for the vacant title, Hopkins ravaged him in the rematch in early 1995.

    • After a four-round no contest in which Hopkins looked shaky against Robert Allen in 1998, he crushed Allen in their two subsequent meetings, once by knockout (1999) and once by lopsided decision (2004).

    • After a decision victory against Antwun Echols in 1999, a fight that Hopkins calls the toughest of his career, he knocked Echols out in the 2000 rematch.

    Taylor laughed off Hopkins' prediction.

    "He can't hurt me, and if he could knock me out, he would have knocked me out last time," Taylor said.

    "He didn't. And he didn't because he couldn't. He gave me everything he could and I still wouldn't go. Every time he would come on, I'd come back with something. Every time."

    Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.

  12. #42
    Hitman Heitzie


    I like Jermain by decision in another close fight. Maybe Bernard's constant complaining about the decision in the 1st fight is a ploy to get close rounds scored his way this time around. I thought Jermain won a close fight the 1st time but a draw would have been ok in my eyes, no way was it as bad as Bernard seems to think it was. Believe me, I would like to see a KO in this fight just to settle matters conclusively but I don't think that will happen.

  13. #43


    BOXING: Hopkins not quite among all-time best

    by Kevin Iole Las Vegas Journal

    Bernard Hopkins closes his eyes and has a vision of himself wearing a pair of white trunks with a black stripe on the sides, plain, calf-length black boxing shoes and a white terrycloth robe with the words "My Way" emblazoned across the back.

    It would be the outfit he wears if he has a farewell fight, in homage to Sugar Ray Robinson, the best who ever laced on a pair of gloves.

    Hopkins' marvelous career, for all intents and purposes, will end sometime around 9 tonight at Mandalay Bay when he meets Jermain Taylor in a rematch for the middleweight title.

    Hopkins will be 41 next month and plans to retire in order to keep a promise to his late mother, Shirley. He told her he wouldn't fight past 40 and he insists he will keep his word. He has a Jan. 27 date from HBO, he said, when he could either fight his farewell bout or have an elaborate goodbye ceremony like Sugar Ray Leonard once did.

    Win or lose tonight, in five years he'll be on the platform in Canastota, N.Y., for induction to the International Boxing Hall of Fame. When you hold a world title for 10 years and make 20 consecutive successful defenses, halls of fame are the kinds of things that happen in your post-fight life.

    Where Hopkins fits among the elite of his division is what will be argued for years.

    He has said more than once that he'll be remembered as one of the three or four best middleweights of all-time.

    "Years from now, when people talk boxing, my name is going to be on their lips," he said.

    There was a time when middleweights were heavyweights among boxers. In the Hopkins era, sadly, the middleweights have largely been lightweights. And for that, Hopkins has to pay.

    Considering the brilliant fighters who have wrapped the middleweight belt around their waists, it's no sin to say Hopkins should never be regarded as a top-five middleweight. And if he loses tonight, he'll have a lot of convincing to do to sell people on the idea he belongs in the top 10.

    His 10-year reign is practically unheard of and his 20 defenses are a division record. Making the division limit of 160 pounds as long as he has is Ripken-esque. His business partner in Golden Boy Promotions, Oscar De La Hoya, was 17-0 and a week away from a big IBF-WBO lightweight championship unification bout when Hopkins won the middleweight title by stopping Segundo Mercado on April 29, 1994.

    Since then, De La Hoya has fought three times as a lightweight, three times as a super lightweight, 12 times as a welterweight, four times as a super welterweight and twice as a middleweight.

    Ruling the middleweight roost for so long is an extraordinary feat, but that alone does not justify putting him among the elite of the elite. Clearly, he is not in Robinson's class as a middleweight champion, though no one else ever has been, either.

    As a middleweight champion, Robinson had wins over Hall of Famers Gene Fullmer, Carmen Basilio, Bobo Olson, Rocky Graziano, Randy Turpin and Jake LaMotta.

    Hopkins has fought three men who will end up in the Hall of Fame. He lost to Roy Jones Jr. in 1993 and defeated Felix Trinidad and De La Hoya. Taylor might join that list, though it is much too soon to tell.

    But Hopkins' quest to be ranked among the best middleweight champions ever is hurt by his lack of competition. He happened to fight in an era when the best fighters fought in other weight classes.

    In 1999, a five-member panel for The Associated Press chose Robinson, Harry Greb, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Mickey Walker, Carlos Monzon, Charley Burley, LaMotta, Stanley Ketchel, Marcel Cerdan and Tony Zale as the greatest middleweights of the 20th century.

    In his prime, Hopkins would have been competitive with any of them in their primes, with the possible exception of Robinson.

    Hopkins' superb conditioning, strong chin, expert boxing skills and guile -- his innate sense of knowing how a fight should be waged -- would have kept him in the hunt with any middleweight who ever lived.

    A win tonight would certainly bolster his argument Hopkins belongs in the all-time top 10.

    Some might say it doesn't matter, since Taylor hasn't fought another Top 10-ranked opponent other than the 40-year old Hopkins, but any win by a 40-year-old over an undefeated 27-year-old world champion is significant.

    But as great as Hopkins' career has been, it doesn't compare to the Robinsons, the Haglers and the Monzons.

    He should be applauded for his commitment to his conditioning and appreciated for his underrated technical skills, but beating up on the likes of Antwun Echols, Syd Vanderpool, Robert Allen and their like isn't enough to put anyone in an all-time top 10.

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