Hopkins begins 'second chapter'

Posted: July 20, 2007

LAS VEGAS - It was Bernard Hopkins' turn at the microphone yesterday, and the loquacious Philadelphia fighter did not disappoint those attending the final prefight news conference for his light-heavyweight bout with Winky Wright at Mandalay Bay.

The weigh-in is today. Wright is favored to win tomorrow's fight.

"I see a couple of little kids here, so cover their ears up for about 10 seconds," said Hopkins, who followed Wright to the podium. "You just heard Winky say he wasn't going to try to sell this fight. Well, I am. I'm going to kick his ass come Saturday. I want to put you all on notice right now, so you'll know this wasn't said after the fact. I said it now. So when it's over with, just pay homage to it."

Hopkins, the former undisputed middleweight champion of the world who made a division-record 20 successful title defenses, will put his Ring Magazine belt on the line when he meets Wright at an agreed-upon 170 pounds.

The 42-year-old Hopkins moved atop Ring's ratings by virtue of his unanimous decision over then-International Boxing Organization champion Antonio Tarver in June 2006. He had announced that he would retire after the convincing win at the light-heavyweight limit of 175 pounds.

Since announcing that he would face the 35-year-old Wright, a righthander who boxes from a southpaw's stance, Hopkins has been asked why he would take on such a challenge. Wright is a former two-time belt holder at junior middleweight who owns two victories over Shane Mosley and another over Felix Trinidad.

The 5-101/2 Wright (50-3-1, 25 knockouts) has not lost since dropping a controversial decision to Fernando Vargas for the International Boxing Federation junior-middleweight title in December 1999.

The only non-win for Wright over the last eight years was a June 2006 draw against Jermain Taylor, who ended Hopkins' middleweight reign with a split decision in July 2005 that was also questioned by many.

"I know that I'm here for the second chapter of Bernard Hopkins' career as a light heavyweight," said the 6-1 Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs). "I fought at middleweight for over 13 years and accomplished greatness. I've trained to this point where you don't want to not exploit all of the talents you have. I just don't want to have this new look . . . this new body . . . just to walk around and look handsome. Anything you can do while you're living, then do it. Because at the end of day, when it's over, it's over."

With his main trainer, Brother Nazim Richardson of Philadelphia, recovering from a stroke and playing a lesser role, Hopkins prepared for Wright by working under the tutelage of Freddie Roach at the trainer's gym in Los Angeles.

For Hopkins, it was 10 weeks of sparring with younger, faster fighters who were out to prove their mettle against one of the all-time greats.

No doubt, they saw some of the tricks of the trade used by Hopkins that led Wright to call his opponent a "dirty fighter."

Wright was asked to back up that claim.

"Well, the way he uses his head," he said. "He hits you on the cup, or hits you on the leg. But I've never been one to cry about anything, you know what I mean? My job is to go into the ring and dominate my opponent, and that's what I'm going to do for Bernard."

Hopkins, who has knocked out nine of the 10 lefthanded boxers he has faced, is equally ready to do his thing.

"I never come into the ring to cut a paycheck just to say I was in the ring," he said. "That's not my style. My resume is what it is. You know who I am. You know my record."

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum

at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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