Sun, Dec 14, 2003 - Page 23 News List

Fights hit Boardwalk Hall

PLACE YOUR BETS A marathon series of eight title fights will feature some knowns and unknowns as promoters and big casinos look to capitalize on the sweet science

AP , ATLANTIC CITY, NEW JERSEY

Bernard Hopkins likes to talk nearly as much as he likes to fight. He does both so well it's hard to imagine the spot he occupies on a Saturday night fight card crowded with fellow champions.

Hopkins finds himself fighting for small money and struggling to get noticed when he defends his middleweight titles against former champion William Joppy as part of a marathon series of eight title fights of sorts at the Boardwalk Hall.

It's not exactly what Hopkins envisioned two years after he gave Felix Trinidad such a whipping that Trinidad retired. By now, he figured he would be making big money against the likes of Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones Jr., and Shane Mosley.

Instead, he's defending the middleweight title for the 17th time on a card where he's not even the star.

"Bernard Hopkins," says promoter Don King, "is like someone who won the lottery and then lost the ticket."

Hopkins begs to differ. He blames King for some of his problems, the boxing establishment for others and his own big mouth for the rest.

The 38-year-old from nearby Philadelphia is his own manager and has his own idea of what he should do. Most of the time it doesn't square with what others want, part of the reason Hopkins has had only two unimpressive fights against mediocre opponents since beating Trinidad on Sept. 29, 2001.

"The principle of standing up for what I believe is right has delayed my greatness," Hopkins said. "I've been bucking the system for as long as I've been boxing."

Hopkins believes that greatness will come out in fights against De La Hoya and Mosley, provided he can get them to come to the table. He becomes a boxing free agent next month when King's promotional contract expires.

When that happens, Hopkins wants De La Hoya.

"Am I being a bully by calling Oscar out?" he asks. "Why is the media treating Oscar like a prima donna? I beat the man [Trinidad] who beat Oscar, so why wouldn't the public want to see me fight him?"

Before Hopkins can begin his big fight campaign, though, he must take care of business against Joppy in a fight that threatens to get lost on a card that includes former heavyweight champions John Ruiz and Hasim Rahman and a rising star in welterweight champ Ricardo Mayorga.

Actually, Hopkins wants the fight to pass relatively unnoticed.

"The only story that can come out of this is Bernard Hopkins doesn't deliver and Joppy becomes a hero," Hopkins said.

Hopkins (42-2-1, 31 knockouts) has held a piece of the middleweight title since 1995, and unified it when he beat Trinidad, who had stopped Joppy in the fifth round in his previous fight.

Joppy (34-2-1, 25 knockouts) is a former 72kg champion himself who understands what beating Hopkins would mean.

Other fights on the card will include:

-- WBA and WBC welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga in a unification fight against IBF champion Cory Spinks.

-- Ruiz and Rahman fighting a fight for the interim WBA heavyweight title, with the winner becoming champion if Roy Jones Jr. gives up the belt.

-- Former junior welterweight champion Zab Judah against Colombia's Jaime Rangel in a 12-round fight for the lightly regarded WBO title held by Judah.

-- IBF light flyweight champion Victor Burgos of Mexico against WBA champion Rosendo Alvarez of Nicaragua in a scheduled 12-round fight.

-- WBA junior middleweight champion Alejandro Garcia of Mexico, who has 27 knockouts in 27 fights, in a title defense against Travis Simms of Norwalk, Connecticut, who is 22-0 with 17 knockouts.

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