Hopkins set to retire De La Hoya
September 15, 2004
After undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins defeated Felix Trinidad in 2001, he failed to capitalize on his success and went on to defend his crown against the likes of Carl Daniels, Morrade Hakkar, William Joppy and three-time opponent Robert Allen.
But patience has paid off for the 39-year-old Hopkins, who passed on mega-dollar fights against Roy Jones and James Toney, and Saturday he will face WBO middleweight titlist Oscar De La Hoya at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, which will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.
Hopkins, of Philadelphia, has a record of 44-2-1, with 31 knockouts and one no-contest, and will be making a division-record 19th title defense of the crown he won against Segundo Mercado in April 1995 and last defended against Allen in June.
“Oscar’s in trouble, man,” Hopkins said in a conference call. “This fight here shuts my critics up. To go in and not win the biggest fight of my career? The Trinidad fight was getting over the hump. This is the fire in my belly that will give me the win on September 18.”
When one writer told Hopkins that the 31-year-old De La Hoya, 37-3 (31), planned on “bringing a closure to his career” after beating him, Hopkins had a matter-of-fact response.
“Rest assured, he will retire after September 18, so he’s accurate,” Hopkins said of De La Hoya, who won the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics and has captured titles in six weight divisions from 130 to 160 pounds. “There’s no reason for him to go any further, especially after what I do to him.
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“I’m the hungriest fighter in the world right now. That’s my edge. De La Hoya has done everything he can do as a champion.”
Unlike De La Hoya, Hopkins said he hasn’t even considered retiring.
“I’ve never said I’ll retire in one, two, three more fights,” Hopkins said. “I’m not a hundred-million-dollar boxer – not even a third of that. There are no signs (he should retire). I don’t have pains or headaches. It’s not in my mind right now. I haven’t thought about it.
“One thing I learned in prison and on the streets, when you’re running, you don’t look back. I’m going to come out with a “W” and continue to be champion of the world.”
For Hopkins, who served 56 months in prison for strong-armed robbery before turning pro in 1988, beating De La Hoya would cap a tremendous success story that has seen him rise from the Big House, to the Penthouse.
“I’ve come a long way from sitting in a five-by-five cell, without winning a gold medal, without a big contract, without a big promoter,” said Hopkins, who serves as his own manager. “If you can come from that place (prison) that was close to death – it’s part of my psyche, my motivation.”
Hopkins expressed disdain for De La Hoya’s performance in his last fight, a controversial 12-round decision over Felix Sturm for the WBO middleweight title in June. De La Hoya, who said he was undertrained and lacking in motivation, appeared portly and lacked the power and speed that had been his hallmark throughout his brilliant career.
“How can you not get motivated for a guy that was going to punch you in the face?” Hopkins asked. “For Morrade Hakkar (a substandard mandatory challenger), I went in there 150-percent in shape. I trained like it was a (Marvin) Hagler fight. I didn’t go in there with my belly hanging out. It’s because I take pride in my work, in staying in shape. If you’re going to beat me, it’s because you’re better than me. Nobody gets a free ride.”
Hopkins said De La Hoya would come in against him in condition, but that he doesn’t stay in shape after he fights, choosing to take it easy instead. This, said Hopkins, will cost “The Golden Boy.”
“I’m going to make him fight every second, every minute,” Hopkins said. “He’s going to have to fight, fight, fight, until the fight is over. He’d better not get tired on me. I’m going to set the pace from round one. De La Hoya will be shocked. I will set the pace and keep it up as long as the fight lasts.”
Hopkins said during his training camp he watched every De La Hoya fight from the time he fought Ivan Robinson as an amateur all the way up to Sturm.
“You look at De La Hoya then – at his best – leading all the way up to (his 1995 fight with Rafael) Ruelas, this was De La Hoya when he didn’t have $200 million,” Hopkins said. “To me, you can’t get no better (than De La Hoya was when he beat Ruelas for the IBF lightweight title). He went from a guy that rarely got hit back then, to getting hit by anything but the kitchen sink now. I’ll show it September 18.”
By his account, Hopkins had a “military-like camp” in Miami Beach and used something he learned in prison to avoid temptation and stay strong mentally.
“I don’t take anything for granted,” Hopkins said. “I’m not going to waste my time on a feeling that comes from bad (impulsive) decision, that lasts me for one minute, one hour or however long it lasts. Nothing distracts me.”
Hopkins also appeared a bit insulted that De La Hoya’s wife called him ugly.
“I don’t think I’m the ugliest person ever,” Hopkins said. “Come September 18, we’re going to see who’s uglier than Bernard Hopkins. I’m going to serve De La Hoya his last meal – Reyes (boxing) gloves.”