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Hopkins to defend title vs. Joppy

Nevada Appeal Staff Reports

BY MIKE HOUSER

At 38, undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins is getting a little long in the tooth.

Or is he?

Hopkins will defend his title tomorrow against William Joppy, of Silver Spring, Md., at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.. The bout will be one of eight title fights, of which five will be shown on pay-per-view, beginning at 5 p.m.

“I’ve been called old for the last three to four years,” said Hopkins, who will be making a division-record 17th defense of the title he won against Segundo Mercado in April 1995. “You know what you do with an old man. Old men don’t have reflexes. Old men have arthritis. Old men don’t function like a young man. But nobody’s knocking at my door.”

Actually, two men are knocking on Hopkins’s figurative door. One is IBF 154-pound titlist Winky Wright, and the other is Joppy, the so-called WBA middleweight champion. The WBA has conferred the dubious “super champion” status on Hopkins.

“That’s a good question to ask (WBA president Gilberto) Mendoza. Ask him why he’s got a super champion and a regular champion,” said Hopkins in a conference call. “On a scale from A to Z, I give Joppy a C-. I don’t pick guys that are No. 1 contenders, the sanctioning bodies do. You fight the guy they (call) the No. 1 contender based on keeping your undisputed title, which means something in boxing. I just follow the rules to keep my status until that status doesn’t mean anything anymore. Right now that status means a lot to me.”

Hopkins, 42-2-1, with 31 knockouts and one no-contest, said his goal is to defend his title 20 times, and that he isn’t impressed with Joppy, who (disregarding the absurd claim by the WBA that he is the world champion now) won the legitimate WBA middleweight title two times, before losing it by five-round TKO to Felix Trinidad in May 2001.

“The Trinidad fight doesn’t help him,” Hopkins said of Joppy, 34-2-1 (25), who was dropped three times in the loss. “But I can’t change the rules. I’ve been doing that (following the rules) since 1995 (when he won the title).”

As for Hopkins’ other possible challenger – Wright – Hopkins was more magnanimous.

“Winky Wright is the only guy out there that has enough heart to mention my name,” Hopkins said. “You don’t hear Oscar De La Hoya calling out Bernard Hopkins unless it’s four fights down the line.”

When a reporter mentioned that Hopkins was “on top of De La Hoya’s list,” Hopkins reacted dismissively.

“Yeah, on top of what list? He might have four lists,” Hopkins said. “De La Hoya has been known to say a lot of things. I don’t know what he’s waiting for.”

Hopkins also had a bone to pick with WBC-WBA 154-pound champion Sugar Shane Mosley, who has spoken often of moving up to face Hopkins.

“Shane lied to Winky Wright,” Hopkins said. “He said he’d fight him if he beat De La Hoya. Bottom line is, you don’t hear ‘Sweet and Low’ calling me out. Nobody else is calling me out. Winky Wright is the man who has been calling out Bernard Hopkins. I’m not saying (the fight) is signed, sealed and delivered, but I give much respect to Wright for at least mentioning my name.”

And respect is something that Hopkins feels he – Hopkins – is not receiving. He is often criticized by boxing pundits for squandering his career after his Sept. 29, 2001, 12-round TKO over Trinidad (considered his ultimate achievement) by fighting twice in the last 26-plus months. Hopkins scored a 10-round stoppage over Carl Daniels on Feb. 2, 2002, followed by an eight-round TKO over inept challenger Morrade Hakkar last March.

Hopkins, who served several years in prison before turning pro in 1988, said he looks at the big picture, not worrying about where boxing scribes seem to focus.

“What keeps Bernard Hopkins motivated is that I know where I come from,” said Hopkins, who hails from the mean streets of Philadelphia. “I don’t have to hit anybody over the head to make a buck now. I don’t have to go out and do something criminal to make a dollar now. I realize my mom and dad have never seen $100,000 in their whole lifetime, and I have a chance to go and make millions of dollars, hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“I realize where I’ve come from. It keeps me in tune with where I’ve got to go. I realize that Bernard Hopkins has come a long way from being a city guy on the street, and re-evaluating my life to becoming one of the premier fighters and probable a Hall of Famer. I’ve already won. This is gravy.”