Ring legends Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr go head-to-head in the rematch that has taken seventeen years to happen, when the two meet at the Manderlay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas this Saturday night. The two first met in 1993, when Jones outpointed Hopkins for the IBF middleweight title.
Back in 1993 Roy Jones Jr was the most talented and most talked about young fighter in America. He first came to the public’s attention when he was robbed of Olympic gold in the 1988 Seoul games when judges voted 3-2 in favor of South Korean fighter Park Si-Hun in the light-middleweight final, despite Jones dominating the bout and out-punching Park 86-32.
Turning pro the following year, Jones garnered the same level of media attention in his ascent up the world rankings as had Sugar Ray Leonard a decade earlier.
By May 1993, Jones was 21-0 as a pro with 20 knockouts. Facing Jones for the vacant IBF world middleweight title was Bernard ”The Executioner” Hopkins, an
ex-jailbird from Philadelphia who entered the ring wearing an axeman´s hood. If Jones was the boxing media´s darling, then Hopkins reveled in his image as the bad guy. Hopkins was at that time known as a knockout artist who had flattened 17 of his 22 victims, 12 in the first round. Indeed, three of his last four fights hadn’t lasted beyond the opening stanza, including a 21 second knockout of Wayne Powell for the United States middleweight title. Jones was a perfectly proportioned 5´11´´, Hopkins a lean, imposing 6´2´´.
Of course we all know that Jones was just a little too good for Hopkins that night, winning by scores of 116-112 on all three scorecards.
Both Jones and Hopkins would prove to be just a little too good for their respective rivals for some time after that; Jones would add super-middle, light heavy and heavyweight titles to his collection, and suffer just one controversial disqualification defeat in the next eleven years.
Hopkins would win the middleweight crown two years later, and defend the title a record 20 times. He would go undefeated for the next twelve years – the original knockout artist being replaced by the ultimate ring technician, a master boxer who can punch and knows every trick, legal or not, in the book.
Jones ( 54-6, 40 ko´s) would beat fighters like Mike McCallum, James Toney, Vinny Pazienza, Montell Griffin, Virgil Hill and John Ruiz.
Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 ko´s) would prove too much for Glen Johnson, Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Kelly Pavlik, among others.
The last few years haven’t been kind to Jones. Since 2004, his record is won 5 lost 5, including three knockout losses, one of which occurred in Jones´ last fight, when he was knocked out inside a round by Danny Green in Australia last December.
Jones did beat Omar Sheika and Jeff Lacey back to back last year. He still has fast hands, good power and the stamina to go the distance, but now resembles a fighter doing an impersonation of the great Roy Jones Jr.
Since 2005, Hopkins record is won 4 lost 3, but his three defeats were close decision losses to Jermain Taylor (twice) and Joe Calzaghe, results that arguably could have gone either way. During that time he has beaten Antonio Tarver, Winky Wright and Kelly Pavlik, marquee fighters at the top of their games. Hopkins has looked after himself throughout his long career, he never drinks or smokes, is in bed by seven, and doing his roadwork at five in the morning.
At 45 he is a modern marvel, not just in the sport of boxing, but in sport – period.
On paper, 41 year old Jones would appear to have no chance, and indeed the bookies have Hopkins a massive 1/6 favorite, with Jones at 4/1 (bet365). But in an interview last week, Jones sounded far from defeatist.
On his relationship with Hopkins, Jones said;
“He don’t like me, and I’m glad he don’t like me. I got no dislike for him. I don’t really care, one way or the other. But it is definitely true. He does not like Roy Jones. He hates he couldn’t beat Roy Jones in his prime, in his heyday, and he hate Roy Jones for that, he hate that I overshadowed him in his prime, and he has not liked me from that day forward. Because I even overshadowed him in our older days, too. He never got to be Roy Jones. He always wanted to be like me, in charge of his own career, in charge of his own destiny, and he’s not. Without Golden Boy, he’s nobody. So he ain’t never gonna like me. But that’s too bad.”
When asked why the two hadn’t fought their rematch years earlier, Jones said;
“Because he didn’t want to fight me again. He didn’t want to fight me again until he felt like I was at the end of my career, and I had deteriorated and slowed down a bit. So he wouldn’t fight me until he saw a weakness in my arsenal, until he looked at me and thought, ‘OK, now Roy’s finished, now I’ll take him.’ He wasn’t going to fight me until he thought I was done. Now he feels like I’m done, so he’ll fight me now. It ain’t no big thing to figure out.”
Jones and Hopkins came close to signing contracts after Hopkins had defeated Felix Trinidad in 2001, but negotiations broke down over money.
“He had Don King promoting him at the time,” Jones said. “He was like, ‘I need 50-50 (purse split) because I got to pay Don King.’ I’m like, ‘You’re not the draw. I am. If you got to pay Don, that’s not my fault. You want to take 40-60, we can do that all day long. But it got to be 60-40 not 50-50, because I’m the draw, not him. Even today, I’m still the draw. They want to see me, they don’t want to see him. They want to see which me is going to show up. They don’t care which him is going to show up. He ain’t got but one him.”
Jones still has respect for Hopkins as a fighter, saying “He’s dangerous and he’s smart.”
But he was confident, that despite everything, Hopkins wasn’t about to be getting any revenge this Saturday.
“I’m loving it. I’m so loving it,” Jones said. “I love the fact that he hate me so bad. He hate me so bad, but he still never chose to get back in the ring with me. So he don’t hate me as much as he say he do. But just as much as he hates me, he also fears me. And that’s why he hates me, because he fears me, and he hate to fear another man. That’s why he hate me. Because he’s afraid of me. I strike fear into his heart.”
And in anticipation of causing an upset on Saturday, Jones laughed;
“He gonna hate me twice as bad as he do right now.”
So, can he do it? After the disaster against Green, it looks highly unlikely. If Hopkins fights Jones as he fights his other opponents, then he should win by a wide margin on points, or even a mid-to-late round knockout.
But if Hopkins allows Jones to get under his skin, and Jones has some early success, it could become very interesting.
I´m banking on Hopkins rubber-stamping his legacy with an emphatic seventh round knockout.
Big Fight Odds; Bernard Hopkins 1/6, Roy Jones Jr 4/1 bet365