Hopkins, Calzaghe Trade Insults In London

joe calzagheBy Matthew Hurley: Although Bernard Hopkins can be something of a polarizing figure in boxing he has remained one of the games best self-promoters during his long and storied career. His ability to dominate press conferences has become legendary – including press conferences in which he was not even the central attraction.

Who can forget Golden Boy Promotions (GBP) ‘promoter’ Hopkins basically taking the microphone away from Juan Manuel Marquez after his victory over GBP house fighter Marco Antonio Barrera and turning the post fight presser into a meandering piece of self-congratulatory rhetoric. The ‘Executioner’ may deride Don King but in terms of egocentricity he has a lot more in common with the frizzy haired one than he’d care to admit.

Hopkins did it again at the weigh-in for the Floyd Mayweather – Ricky Hatton bout back in December in Las Vegas. As thousands of more than slightly inebriated Hatton fans cheered on their man Hopkins saw a perfect opportunity to hype an as-of-yet signed fight when he saw potential opponent Joe Calzaghe milling about the media room. Like the huckster he is Hopkins confronted Calzaghe, spouting patriotism and racial overtures (“I’ll never let a white boy beat me!”) and suddenly a potential event was born. The man is a marketing genius.

Although his past several fights could not be called ‘classics’ because of his defensive, energy saving style he remains a compelling figure because of his antagonistic nature and his innate ability to provide a perfect sound bite for every boxing writer on the beat. He’s also the type of personality who will engage you directly because he believes every utterance he makes is a shiny pearl of wisdom. Simply put, Hopkins will talk your ear off and will eventually say something printable. Contrast that with, say, the reticent Miguel Cotto and it’s little wonder why Bernard remains a quote hungry reporter’s savior.

Now as he smacks his lips in anticipation of the pre-fight festivities surrounding his April 19th summit meeting at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas with Calzaghe the forty-three year old Hopkins is revving his motor mouth to maximum verbiage and doesn’t plan to shut up until the opening bell rings. Fortunately he has a dance partner in Calzaghe who is witty where Hopkins is blunt, playful as opposed to confrontational. Although Calzaghe appears to be a relative new-comer to many American fans to the hype machine that surrounds a big time Las Vegas event the Welshman is a proven veteran and almost certain first ballot hall of fame candidate who is not intimidated by anything anymore. His comfort level before the glare of the media and rabid boxing fans has been honed through a ten run as super middleweight champion. Despite the fact that only recently has he been accorded the near universal praise he has so long deserved Calzaghe has always been secure enough mentally and emotionally to accept whatever acclaim or criticism has come his way. He is the proverbial ‘cool cucumber’ which makes this oil and water pairing of him and Hopkins so interesting. It might not turn out to be so fascinating in the ring but all the mucking about beforehand promises to be worth watching.

And it all kicked off yesterday at a press conference in London.

“I am going to bring some boxing history to the English,” Hopkins said.

You could almost envision Don King behind him, waving tiny American flags bellowing, “Say it B-Hop! America, Baby!” In fact Hopkins first words at the microphone were preceded by a long, extremely patriotic promotional video.

“When I step out of that ring I represent myself and my family, but I also represent the USA. I believe we have the best athletes in boxing and if I have to prove that I will do so.”

Hopkins is obviously intent on turning this match up into a nationalistic battle rather than a back and white issue in spite of his past comment regarding skin color.

“I said what I said,” Hopkins offered. “People who know me, know me. You can write what you want and you have the legal right to do so. It doesn’t matter what I regret or what I don’t regret. I said what I said and come April 19th it’s up to Joe to prove me a liar. That’s the best way to stop talkers.”

Calzaghe countered Hopkins with praise before slipping in the blade.

“Hopkins is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters, but I think (past opponent Mikkel) Kessler was a better fighter than him. I don’t just keep fighting for the money, it is about being the best and fighting to win. I want to be like Rocky Marciano and retire undefeated. Not many fighters can say that. Win this fight at light heavyweight and one more maybe, that will be it. That’s what I call legendary.”

Hopkins, as is his wont, got in the last word.

“This fight is right up my alley. I function better when things are not supposed to go my way. I am an old man.”

He then added with a smile, “I just happen to be an old man that can fight.”

Article posted on 08.02.2008

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