Nazim Richardson: “Bernard Hopkins going in and dominating Jean Pascal would not shock me”

by Geoffrey Ciani - This week’s 98th edition of On the Ropes Boxing Radio featured an exclusive interview with highly regarded boxing trainer Nazim Richardson, who is currently preparing Bernard Hopkins (51-5-1, 32 KOs) to face WBC light heavyweight champion Jean Pascal (26-1, 16 KOs) on December 18 in Quebec, Canada. In addition to Hopkins, Richardson is also best known for training Sugar Shane Mosley and Steve “USS” Cunningham. Richardson shared his thoughts on several topics, including Hopkins-Pascal, Steve Cunningham’s future, Shane Mosley, Pacquiao-Margarito, what it means to “swim without getting wet”, and much more. Here are some excerpts from that interview:

His initial views on the Bernard Hopkins versus Jean Pascal fight coming together:

“Well, like I’ve said we throw the word around all the time, ‘legend’, but it’s not used properly sometimes. I think it’s just out of context. When you’re talking about Bernard Hopkins you’re really talking about a certified legend. There are guys who’ve won championships and tournaments, but very few guys have been able to fight into their later years like he has as effectively and keeping himself current with what’s going on. He’s never embarrassed himself. He’s out there competing with these young guys and that’s important for the older fighters, not embarrassing themselves. So he’s a throwback to the Archie Moores and guys of that cloth.”

On when he thinks we will finally see significant signs of decline in Bernard Hopkins:

“When it comes to Bernard Hopkins you’ll never get a chance to see his decline. You guys will never get a chance to see Bernard Hopkins decline, because as we see it in the gym, we won’t allow him to go into the fight so you’ll never get the chance to see it. If you see Bernard Hopkins in a fight, he can still fight.”

His views on Jean Pascal as a fighter:

“When you look at a guy’s physical gifts sometimes you’re not all that impressed. Pascal, I can’t measure his ambition. You may look and say the guy’s athletic, but maybe he’s not the biggest puncher, maybe he’s not the greatest technician, but his ambition has got him here. We got to respect his ambition, and that’s not something you can measure on films or on tape, so that’s what we have to be prepared for.”

His views on Jean Pascal’s victory against Chad Dawson:

“With the Dawson fight, I mean Pascal was fortunate. I mean we saw the fight. He was fortunate in that he was able to get ahead and when Chad started closing the distance the cut came. So when the cut came in Pascal’s favor, he already did his work.”

On what he believes Bernard Hopkins needs to do to be successful against Jean Pascal:

“To use what I know is inside him. Bernard Hopkins is a rare breed, and like I’ve said the mentality of this man is the most important thing. When he’s focused, and we know he’s fit because of the lifestyle he’s adopted over the years, so we know he’s fit and he’s focused he’s going to be a problem for these guys because his IQ is so high in the ring. Now against Pascal that’s our only advantage. All the advantages go to Pascal—he’s younger, he’s faster, geographically we’re in Canada. That helps. The audience screams when the guy takes steps. So all these things are in his favor but the one thing that’s in our favor is the boxing IQ that Bernard Hopkins has. I mean his IQ is probably higher than Pascal’s trainer.”

On whether he worries that they may get the short end of a decision fighting Pascal in Canada:

“We acknowledge the situation. Worrying about it is not relevant. If you put a security system on your house, and then you turn it on and you lock up your house and leave out, all you can do is make the necessary adjustments for prevention—and that’s all we can do. We can’t sit there and worry about it. If we worry about it disrupts the mental flow of our camp, and he’s not going to worry about it at all. If there’s anybody who’s going to worry about it to any degree, it would be me and I can’t let it overwhelm my strategy and what we have to do. Yes, fighting in Canada is an advantage for this young man. We know that. He’s fought in Canada predominantly through his career.”

On whether he ever envisioned a scenario where Floyd Mayweather would be as dominant as he was against Shane Mosley:

“I mean no, you can’t envision that but like I said, you have to be prepared for all things. I have to give Shane a chance in the fight when I saw things still weren’t correct because through our relationship and his history, he proved that he’s earned that chance. So I gave him the opportunity to continue in the fight knowing that he’s capable of hurting his man. He hurt him early in the fight, and we’ve seen him knock other people out with a single shot in the last round. So we know he’s capable of that so that’s the only reason you let him continue even though it’s one-sided. I had to give the guy an opportunity because the guy earned the opportunity. I don’t say that with all fighters and I wouldn’t have let all fighters continue if something had shown up wrong that night. Fighters like Shane have earned the right to continue. On a bad night he’s earned the right, because we’ve seen him have not so good nights before and in the last round he can knock a guy cold asleep. So we know he has that in his repertoire. You got to give him a chance to use it.”

On whether he believes Hopkins has what it takes to shock the world and score another shocking upset in a fight where many observers are counting him out:

“I don’t think it will shock the world. The people who know Bernard Hopkins know better already. You don’t count this dude out. Emanuel Steward is entitled to his opinion, and he has a highly respected opinion. I respect his opinion, but on the same token Emanuel Steward has never trained Bernard Hopkins so when you look at it from the perspective that we’re looking at, Bernard Hopkins going in and dominating Jean Pascal would not shock me. Yes, we’re anticipating him taking his boxing IQ into the ring with Pascal and manipulating Pascal’s youth and athleticism with our boxing IQ. That’s what we plan on doing, of course, but I wouldn’t call it a shock—and even the people who aren’t picking him, they wouldn’t call it a shock. They wouldn’t be shocked if Bernard went in there and did his thing. It’s just that when you put people in the corner and they have to make a choice, yeah it’s wiser to go with the younger more athletic kid fighting at home with a guy that hasn’t knocked people out in a long time. Yeah, that’s the best! That’s an intelligent bet.”

On training Steve USS Cunningham and rumored talks about a Super Six style tournament in the cruiserweight division:

“The cruiserweight tournament, you summed it up perfectly—you said there was talk. There has been talk, and it’s been back and forth talk. Steve has a long road to climb, because even when you look at these guys compared to where Bernard Hopkins is, these guys are champions. I’ll even go one better. Even when you look at Hopkins, Shane, and his partners—they’re legends, but even Bernard sets himself apart from the legends, because as great a legend as Oscar is, there is only a handful of fighters in history who can move on and fight in their later years. Oscar wasn’t capable of doing it as we know of yet. So that’s what sets them apart. Steve is in a division that doesn’t get attention over here, so they’re going to talk a lot of things over there in Europe because Huck is over there and they’re going to push, but Steve has work to do and his work should be focused on making himself the face of the cruiserweight division. I tell Steve his goal should be when they mention cruiserweights, they’ll mention Evander Holyfield then they should mention him. There is room for that in the cruiserweight division, but he has to be consistent.”

On whether he believes Marco Huck has improved at all since his first fight against Cunningham and his views on the possibility of a Cunningham-Huck rematch:

“Other than the heavy promotion behind his promotional company in making that rematch, I don’t see where the public wants to see that in the cruiserweight division. That’s one to have, but my thing is Cunningham in the cruiserweight division has beaten everybody who holds a major belt. He holds a win over everybody that has a major belt in the weight class. He’s proven himself as a cruiserweight. He’s in position now to pick and decide if he wants to be involved in this tournament, if there is going to be a tournament, and who else is valuable out there for him to fight. Huck might be the most lucrative fight for him, but I don’t see what people see in that fight that makes you think it goes different, other than maybe Steve gets him earlier.”

On how he would prepare Antonio Margarito if he was in his corner preparing him for Manny Pacquiao:

“What people don’t realize is that when you say to tell him in the corner, the work has to be done far before the corner. That’s one of the great attributes about working with Bernard Hopkins. The work is done in the gym. We get the work done in the gym. I really feel like I can give him a water bottle in the corner and send him out there because the work is done, unless the guy he fought does something drastically different from what we anticipated. The kid Margarito, the only thing I can say about Margarito is you have to beat him for me to believe you can beat him. You have to beat him. I told Shane that when we first went to camp. I don’t pencil anybody in just thinking oh I know this guy can beat Margarito. Until you beat Margarito, you got to prove to me that you can beat him. Until you beat him, I can’t say this guy will beat him or that guy will beat him. This kid’s chin is something special.”

His views on the fight between Manny Pacquiao and Antonio Margarito:

“Like I said, that stuff really hasn’t been on my radar too much. I’m hoping I get a chance to watch it, but that really hasn’t been on my radar too much. I’ve been watching TV Pascal every night. In dealing with that fight, I’m a Pacquiao fan and I would hope he’s not too busy working on the congressional side of his career. I’m hoping he’s not so focused there that he oversteps Margarito, because I think Pacquiao and Freddie Roach are a superb team and I think they prove that time and time again. I can’t see where you can find negatives about them because everything they’ve done has been in such a positive aspect. I would not be shocked If Margarito beat Pacquiao. I really wouldn’t. I wouldn’t even be surprised. Guys at this level, when they fight each other one is definitely going to win, and one can easily come back and win the rematch. So I wouldn’t be surprised if Margarito got past Pacquiao, but I would hope it would be because of his skill level and not because of the congress, because he’s making movies, because he’s singing in bands and all that stuff. This shouldn’t be used as a crutch, which I don’t think Freddie and them would. They are the elite part of the business in the sport we’re in.”

On what he means when he uses the phrase “swim without getting wet”:

“That’s something I advise for all athletes who work with me in the gym. They understand that code when I tell them to ‘swim without getting wet’. It’s a level. It’s a level that a lot of fighters can’t obtain. People just heard it in the corner with Shane Mosley, but I’ve been saying things like that to Bernard Hopkins going back as far as the Trinidad fight. It’s a certain level. When I’ve seen an athlete obtain that level in the gym, then I call for it in the fight. I know that every athlete is not capable of it. There are only a handful I work with who are, but when I call for that I expect them to elevate themselves towards a level that should be unobtainable for the opponent.”


For those interested in listening to the Nazim Richardson interview in its entirety, it begins approximately one hour and fifty-two minutes into the program.


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Article posted on 05.11.2010

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