By Keith Idec
Bernard Hopkins is 15-0 in Atlantic City since losing his four-round pro debut by majority decision there to Clinton Mitchell in October 1988.
Three of his biggest wins in recent years — against Kelly Pavlik, Antonio Tarver and William Joppy — occurred at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall. And fighting in Atlantic City, about a 60-mile drive from his native Philadelphia, is about as close to a hometown fight as Hopkins could get without actually boxing within the limits of “The City of Brotherly Love.”
But in full me-against-the-world mode before his light heavyweight championship rematch Saturday night against Chad Dawson, Hopkins predictably scoffed at the suggestion that the site of their fight gives him any advantage whatsoever entering the 12-round fight at Boardwalk Hall.
“There’s no hometown advantage for me or my opponent,” Hopkins, 47, said on a conference call. “He’s from Connecticut, which is around the corner. I’m from Philadelphia, which is next door. There’s no hometown advantage. A hometown advantage is when you’ve got the judges and the referee and the politics on your side. That’s a hometown advantage. That’s homecourt, trust me. … With me, you’ve got to remember, you’re dealing with Bernard Hopkins. You’re dealing with Bernard Hopkins and there’s no homecourt advantage for Bernard Hopkins. The rules are different for me, man. The rules are different. And I ain’t complaining.”
Hopkins proceded to compare his anti-establishment journey toward the International Boxing Hall of Fame with the histories of such outspoken, legendary athletes as Jim Brown, Satchel Paige, Muhammad Ali and Bill Russell.
“The rules are different for anybody that stood up for what they believe in, whether it cost them their career, their lives or their job,” Hopkins said. “The rules are different for certain people that do these things. So it’s never a homecourt advantage [for me].
“They will never rock me to sleep. As a matter of fact, as far as I’m concerned I’m fighting in his backyard. As far as I’m concerned, I’m fighting in enemy territory because you won’t rock me to sleep and you can’t rock me to sleep and think that anybody’s going to do Bernard Hopkins a damn favor.”
Hopkins implored anyone who thinks fighting in Atlantic City is an advantage for him to recall what happened in his first fight against Dawson, in the hometown of his influential, popular promoter, Oscar De La Hoya.
Referee Pat Russell ruled Hopkins the loser by second-round technical knockout after Hopkins said he couldn’t continue due to a shoulder injury suffered when Dawson dumped him to the canvas Oct. 15 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. The California State Athletic Commission later ruled the fight a no-contest, which led to this rematch (HBO; 10:15 p.m. EDT).
The New Jersey State Athletic Control Board has assigned Eddie Cotton, of Paterson, N.J., to referee the Hopkins-Dawson rematch. The SACB also assigned Dick Flaherty, of Braintree, Mass., New York’s Luis Rivera, and Steve Weisfeld, of River Vale, N.J., to judge the fight for Hopkins’ WBC 175-pound crown.
Dawson (30-1, 17 KOs, 2 NC) has never fought in Atlantic City in his 10½ years as a pro, but the New Haven, Conn., native said he’s not the least bit concerned about Hopkins (52-5-2, 32 KOs, 2 NC) receiving any preferential treatment.
“I’m not worried about that at all,” Dawson, 29, said. “We never even brought that up. That’s never been a topic of discussion with us. We’re just looking forward to going out there on [Saturday night] and becoming a world champion once again.”
Gary Shaw, whose Totowa, N.J.-based company promotes Dawson, reminded reporters on the conference call that any perceived advantage for Hopkins would be negated by Shaw’s history. Shaw served the New Jersey commission as an inspector from 1971 until he went to work for promoter Main Events in 1999.
“[Dawson’s] promoter,” Shaw said, “was on the board in New Jersey for a lot of years.”
Richard Schaefer, chief executive officer for Golden Boy Promotions, half-kiddingly interjected and asked Shaw to elaborate on what he meant.
“I mean that nobody has an advantage,” Shaw said. “Bernard’s from Philly and I had a relationship with the state of New Jersey, so we’re all even.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com.