By Mark Vester
In a recent interview with Bernard Fernandez of the Philadelphia Daily News, light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) discusses one of the more controversial comments that he’s ever made.
During last December’s weigh-in for Mayweather-Hatton in Las Vegas, Hopkins told super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe (44-0, 32 Kos) that he would “never lose to white boy,” a comment aimed at Calzaghe’s skin color.
Speaking with Fernandez, Hopkins said the comment was not meant to be taken as a racial slur or a reflection of his feelings on white fighters. It was simply said to create some hype for his April 19 mega-bout with Calzaghe. Based on the public’s reaction to the comment, he feels the plan worked.
"One of my best friends is Dave Tiberi (former middleweight contender), who is white," Hopkins said. “Dave used to tell me about the [racial taunts] he had to go through when he trained at Champ's Gym in North Philly. Fighters say things, but it isn't always what it seems. It's just another way of talking trash. It doesn't mean I think white guys can't fight. I know better than that.”
"Look, Larry Bird was one of the greatest basketball players ever, but Isiah Thomas said that if he were black, he'd be just another player. Call it talking smack, call it a cultural thing. Whatever it is, it raises the stakes."
Based on past events, Hopkins feels the entire black-white angle will make his fight with Calzaghe even bigger.
"People choose up sides for whatever reason," Hopkins said. "Go back to Ingemar Johansson and Floyd Patterson. A lot of [white] Americans were for Johansson instead of for Patterson. Go back to Larry Holmes and Gerry Cooney. That fight split along racial lines, with black people for Holmes and white people for Cooney.
"Those guys became very good friends afterwards, but their fights sold better because of the black-white thing. This is not anything new."
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