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Hopkins vs. Jones
Hopkins vs. Jones tentative for May
Thursday, January 22, 2004
BY FRANKLIN McNEIL
Nearly 11 years have past since undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins lost a fight. Throughout that period he has wanted nothing more than to exact revenge on the last fighter to defeat him -- Roy Jones Jr.
Hopkins (43-2-1, 31 KOs) may finally get his wish. In an exclusive interview with The Star-Ledger yesterday Hopkins revealed he is in negotiations with Jones for a rematch in May at Madison Square Garden. Jones and Hopkins are widely considered the two best fighters in the world, pound-for-pound.
"May 15 is the tentative date," said Hopkins, who was in town to speak at the Essex County Jail, Essex County Youth Detention Center and Seth Boyden Resource Center. "The date is predicated on us getting a deal done within the next week or two. ... The thing with Roy is I sign (the contract) and it's done."
Hopkins said he will be in Jones' hometown of Pensacola, Fla., next week to speak further with the WBC light heavyweight champion to iron out the final details. Jones also holds the WBA heavyweight crown.
Jones has until Feb. 13 to begin negotiations with WBA interim heavyweight champion John Ruiz or face being stripped of that his heavyweight belt. That date is likely to pass without Jones ever speaking to Ruiz.
While winning a heavyweight title increased Jones' stature in the sport, a rematch with Ruiz isn't likely to attract much interest from fight fans. A rematch with Hopkins, for Jones' light heavyweight title, is sure to bring both fighters a huge pay day.
It's the most attractive bout available for each fighter. Jones (49-1-0, 38 KOs) has talked about fighting Mike Tyson, but that isn't likely and a rematch with Antonio Tarver, though intriguing, lacks overall fan appeal. No one in the junior middleweight or middleweight divisions appears ready to challenge Hopkins. Promising middleweight Jermaine Taylor is at least a year away.
Jones and Hopkins fought May 22, 1993, for the vacant IBF middleweight title. Jones came away with a unanimous decision (116-112, 116-112, 116-112). The fight was much closer than the scorecards indicated, with several at ringside giving Hopkins the nod.
Since that fight, Hopkins and Jones have gone on to become the two most dominant fighters in the past decade. Jones has suffered just one defeat -- a disqualification loss on March 21, 1997, to Montell Griffin. Jones landed a punch while Griffin was on the canvas. Jones stopped Griffin in Round 1 during their rematch five months later to reclaim his WBC light heavyweight title.
He would go on to unify the light heavyweight division. With his victory March 1, 2003, over Ruiz, Jones became the first former middleweight champion since Bob Fitzsimmons in 1897 to capture a heavyweight belt.
Hopkins has cleaned out the middleweight division since losing to Jones. His signature victory was a 12th-round TKO of Felix Trinidad on Sept. 29, 2001, at the Garden.
This isn't the first time Jones and Hopkins have talked rematch. They appeared close to a deal last year, but negotiations broke off when Hopkins sort a 50-50 split of the purse. Jones argued he was the greater draw and deserved 60 percent.
That argument will be a lot weaker this time around. Jones had a less-than-impressive performance in November against Antonio Tarver. He came away with a majority decision but absorbed a lot of punishment.
Hopkins on the other hand put on an exhibition Dec. 13 against William Joppy in Atlantic City. He pummeled Joppy en route to unanimous decision.
Fighting Jones at light heavyweight will be the toughest test of Hopkins' career. He doesn't seem concerned in the least. Jones will have a weight advantage; Hopkins will have the edge in height and reach.
"I'll fight Roy at 175. I don't have to be 175. I'll fight at a weight I'm comfortable at," Hopkins said. "I have the height. I'm a little taller than Roy."
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