By Keith Idec
Don King didn’t really respond on a conference call when he was asked about Bernard Hopkins predicting he would put King’s depleted promotional company out of the boxing business by beating Tavoris Cloud on March 9 in Brooklyn.
The ever-verbose promoter instead called Hopkins “an excellent fighter” and “a credit to the sport.” King also contended that he and Hopkins have never had a “protagonist-antagonist” relationship, despite Hopkins’ complaints about his time as a King-promoted middleweight champion.
The 81-year-old legend did make sure to take a not-so-subtle shot at Hopkins he knew would really rile up the 48-year-old contender as his IBF light heavyweight fight against the undefeated Cloud nears. King implied that Hopkins’ thorough thrashing of then-undefeated Felix Trinidad in September 2001, the crowning moment of “The Executioner’s” 24-year pro career, should’ve been recorded with some sort of asterisk.
The cunning King insists the aftermath of 9/11 distracted Trinidad and gave Hopkins a psychological advantage of the Puerto Rican icon entering their 12-round middleweight title fight. Hopkins, then 36, dominated Trinidad, then 28, en route to a 12th-round technical knockout win at Madison Square Garden on Sept. 29, 2001.
The fight initially was scheduled for Sept. 15, 2001, but it was postponed two weeks as those that lived and worked in New York tried to recover from the terrorist attacks on the city.
“Trinidad was out fighting for the glory of America, going to the firehouses,” King said. “His mind got taken away with 9/11. We were the first [boxing] event [after] 9/11 in the state of New York. They were trying to bring people back to demonstrate that terror anywhere is a threat to freedom everywhere. And so [Trinidad] was visiting the hospitals, feeding the hungry, feeding the firemen and the workers, and going back and forth to the firehouses and things. And so he was sort of off his game when he fought. Had it been just a normal thing when we went into the fight, it may have been different.”
Trinidad, while wildly popular, never really was the same caliber of fighter after Hopkins brutalized him. King cannot help but wonder what would’ve occurred in the ring between Hopkins and Trinidad had 9/11 never happened.
“Bernard, as you know, did not come in [to New York] until after the thing was over,” King continued. “He came in the last day or the day before the fight, beforehand, and he played a great mind game. He made [Trinidad] unwrap his hands, wrap his hands, all those type of things that only a veteran of the game [would do]. … So I never really call that, in my mind, a total victory for Bernard over Trinidad, because Trinidad was fighting for freedom and fighting against terrorism, along with an opponent named Bernard Hopkins.
“He was spread too thin, working on other things for the upward mobility and the elevation of the people of New York, and letting the terrorists know that we are not afraid. We’re not afraid. As FDR said, ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself.’ And he demonstrated that by going around, meeting everyone he could and inspiring them at a very traumatic and terrible time. So that being said, maybe I can get them back together on the senior tour after Tavoris knocks him out.”
Keith Idec covers boxing for The Record and Herald News, of Woodland Park, N.J., and BoxingScene.com. He can be reached on Twitter @Idecboxing.