By Ryan Burton
Future Hall of Famer Bernard Hopkins (55-7-2) will enter the squared circle as a professional fighter tonight at The Forum in Los Angeles, Calif. against Joe Smith (22-1). The fight will headline an HBO triple-header.
One of the stories lines of the fight is that Hopkins will not have long time trainer Naazim Richardson in his corner. Instead he will have former opponent John David Jackson, who he stopped in 1997, giving him instructions.
Neither Hopkins or Richardson have given a straight answer as to why they aren't working together for the final fight of Hopkins illustrious career.
"You have to ask him," Richardson old BoxingScene.com. "The way we and Bernard always did it - we don't hang out or go to fights together - we didn't do that. He would call me and say where you at? 'I'm in the gym getting my body together and you need to be in next week' and I would be in next week. (This time) I didn't get a phone call from him. I saw the fight was made. I didn't know the the other kid. Like I said you have to ask him. He's the one fighting."
The Philadelphia based trainer insists he harbors no hard feelings for Hopkins and hopes he leaves the ring healthy. He believes that the soon to be 52-year-old can leave he sport anyway he wants and wishes him the best versus the 27-year-old Smith.
"He earned the right to go out anyway he want to. If he said he wants to fight southpaw in this fight he earned the right to do it. This man walked the path. He done gave us everything he can give us," said Richardson.
"I don't want to see Joe Smith get hurt and I damn sure don't want Bernard Hopkins to get hurt. Let them fight their fight and get their money. Whatever Bernard is looking for I hope he finds it."
Richardson is a little nervous about how the fight may play out. When you factor in that Smith is almost 25 years younger than Hopkins and riding high off of a 1st round destruction of contender Andrzej Fonfara - with Hopkins' two year layoff and lopsided loss to Sergey Kovalev in his last fight, Hopkins could be playing with fire.
He believes that Hopkins may have stuck around too long in a sport that is very unforgiving to Father Time.
"Years ago he asked me what I thought when he had just fought (Antonio) Tarver. I said 'leave the sport' because you have done everything and the only thing he hasn't done in boxing was lose badly and he stayed long enough (after that) to fight Kovalev and lose all 12 rounds.
"So now he's done everything except for this - he's never been knocked flat on his back and I hope Joe Smith ain't the one," Richardson told BoxingScene.com.
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