Two months after the long-anticipated Roy Jones Jr.-Bernard Hopkins rematch was left for dead following Jones' stunning first-round knockout loss in an interim bout, the fight was resurrected on Wednesday -- an early birthday present for the aging stars.
Hopkins, who will be 45 on Friday and still ranks among the best fighters in the world pound-for-pound, and Jones, who turns 41 on Saturday, signed contracts to meet in a scheduled 12-round light heavyweight fight on pay-per-view, representatives for both fighters told ESPN.com on Wednesday night.
The fight likely will be April 17 at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter, said.
"We worked very hard to keep this fight alive and we got it signed on Wednesday," said John Wirt, the CEO of Square Ring, Jones' promotional company. "We're ecstatic that the fight was made and we're looking forward to a great event. There's been a long-standing rivalry between two of the preeminent boxers of our generation. This fight will establish once and for all who is the better fighter between Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones Jr. This is the fight Roy always wanted."
Schaefer said he was in talks with HBO PPV about handling the event, adding that "there are different parties also interested in the fight." HBO's spring pay-per-view schedule is unclear with deals still possible for it to carry fights involving Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather.
After numerous failed attempts to make a rematch over the past decade, Jones and Hopkins finally came to terms in September to meet again. However, Jones had already signed for a fight on Dec. 2 in Australia against Danny Green.
Jones, who was due $4 million to fight Green, didn't want to withdraw from the fight, so he faced Green and Hopkins took a tuneup fight on the same day in his hometown of Philadelphia. While Hopkins, who ended a 14-month layoff, cruised to a lopsided unanimous decision against Enrique Ornelas, Jones was shockingly knocked out in the first round by Green.
The deal between Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KOs) and Jones (54-6, 40 KOs) was contingent upon both men winning their December bouts, so when Jones lost, it appeared they would not fight, although Hopkins continually mentioned Jones as still being a viable opponent and tried to play up the loss to Green as a quick stoppage.
Hopkins explored a fight with Green, but those talks went nowhere, and he had few other notable options. And Jones, who is protesting the loss to Green over a dispute related to the amount of gauze Green used in his hand wraps, still wanted to face Hopkins.
"The interesting thing is the conversations never died down," Schaefer said. "Even after Bernard won and Roy lost, the talks continued and different options were evaluated. But I just felt from talking to Bernard and from the conversations I had with John that they really wanted to fight each other.
"I think there is so much at stake for these guys. This is an event they have been waiting for for 17 years. They would not let anything get in the way of getting this fight finally done. I believe very strongly that at this point in their careers, after everything they have accomplished, I think this is a well-deserved fight for these two guys to finally get it on April 17. Love 'em or hate em, they are two of the most recognized names in the sport of boxing."
In several previous negotiations, Jones and Hopkins had always been hung up on the revenue split. Under the deal they agreed to in September, the split of the money was to be 50-50, but with a knockout provision. If the fight was decided by a knockout, the winner would get 60 percent with the loser getting 40 percent.
Although terms of the new deal were not disclosed, Wirt said that Jones agreed to "a modification" of the original deal with Jones' percentage potentially increasing depending on how the pay-per-view performed.
The knockout provision, however, is still in the new deal.
"The only thing I can say about the structure of the deal is that there is still a substantial financial benefit to the guy who wins by knockout," Schaefer said.
Before either man became a star, they met for a vacant middleweight title on May 22, 1993. Jones won a clear unanimous decision and would go on to dominate boxing, reigning as the pound-for-for king for about a decade while winning titles in four weight classes from middleweight to heavyweight.
After Jones left the middleweight division, Hopkins claimed the vacant title and went on to make a division-record 20 defenses, including becoming the undisputed champion in 2001. After Hopkins lost the middleweight title to Jermain Taylor in 2005, he moved up in weight and upset Antonio Tarver to win the light heavyweight championship in 2006.
Even though Jones lost his last fight, Schaefer said people would be foolish to write him off.
"Those who write Roy Jones off are making a mistake because he will come in motivated more than ever because this is a personal showdown between these guys," Schaefer said. "They were waiting a long time for this fight and here it is. Bernard, at this point in his career, keeps on defying mother time. For Bernard, after all the accomplishments, for him to get up for a fight, he also needs that personal motivation, and he will have it against Roy Jones.
"Those two guys, after all the talking and the build up, and the ups and downs and the cheers and disappointments, finally, they are going to meet again. Bernard won't be judging Roy on his last performance. He knows that would be a big mistake. I think they will both come at their best because of how important this is to both of them."
Dan Rafael is ESPN.com's boxing writer.