Mellow Hopkins comes out singing Pavlik's praises

Updated: August 8, 2008

Chris Farina/Top Rank

Bernard Hopkins has nothing negative to say about Kelly Pavlik leading up to their Oct. 18 fight.

Hopkins as Mr. Nice Guy?

Bernard Hopkins has flipped the script.

For years, the former middleweight and light heavyweight champion disrespected opponents throughout the promotion of a fight. Whether it was serving his opponent a "last meal" at a news conference, throwing down the Puerto Rican flag multiple times before facing Felix Trinidad, causing a furor by insisting that he "would never lose to a white boy" before fighting Joe Calzaghe, instigating a physical altercation with Winky Wright at their weigh-in or generally insulting and threatening his opponents, Hopkins has always found a way to maintain his rage and edge going into a fight.

So it was surprising to find a kinder, gentler "Executioner" this week during the kick off of the promotion for his fight with middleweight champion Kelly "The Ghost" Pavlik, who will move up 10 pounds to meet Hopkins at a catch weight of 170 pounds Oct. 18 (HBO PPV) at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J.

"I have nothing bad to say about the guy," Hopkins said.


"I'm a fan of Kelly Pavlik's," Hopkins added.

OK, then.

Whether Hopkins (48-5-1, 32 KOs) is trying to disarm Pavlik (34-0, 30 KOs) or he genuinely likes him, Hopkins said he became a fan after watching him roll through the favored Edison Miranda in seven brutal rounds in a May 2007 title eliminator.

In his next fight, Pavlik got off the floor to starch Jermain Taylor -- who twice outpointed Hopkins on debatable decisions -- to win the middleweight title.

Before the Pavlik-Miranda fight, Hopkins was talking up Miranda, calling him the next big thing in the division.

"I thought he'd beat Pavlik, but that fight made me a fan of Pavlik's," Hopkins said. "He is the rightful heir apparent to the legacy I set down in the middleweight division. One thing about this fight, I am a fan of Kelly Pavlik's. I became a fan of his and not just because he beat Jermain Taylor twice. He got the title honestly, he didn't get it on a favor or politics or because he was supposed to be the next big thing. He got it by knockout. He became the heir apparent that Jermain Taylor didn't become.

"Kelly earned it the old fashioned way. Nobody gave it to him. As far as I am concerned, it's his middleweight division now. But he sees there's no one there for him to fight right now and Bernard is here at light heavyweight willing to fight him. And the best way to get introduced to the Hall of Fame is to beat a [future] Hall of Famer. He has a lot to gain and I have to prove that I am still here."

Just to make sure a reporter wasn't losing his mind with all the niceties he was pouring on, Hopkins added, "In saying all that nice stuff, I've never been afraid of no ghost. I got a job to do. This guy here is trying to enhance his legacy off mine. No, the fight is not for a belt or for pound-for-pound No. 1. It's about Bernard Hopkins preserving his legacy that another fighter is trying to take from me. He is trying to devalue my legacy and to make his legacy."

Regardless of if Hopkins is nasty or nice, Pavlik said he would be ready for a serious fight.

Kelly Pavlik

Chris Farina/Top Rank

"Are you getting all this?" Kelly Pavlik isn't about to let Hopkins' prefight chatter throw him off course.

"I am preparing to fight a legend and take him down in his own backyard," Pavlik said of Hopkins, who is from nearby Philadelphia, although Pavlik has drawn thousands from his native Youngstown, Ohio, to Atlantic City, where he fought two of his last three bouts. "Even though I am younger, I know Hopkins is a slick veteran with a bunch of boxing tricks in his bag. I refuse to underestimate him. I am treating this as if it were a championship match with my plan being to remain undefeated and show the world that I am able to take on any fighter regardless of age, weight or record."

Hopkins lost a competitive split decision to Calzaghe in April. Even though he started to finally show his age, Hopkins elected to continue fighting at age 43. He picked on the strong, prime, 26-year-old Pavlik because there was no other lucrative option.

"I'm here to stay for now and to show Bernard Hopkins still has a lot left," Hopkins said. "Opinion wise a lot of people believe I won my last my fight so I'm not coming into this fight mentally thinking I have to make up for what I didn't do my last fight. But now I have that incentive to take that little risk and make sure I leave no doubt."

Pavlik, too, had few options after Calzaghe decided to fight Roy Jones and potential matches with junior middleweight titlist Sergio Mora and welterweight beltholder Paul Williams cratered.

The fight figures to be a must-win for Hopkins if he wants to continue his career after losing three of his last five, although all three decision losses -- two to Taylor and to Calzaghe -- could have gone the other way. The wins were a lopsided decision against Antonio Tarver to win the light heavyweight championship and a clear decision last summer against Wright, both of which came after Hopkins retired and then made a comeback, one that he doesn't want to see end.

"What I have to prove, like that other old guy, [quarterback] Brett Favre, is that I can still do this," Hopkins said. "I can fight until I'm 80 years old as long as my mind and body is willing to go through the training and I am. I am taking this fight very seriously. When I stop feeling that way, I'm not going to fight. But as long as I feel like going to camp and I'm not embarrassing myself, I will fight. There's not a whole flood of talent right now, so I think boxing needs a Roy Jones and a Bernard Hopkins. We're the old dogs holding up the seem in the pants. I think I am the youngest 43-year-old in any sport."

Clottey's arm OK

After Joshua Clottey defeated Zab Judah via ninth-round technical decision last Saturday to claim a vacant welterweight title, he thought the pain in his left biceps was from tearing the muscle in the fifth round.

After the fight, Clottey was relieved to learn that he had simply pulled the muscle, an injury that should not prevent him from fighting again in the fall if promoter Top Rank can line something up for him.

Joshua Clottey

AP Photo/Eric Jamison

No need to worry, folks: Joshua Clottey will be back in the ring sooner than expected.

"He was fine a couple of hours after the fight. The swelling went down and it was just a pull, not a tear," manager Vinny Scolpino told "I had dinner with him after the fight and he was already feeling a little better. I don't think it's going to keep him out. The doctor said it would be a few weeks and that Josh should rest it, but that it would be OK."

Clottey and Scolpino hope that Top Rank's Bob Arum can deliver them a unification fight (and rematch) with Antonio Margarito, who stopped Miguel Cotto July 26. Margarito and Clottey met in December 2006 and Margarito won a hard-fought decision in a fight in which Clottey had a lot of early success before injuring both hands.

"Hopefully, we can make that fight happen again," Scolpino said. "There's no reason why Josh can't fight again before the end of the year and we're obviously open to getting back in there with Antonio."

Arum has said Margarito will return Nov. 1. Before Clottey-Judah, Arum said he wanted to match the winner with Margarito in a unification bout. Scolpino also said they'd be willing to fight titleholder Paul Williams in a unification match.

"As long as the money is right, we'll fight anyone," Scolpino said. "Josh doesn't run from anyone. He never has before and he's not going to start now."

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for


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• When Top Rank promoter Bob Arum was in Los Angeles on Wednesday negotiating the Oscar De La Hoya-Manny Pacquiao fight with Golden Boy's Richard Schaefer, he took a side trip to meet with Dodger Stadium officials about hosting a Nov. 1 pay-per-view card headlined by welterweight champion Antonio Margarito's next fight, possibly a unification rematch with Joshua Clottey. "I had a nice meeting with them. We all like the idea, but need to see if it's feasible," Arum said. "Nothing was decided, but I am going on Nov. 1 with a Margarito fight." Wherever the card happens, Arum said junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. would meet Matt Vanda in a rematch of Chavez's split decision win in an action-packed July 12 fight. Arum has scrapped an Oct. 25 PPV card on which Chavez-Vanda II was going to headline. Also Nov. 1, Arum said flyweight titleholder Nonito Donaire would make his mandatory defense against South African Moruti Mthalane in a fight he was going to shift from a planned fall card in Macau. Arum also said 2004 U.S. Olympian Vanes Martirosyan, a rising junior middleweight prospect, would open the Nov. 1 pay-per-view.


• Arum said his trip to Macau last week was fruitful and that he and Venetian Macau resort officials were moving forward with a card in the Chinese gambling mecca. However, Arum told that the original date of Oct. 11 won't work because it's too close to Yom Kippur and the Oct. 18 Kelly Pavlik-Bernard Hopkins fight he is co-promoting. Instead, Arum said the show likely would take place Dec. 13. He wants to include several Filipino fighters on the card, which will be on U.S. pay-per-view. Among the fights Arum wants to put on are junior bantamweight titleholder Fernando Montiel in a defense, junior flyweight titlist Ulises Solis (27-1-2, 20 KOs) against Filipino-American Brian Viloria (22-2, 13 KOs), a 2000 U.S. Olympian and former titleholder, and possibly a Jorge Arce bout.


• Junior middleweight Grady Brewer (22-11, 12 KOs), who won the second season of "The Contender," is planning a comeback. Brewer hasn't fought since outpointing Steve Forbes in the final on Sept. 26, 2006, because of a serious knee injury. Previous comeback attempts were scuttled by ongoing knee problems. Brewer, 37, has agreed to a six-rounder against an opponent to be named on promoter Tony Holden's Sept. 12 card at the Comanche Nation Casino in his hometown of Lawton, Okla. "He's going to test his knee," said Jeff Wald of the Tournament of Contenders, which promotes Brewer. "Tony Holden is doing a favor for us and we'll see what happens. I feel terrible about what happened to that kid. He can really fight, but has had some really bad luck. Hopefully, he can put the injuries behind him."


• Two other "Contender" fighters also have their next bouts set -- against each other. First-season star Peter Manfredo Jr. (30-5, 15 KOs) faces third-season participant Donny McCrary (24-7-2, 13 KOs) in a super middleweight bout Aug. 22 in Lincoln, R.I., not far from Manfredo's home in Providence. Manfredo is looking for his third consecutive win since losing a decision to ex-titleholder Jeff Lacy in December 2007. "This is just another stepping stone," Manfredo said. "McCrary is a tough kid. He was one of my sparring partners when I was getting ready for Jeff Lacy. He's tough, but he doesn't have the heart, skill and determination to be a world champion like me. I'm not looking past him, but he isn't going to beat me. Not on his best day or my worst."


• Featherweight beltholder Jorge Linares (25-0, 16 KOs), idle since December first because of an ankle injury that he suffered in his first defense followed by a right shoulder injury sustained while preparing for a fight, has resumed training. Although Linares doesn't have a fight scheduled, he returned to Japan from his native Venezuela on July 21 and went back to the gym last week, where he tested his shoulder by hitting a heavy bag.


• The long-awaited Antonio Tarver-Chad Dawson light heavyweight title bout, scheduled for Oct. 11 (Showtime), has a home. Promoter Gary Shaw told that he's finalizing a deal for the bout to take place at The Palms resort in Las Vegas, which also hosted last week's Joshua Clottey-Zab Judah welterweight title bout.


• Lightweight contender Amir Khan (18-0, 14 KOs), 21, the 2007 prospect of the year and 2004 British Olympic silver medalist, made a big impression on new trainer Jorge Rubio, who was hired last month. "It's my ambition to make Amir a world champion," said Rubio, who used to work with the Cuban national team and now lives in Miami. "I believe he has got the talent to reign for years. I have been working on his defense and his footwork, but I'm not looking at changing him too much, just improving on certain areas. It will take time, but Amir has already gotten better in the few weeks I've worked with him, and I'm seeing the difference every day. Amir Khan is a smart guy and I only have to tell him something once before he puts into practice. He has all the tools to become a world champion." Khan's first fight with Rubio will take place Sept. 6 in Manchester, England. Promoter Frank Warren's Sports Network said it was trying to finalize an agreement for Khan to face ex-featherweight titleholder Derrick Gainer, who hasn't fought since last July and only had three fights since 2003. "Jorge is a great trainer," Khan said. "I knew as soon as I met him that he was the man for me. I'd met Buddy McGirt, Freddie Roach and really liked Floyd Mayweather Sr., but when I hooked up with Jorge I loved his style and his teaching methods. He can definitely take me to the next level, which is a world title."


• After the third postponement last week of Joseph Agbeko's first bantamweight title defense against William Gonzalez, the fight will again be rescheduled. It had been slated for a card Aug. 2 in Ponce, Puerto Rico, but was called off the week of the fight because of issues with the paperwork for Gonzalez's visa. Now, promoter Don King might put the fight on the undercard of his show Sept. 13 in Biloxi, Miss. That Showtime card is headlined by Nate Campbell's mandatory lightweight title defense against Joan Guzman. If Agbeko-Gonzalez lands on the card, it won't be part of Showtime's telecast.


• Artie Pelullo's Banner Promotions won this week's purse bid for the featherweight title bout between Cristobal Cruz and Orlando Salido, who will fight for the belt Robert Guerrero vacated in advance of a move to junior lightweight. Banner, which copromotes Cruz with South Africa's Rodney Berman, won with an $85,000 bid. Each fighter is entitled to $42,500. The only other bidder was Salido promoter Top Rank, which offered $77,000. Pelullo told that the fight likely will take place Nov. 1 in South Africa with local contender Thomas Mashaba, who lost to Cruz in an eliminator, appearing on the card. The alternative date is Oct. 25 in either Las Vegas or Connecticut.



"He has already run from me many times, but now he has signed the contract. This time he must finally take his punishment like a man or get out of boxing forever." -- Heavyweight titleholder Samuel Peter, on mandatory challenger and former beltholder Vitali Klitschko, whom he'll face Oct. 11 (Showtime) in his first defense.



"This clown reminds me of one of those yapping little rat dogs. [They] yip, yip, yip at your ankles." -- Unified lightweight titlist Nate Campbell on the incessant trash talk of Joan Guzman, whom Campbell faces on Sept. 13 (Showtime).



''The fight did not end how we anticipated. I am a bit sad about the loss, but we lost the battle, not the war.'' -- Former welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto, on his recent loss TKO loss to Antonio Margarito at a news conference in his native Puerto Rico.