Joppy hopes Rahman rubs off vs. Trinidad

Middleweight walking a mile in friend's shoes


April 29, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

In training for his May 12 fight at New York's Madison Square Garden against Puerto Rican Felix Trinidad -- the biggest fight of his career -- middleweight champion William Joppy is borrowing a page from his stablemate, Baltimore heavyweight champion Hasim Rahman.

Joppy, speaking from his training camp in the "House of Champions" facility in New York's Catskill Mountains, said during a conference call Thursday that he's doing the same things Rahman did before heading off to South Africa for last week's fifth-round knockout of Lennox Lewis.

"William is sleeping in the same bed as Rock did when he was up here," said Steve Nelson, co-manager, with Stan Hoffman, of both Joppy (32-1-1, 24 knockouts) and Rahman. "There's a spirit of winning in the air here."

And when Joppy, from Seabrook, puts his World Boxing Association crown on the line against Trinidad (39-0, 32 KOs), whose reign as champion at 147 and 154 pounds has covered seven years and nine months, Rahman will walk alongside him to the ring, carrying Joppy's belt.

"I talked to Hasim yesterday," said Joppy, whose fight will be televised on TVKO, HBO's pay-per-view arm. "He told me to take care of business."

Joppy's been training for four weeks, has sparred for nearly 120 rounds and is within two pounds of the middleweight limit of 160.

"These guys train like it was done in the 1940s and 1950s. There's chopping wood, running at altitude, eating good. There are no distractions," Nelson said. "This is what it takes to be a great champion. There's no stopping this group. This camp is on a roll."

Trinidad, the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council super welterweight champ (154 pounds), is 19-0 in title bouts, with 15 of his 17 title defenses coming at welterweight (147). He comes off December's brutal 12th-round knockout of Fernando Vargas (20-1, 18 KOs).

The series will conclude on Sept. 15 when the Trinidad-Joppy winner meets IBF and WBC middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins, who won a unanimous decision over then-WBC champ Keith Holmes on April 14.

The final fight will take place in the Garden's 20,000-seat main arena, earning the winner a bronze trophy of Sugar Ray Robinson, acclaimed as the greatest middleweight ever.

Like Rahman, Joppy, 30, got a late start in boxing. He was 20 at the time of his first amateur fight; Trinidad, of Puerto Rico, was 19 when he knocked out Maurice Blocker for his first world title.

Also like Rahman, who survived a car crash that caused a scar on his right cheekbone that required 500 stitches to close, Joppy rebounded from a car crash that caused a severe neck injury. Both fighters have three children: two boys and a girl.

"Losing wasn't an option with Hasim, who was never more focused than for Lewis," Nelson said. "We have the same feeling with William."

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