Hopkins makes mark tattooing foes, himself

Temporary ad transforms boxer's body into anything but a neutral corner

Sports Plus

October 28, 2001|By Andy Knobel | Andy Knobel,SUN STAFF

When boxer Bernard Hopkins entered the ring and took off his robe earlier this month at Madison Square Garden in New York, he showed off more than his rippled physique.

Written in large letters across his back in a temporary tattoo was "Goldenpalace.com," an advertisement for an online casino that, according to Bloomberg News, is believed to be the first endorsement of its kind by a North American professional athlete.

The tattoo didn't last long -- the dye ran when Hopkins started to sweat and was washed off by the third round. Its impact, however, may endure much longer, marketing specialists said.

"This is probably the last frontier in sports marketing," Bob Williams, president of Burns Sports Celebrity Service in Chicago, told Bloomberg. "In boxing, you don't have the use of a uniform like in other sports, so it makes sense."

Hopkins, who was paid at least $100,000 for wearing the tattoo, stopped Felix Trinidad to become the first undisputed middleweight champion since "Marvelous" Marvin Hagler in 1986. Almost as much attention was paid to the boxer's back as his bruising punches.

His agent, Joe Lear of Big Boxing Inc., in Boca Raton, Fla., said Hopkins had talked for months about plastering his body with advertisements.

"Bernard told me this summer, `I want you to do me like NASCAR,' " Lear said, referring to the stock-car circuit where drivers and cars are covered with sponsors' logos. "For his next fight, don't be surprised if he has an advertisement on each shoulder."

Other athletes have considered using tattoo ads.

Rasheed Wallace of the NBA's Portland Trail Blazers rejected an offer from a candy bar company to wear one last season after the league said it would prohibit players from doing so. The product wasn't identified.

We're thinking it might have been PayDay.

Picture this

Pitcher David Wells of the Chicago White Sox has tattoos of both of his children on his right arm.

"He doesn't have to bore anyone with snapshots," wrote Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune. "He can just roll up his sleeve."

Not wedded to forevermore

Former NBA player Rick Mahorn has a "Mother" tattoo and his children's names tattooed on his biceps, but nowhere is his wife's name.

Mahorn's logic: "You may get remarried, but you always have your mother and children."

Art for art's sake

Jim Armstrong of The Denver Post: "The last time I saw ex-Dukie Cherokee Parks, he had one tattoo. Now he looks like the Sistine Chapel."

Armstrong wrote of another NBA player, Allen Iverson: "Not that it's any of my business, but one more tattoo and [he] is going to be all ink and bones."

He's just needling

Bernie Lincicome of the Rocky Mountain News, commenting on Oakland Raiders fans:

"Nothing is more repulsive than an Oakland crowd with its shirts off, and on this sunlit day more tattoos were exposed than on the deck of the USS Norfolk.

"Shirtless, the stands look like a book of wallpaper samples. Between plays, Raider fans played connect-the-scars on each other."

Caveat emptor

The Morning Line column in The Dallas Morning News notes that Trail Blazers guard Derek Anderson once got a tattoo playing off his nickname, "The Lawyer."

"He altered it a little -- a dangerous mistake, considering Anderson didn't know the correct spelling," the column explained. "Consequently, his arm proclaims him to be `The Prosecuter,' rather than `The Prosecutor.' "

Ad nauseam

Advertisers don't have to deface boxers' bodies to get their messages across. They rely on revisionist history instead.

The New York Times reported recently that ESPN Classic has had Princeton Video Image digitally insert plugs for such products as athlete foot salves behind home plate of games played decades ago.

"Maybe," Times media columnist Richard Sandomir wrote, "ESPN will place a Camel sign on the center-field fence of Wrigley Field to show what Babe Ruth was really pointing at in home movies and newsreels during the 1932 World Series. ... Maybe ESPN Classic should just give the Kreskin Final Score of the Game before the final pitch."

Compiled from wire reports and Web sites.

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