Hopkins says he'll see double in ring tonight

He'll have DiBella in mind as much as Taylor when he delivers his best shots


July 16, 2005|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS - When undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins stares across the ring at Jermain Taylor tonight, he said he won't just see the face of the young, former Olympian, but also that of Lou DiBella.

DiBella, once Hopkins' promoter, now is serving the same role for Taylor. The acrimonious separation of Hopkins and DiBella ended with the latter winning a $610,000 libel suit, a settlement Hopkins said will make Taylor "a whipping boy for my controlled frustrations." Hopkins has appealed the decision.

"This fight is about Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins, but I have a personal reason that I have to win this fight. That's revenge. That's my motivation," said Hopkins. "Jermain Taylor is the closest guy I can physically hurt and beat up without going to jail. I can't hit the other guy."

The 40-year-old Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) will make at least $3 million, compared with $1.8 million for the 26-year-old Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs).

Standing behind the podium at a news conference at the MGM Grand Hotel on Wednesday, Hopkins appeared focused and loose, alternately poking fun at DiBella and Taylor.

"I'd rather be carried out on a stretcher than lose and let him have his day in the sun," said Hopkins. "I'm going to go out there and the first punch I throw will let Jermain know whether he's in for a short night or a slow death."

Hopkins mocked Taylor's habit of wiping his soles on the canvas before the first bell, a practice that resembles a bull about to charge a matador. Hopkins held up a towel bearing the word "bull" and, when promoter Oscar De La Hoya charged it, Hopkins lifted it and stepped aside, like a matador.

"Jermain Taylor, as you know, is like a bull - steam coming out of his nose because he's ready to come," Hopkins said. "You can't have a bull unless you have a matador. I ain't gonna run. I'll feed off of what's been said about him being young, and about me being old. I'll use what I know is their plan against them."

While many in the audience laughed, DiBella glared and Taylor stared straight ahead. During an earlier conference call, Hopkins had described the actions of DiBella since their split as those of a jilted lover.

"I had a girlfriend and we broke up and she got real animated because I didn't pay her no mind or attention," Hopkins said then. "She went crazy, started making a lot of noise. [DiBella] reminds me of that girlfriend - like a man with female emotions."

On Wednesday, with DiBella sitting an arm's-length away, Hopkins looked DiBella in the eyes and said, "Lou still loves me, but I'm taken."

At one point, DiBella, noting Hopkins' four title belts on the podium, told the champ, "I'm glad you laid out everything you have, Bernard, so that Jermain can see all that he's going to be taking from you on Saturday night."

But DiBella has refused to discuss the details of their rift.

"I'm not talking about Bernard Hopkins anymore. I'm not talking about my victories over him in court anymore. I'm not talking about his agenda anymore," DiBella said. "I'm talking about a fight. This fight's between Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor. My focus is on my fighter and winning the fight."

In Taylor, Hopkins is taking on a man who won a bronze medal in the 2000 Olympics. Taylor's biggest professional wins have come over previously unbeaten Daniel Eduard and former world champs Raul Marquez and William Joppy.

But Hopkins, who first won a crown by knockout over Segundo Mercado in April 1995 at Landover's USAir Arena, is 24-0-1 with 16 KOs since losing to Roy Jones Jr. in May 1993.

Hopkins is coming off a $10 million payday for his September knockout of De La Hoya, a victory that added De La Hoya's World Boxing Organization title to Hopkins' International Boxing Federation, World Boxing Association and World Boxing Council crowns.

The win made Hopkins the first middleweight to hold all four belts simultaneously.

Fight data

Who: Bernard Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) vs. Jermain Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs) for Hopkins' undisputed middleweight titles

Where: MGM Grand Hotel, Las Vegas

When: Today, approximately 11 p.m.

TV: HBO pay-per-view

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