Thursday August 11th, 2011

NEW YORK -- You're Bernard Hopkins, one of the greatest middleweight champions who ever lived, having won the title in 1995 and defended it a record 20 times before controversially losing it to Jermain Taylor in 2005. You have defeated Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Antonio Tarver, among many, many others. And to top it off, in May you climbed out of your rocking chair and spanked 28-year-old Jean Pascal to become the oldest man to ever win a major title.

What else is there to fight for?

It's a question I asked myself on Tuesday when Hopkins, the silver hairs now outnumbering the dark on his 46-year-old chin, took the podium at B.B. King Blues Club & Grill in Times Square to promote his Oct. 15 light heavyweight title defense against Chad Dawson. It was vintage Hopkins: for 16 minutes he went at Dawson, likening the ex-champ's resume to a community college grad (while comparing his to Harvard) and begging the jab-happy Dawson to stand in the middle of the ring and mix it up.

"Let's work together to see who whups whose ass the worst," Hopkins said. "He's promising that he's going to be out of character. He says he's going to finally be what his name says, not what his personality shows. 'Bad' Chad had better act bad or he's going to be embarrassed. No real man wants to be embarrassed like that."

We have heard this from Hopkins before. He promotes fights like Bobby Flay cooks steak, masterfully and with seemingly very little effort. He spots a weakness in his opponent and picks at it like a scab. During an interview I did with Dawson for HBO, I asked how he felt about Hopkins' assessment that the 29-year-old Dawson tends to bail out when a fight gets physical. The mild-mannered Dawson, who had not read the quote, erupted with a very un-Dawson like response that you can see when HBO airs the interview later this month.

Yes, Hopkins is a master at his craft. But financially secure and with a Hall of Fame resume, it circles back to the same question: Why does he still do it?

"All these guys in their 20's, I'm whupping their ass," Hopkins said. "I hear the same thing every time I fight these guys: Younger, stronger, better. But everything a guy has, I'm known for taking their biggest weapon and turning it to nothing. I love these challenges."

Naazim Richardson, who has trained Hopkins for 17 years, doesn't think Hopkins will ever lose his competitiveness.

"I never wonder if Bernard is going to be motivated to keep fighting," Richardson said. "I wonder if Bernard is ever going to be able to sit down. Bernard will reinvent himself. When he's 75-years-old, he's going to call me and say, 'Let's get all the 75-year-olds together and I'll beat their asses.' He's a boxing genius. He has a new fire in him. He enjoys beating these young boys up."

For most athletes Hopkins' age, long-term goals include speaking engagements and celebrity golf. Not Hopkins. He ages like a bottle of Scotch. He talks about a potential showdown with super middleweight champion Lucian Bute. He floated the idea of moving up to cruiserweight to "make more history."

Then there is the opponent Hopkins really wants: Joe Calzaghe.

Calzaghe, of course, outpointed Hopkins in a narrow split decision in 2008. He retired after beating Roy Jones seven months later and has given no indication he is interested in getting back in the ring. Hopkins, who sat next to Calzaghe at the Amir Khan-Zab Judah fight last month, seems to think he will.

"I want the Joe Calzaghe fight so bad," Hopkins said. "[The loss] lingers to the point where I know I won that fight. Joe is a proud fighter. He knows he wasn't his best that night. If you're going to say you weren't at your best but you still won, fighters know what that means. I would cross the pond for that one."

There's something else motivating Hopkins: reality. One loss and he's through. Hopkins accepts this. It's what pushed him back to the gym a few weeks after his win over Pascal and, as he puts it, "keeps the motor running." It's what makes him so confident he will beat Dawson. For Hopkins, there truly is no tomorrow.

* * * * *

Chad Dawson has a legend in his corner. So why doesn't Dawson sound confident about working with him?

When Emmanuel Steward took over as Dawson's trainer before his fight with Adrian Diaconu last May, it was lauded as a move that could elevate Dawson to another level. Steward has a long history of working well with fighters who can jab, and the jab is arguably the 6-foot-1 Dawson's best weapon.

But when I asked Dawson on Tuesday if he and Steward were a good fit, he was noncommittal.

"I'm not sure," Dawson said. "But we have to try it. We won't know until we try it. Right now, it seems like it's working. It seems like a great fit. He wants me to be more aggressive. That's something that I know I have to do. It takes time. You don't just change over night. Manny knows and I know it takes time."

Good trainers don't always mesh with good fighters. Steward has had great success molding Tommy Hearns, Lennox Lewis and Wladimir Klitschko into elite boxers. Other pairings, like his abbreviated stint with Jermain Taylor, have not worked out as well. Against a cagey opponent like Hopkins, Dawson will have to commit to Steward's strategy completely or risk Hopkins exploiting that indecisiveness and picking him apart.

* * * * *

The WBC is a complete, utter embarrassment.

Let me join the chorus of people who are disgusted by the WBC's decision to strip -- sorry, make a "champion in recess" -- junior welterweight titleholder Tim Bradley and sanction the Erik Morales-Lucas Matthysse fight for the organization's 140-pound belt. Boxing has become a shady business thanks to corrupt sanctioning bodies like the WBC, but the decision to shove out Bradley ranks as one of the most egregious acts in recent memory.

In a statement to the media, WBC President Jose Sulaimán explained the decision.

"Our rules for champions state that each champion should defend the title at least three times a year and when you reach six months of inactivity, the title might be withdrawn," Sulaimán said. "The WBC wrote three times to Timothy and neither he nor his representatives wrote back, nor have they announced at any time any scheduled fight at all to defend his title. They seemed not to care that there are many other boxers who wish to contend for the title, which the champion has frozen."

That's not exactly true.

According to the WBC's rules, a titleholder is required to make two voluntary defenses and one mandatory defense within a year. Putting aside the fact that almost never happens (more on that below), Bradley won the title last January, giving him nearly six months to fulfill his obligations.

Now, about those required defenses. There are countless examples of WBC champions not defending the title within six months. Moreover, it's incredibly rare for a champion to make three defenses within a year. Take Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy held the WBC version of the junior welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight title for most of his career. After 2000, De La Hoya never fought more than twice a year. He won the 154-pound title from Ricardo Mayorga in May 2006 and let it collect dust for a full year until losing it to Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Did the WBC strip De La Hoya? Did it threaten to strip De La Hoya? Of course not. It stripped Bradley because the Mexican-based organization wanted to give Morales a chance to become the first Mexican to win a title in four weight classes -- and collect another sanctioning fee in the process. Golden Boy Promotions, the same De La Hoya-fronted company that promised to do things differently in boxing, became an accomplice when it went along with it.

Organizations like the WBC don't care about boxing. They care about money, and Morales holding the title means more to the WBC than if Bradley does. The WBC did the same thing to Sergio Martinez, who was stripped of his title so the WBC could give Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. a chance to fight for a title.

The only way to strike back against such a sanctioning body is to marginalize it. Junior welterweight Mike Alvarado did when he vacated a minor WBC title after the organization reacted to his first two wins in 2011 by dropping him in its ranking three months in a row.

Unfortunately, Alvarado isn't a big enough name to make a difference. Amir Khan, however, is. There has been talk that Khan will face the winner of Morales-Matthysse in December. If that happens, Khan could send a powerful message if he refuses to pay the sanctioning fees required to compete for the WBC title and tell it he will accept the title if and when he defeats Bradley.

Khan doesn't need the WBC belt. He has two alphabet titles already and is universally recognized as the No. 1 junior welterweight in the world. Let the WBC stew when one of the best and most popular fighters in boxing declares that he doesn't think its belt is worth fighting for.

With NBA troubles I have the perfect solution for players to make amazing money. "Kobe vs. King James" Promoted by my golden boy promotions -- Oscar De La Hoya (@OscarDeLaHoya), on how NBA players can pocket a little cash during the lockout.

lol @floydmayweather I'm not a big enough draw to fight in 2012.... and Victor Ortiz is right now ???? -- Amir Khan (@AmirKingKhan), responding to comments by Floyd Mayweather saying that Khan was not a big enough name for him to fight in 2012.

"There are no issues." -- Top Rank CEO Bob Arum, who says all negotiating points between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao -- including the split and drug testing -- have been agreed to.

"My name is bigger than Mikkel Kessler's, believe it or not. If you go on the Internet and look at every boxing site and everything else, any time Kelly Pavlik's name comes up it's big." -- Former middleweight champion Kelly Pavlik, who says he canceled last Saturday's scheduled fight against Darryl Cunningham and torpedoed the possibility of a December showdown with Lucian Bute because he believed Mikkel Kessler was being offered more to face Bute.

"It's not my intention to hide a belt away. It's not moral. Yes, it would be easier to defend the title back home, but that's not my way." --I BF welterweight champion Jan Zaveck to boxingscene.com. Zaveck, 35, will fight for the first time in the U.S. when he defends his title against Andre Berto in Biloxi, Miss.

Five things Kelly Pavlik needs to do to revive his career:

Get out of Youngstown: It's nothing against the city, but after nearly 30 years in one area Pavlik needs a change. There are far too many distractions for him to fully concentrate on boxing. And Youngstown doesn't love him much anymore, either: According to an industry source, Pavlik's fight against Cunningham sold fewer than 1,000 tickets before it was canceled.

Get a new trainer: Let's give Jack Loew credit: He built Pavlik from a raw power puncher into a legitimate world champion. But Pavlik's career seems to have plateaued under Loew. A new voice might bring more out of him.

Be humble: Clearly, Pavlik still believes he's a headliner. The sooner he realizes he isn't, the better. What Pavlik needs to do is adopt a Chris Arreola-type schedule where he fights three or four times a year on undercards or as a headliner on a ESPN or Top Rank Live show.

Go back to middleweight: It's ridiculous to think Pavlik can't make 160 pounds. He's never had a real strength-and-conditioning coach or a competent nutritionist, two additions to his camp that could quickly cut his weight. Moving up to 168 pounds was a cop out, a way for Pavlik to justify a serious lack of conditioning.

Win back the public: Pavlik's everyman image is appealing to a public eager to embrace an American fighter. The problem is Pavlik's arrogant attitude has turned off fans both locally and nationally. It's completely fixable, as long as Pavlik spends the next few months rebuilding his career in a more positive way.

10. Things could get pretty messy for HBO before the end of the year. A source familiar with the situation said that the network owes junior middleweight titleholder Sergiy Dzinziruk a date -- and an $850,000 payday -- before the end of the year. Another source confirmed that HBO is also contractually obligated to give Amir Khan a show in December. Sources say promoters Gary Shaw, who represents Dzinziruk and Richard Schaefer, who represents Khan, have every intention of making HBO live up to the contracts.

The problem? HBO has already spent almost its entire budget for 2011. It's why the Hopkins-Dawson fight is a Pay-Per-View -- the network owed a $3 million license fee for the fight and needed to flip it to Pay-Per-View to recoup some of the cost. Neither Dzinziruk nor Khan is a pay-per-view level fighter, so it will be interesting to see how HBO comes up with the money to pay them this year.

9. Spent some time with trainer Naazim Richardson this week. Richardson is a huge fan of Andre Ward. He puts Ward on the same skill level as Floyd Mayweather and says Ward has not even scratched the surface of his potential.

8. Speaking of Ward, I've been told he has been quietly trying to get Olympic-style drug testing into the Super Six final against Carl Froch on Oct. 29. The problem getting it done has not been Froch, it's been finding a way to pay for it.

7. Richardson also told me he has not had much contact with Shane Mosley since Mosley's one-sided loss to Manny Pacquiao in May. When I asked Richardson if he would recommend to Mosley that he retire, he was noncommittal, saying he would give Mosley his opinion if he asks for it.

6. Say what you want about Ross Greenburg, but the man produced some great sports shows. That Derek Jeter special was right on the money. And they did it with virtually no help from the Yankees.

5. Best wishes to Alex Dombroff, Lou DiBella's right-hand man who left DiBella Entertainment last week to attend law school. Fortunately, Dombroff won't be giving up his career as the world's most prolific gambler.

4. Can everyone stop saying Sergio Martinez should move up to 168 pounds? The man is a 154-pounder who needs a Thanksgiving dinner just to reach 160.

3. Something tells me when Bob Arum approaches Showtime/CBS about the Miguel Cotto-Antonio Margarito fight after handing HBO the Manny Pacquiao-Juan Manuel Marquez card, Les Moonves is going to tell Arum thanks but no thanks.

2. Nice to see former FanHouse boxing writer Lem Satterfield back full time with Ring magazine. Welcome back, Lem.

1. Having trouble finding anyone who thinks it's a good idea for Julio Cesar Chavez to face Ronald Hearns in Mexico next month. Chavez, who is scheduled to defend his middleweight title against Peter Manfredo on HBO in November, will take the fight against the advice of his promoter, Arum, and with little assistance from Freddie Roach and Alex Ariza, who will be busy preparing Pacquiao for his fight with Marquez.

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