- The Washington Times - Monday, December 15, 2003

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.

Boxing reform is always geared toward protecting the hapless fighters from the clutches of evil promoters and managers. But what about protecting foolish fighters from themselves?

Sometimes, the guy who victimizes the fighter is the one looking back at him in the mirror. Although, in the case of William Joppy, if he looked into a mirror last night, he would not have recognized the disfigured face looking back at him.

Joppy, the Washington middleweight who came back after breaking a bone in his back in a car crash several years ago, looked as if a truck had hit him when he came to the news conference early yesterday morning on the stage at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City.

It wasn’t a truck. It was Bernard Hopkins, who gave Joppy a severe beating for 12 rounds and won a unanimous decision to remain undisputed middleweight champion.

It was Hopkins’ 17th successful title defense and proved that, at the age of 39, he is still a great champion. It also proved there is no one on the horizon who can beat him. And because of that, Hopkins is looking beyond the middleweight landscape. He is begging for a big payday against the likes of an Oscar De La Hoya or Sugar Shane Mosley and is willing to move closer to their 154-pound junior middleweight class.

“I’ll come down a few pounds if that’s what it takes to get these guys in the ring,” he said.

What Hopkins needs to lose, though, is the mouth that constantly undermines him and causes him to negotiate his way out of big fights, such as proposed bouts against Roy Jones and James Toney, and forced him to fight Joppy. He earned just $350,000 for the night — about 10 percent of what he might have made for a fight against Jones.

And — this is the part that is so stupid it may require legislation against it — Hopkins bet Joppy $50,000 he would knock him out. Joppy put up $25,000 and Hopkins gave him 2-1 odds. As a result, Hopkins will have to hand over $50,000 of his paltry purse to Joppy. “Joppy won that bet,” Hopkins said. “He will get paid $50,000.”

What is more disturbing about this side bet is Joppy took a beating in the final round just to stay upright and win the bet. If he hadn’t he would have had to pay Hopkins out of his $125,000 cut.

This can’t take place. It raises all sorts of dangers and conflicts. That Joppy won $50,000 from Hopkins will keep him in Jell-O for years to come when he’s put in a convalescence home in the not-too-distant future. And there won’t be any seedy manager or promoter to blame. Not even Don King, who promised to “reward Joppy for his courage,” presumably by getting him more fights, damaged goods or not.

King put on his eight title-fight show at Atlantic City just days after he settled a lawsuit by former super middleweight champion Terry Norris — a brain-damaged fighter. He called Saturday night’s show “Night of the Undisputed Back-to-Back-to-Back,” referring to the title fights and the undisputed belts at stake.

“Night of the Fools,” was more like it, and Hopkins and Joppy had plenty of company.

Ricardo Mayorga, the World Boxing Council and World Boxing Association welterweight champion, started believing the notion he was the new Roberto Duran — a bad boy with hands of stone. The way he walked through Vernon Forrest last January in three rounds to shock the boxing world and then beat Forrest again in the rematch seemed to back it up. With Mayorga’s cursing, spitting, smoking, drinking and vulgar acts while celebrating in the ring after fights, King hoped to mold the Nicaraguan welterweight into boxing’s next superstar.

Turns out he was just another dumb fighter and bully who lost his titles to Cory Spinks, the International Boxing Federation welterweight title holder. Mayorga had two points deducted for holding and hitting after the bell in their 12-round fight. Spinks, the son of Leon Spinks, should not be included with the fools. He fought a brilliant fight, using his hand speed to frustrate Mayorga and great body movement to avoid getting hit.

However, the king of the “Night of the Fools” has to be Hasim Rahman. The Baltimore heavyweight lost a decision to the pathetic John Ruiz and appears to be at the end of his career. He has not won a fight since April 2001 when he landed a right hand to knock out heavyweight champion Lennox Lewis in the fifth round in South Africa.

After that punch, Rahman had more leverage than any heavyweight in recent memory. Home Box Office offered him a $17million contract. Showtime offered him nearly the same. Instead, Rahman signed with King for a bag of cash that, depending on whom you believe, had anywhere from $50,000 to $500,000 in it. They made a ridiculous deal in the rematch with Lewis where Rahman agreed to be paid from a percentage of the pay-per-view, in essence becoming a partner with King. In his four fights since beating Lewis, it’s doubtful Rahman made half as much as he could have had he signed with either HBO or Showtime.

If they someday pass legislation to protect fighters from themselves, maybe they could call it the Hasim Rahman Act.


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