- The Washington Times - Friday, April 27, 2007

William Joppy has one remaining goal as a professional fighter: induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. The District native and two-time former middleweight champion believes the way to do that is to win another world championship.

But he already may have the credentials to be inducted. Joppy walked into a meeting with promoter Don King without any lawyers and came out with what he wanted — his freedom.

“I should go into the Guinness Book of World Records for that,” he said.

Joppy (37-4-1) will be exercising that freedom tonight in the return of professional boxing to the D.C. Armory, where he faces Virgil McClendon (22-10) in a bout he hopes will move him one step closer to title contention again in either the super middleweight or light heavyweight division.

“I am campaigning at 168 and 175,” Joppy said. “If a fight comes to me that feels right at 175, I will take it.”

Joppy, 36, once campaigned very successfully in the 160-pound middleweight division, stepping in the ring for the first time as an amateur at the age of 20 and, remarkably, capturing the World Boxing Association middleweight championship at 25 by stopping Shinji Takehara in nine rounds in Japan.

He successfully defended the title twice before breaking his right hand in the third round of a defense against Julio Cesar Green at Madison Square Garden in August 1997, the first loss of his career. He won back the belt by defeating Green in a rematch in January 1998.

Joppy solidified his hold on the middleweight division with five straight successful title defenses but stepped up significantly in class when he faced former welterweight champion Felix Trinidad in May 2001 as part of King’s middleweight championship tournament.

Joppy took a brutal beating before the fight was stopped after five rounds, a loss that began the slow descent of Joppy’s career. He then fought infrequently and suffered losses to middleweight champions Bernard Hopkins and, most recently, Jermain Taylor in December 2004. He’s fought just three times since, the last a fifth-round knockout of Jonathan Corn last July at 174 pounds.

“I fell short,” Joppy said. “I am not going to complain about that. I fell short with some of those big fights. I think part of that was being inactive. When I fought Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor, both times I was off 15 months. That is why I went to Florida in February to meet with Don King to ask for my release, and he gave it to me. I went by myself, without a lawyer, as a fighter. Do you know any fighter that ever did that?

“I went to Don King by myself, flew there on my own dollar. I went to him like a man, I said, ‘Look, I’ve been with you my whole career. I’m not world champion anymore, and all I am doing now is sitting on a shelf. I want to make some money. I’m at the end of my career. I might fight two or three more years and want to build up a nice little nest egg and leave. He said he would, and we left on good terms.”

Now a free agent with no contract with a promoter, Joppy said he wants to fight as often as he can until he gets a shot at the likes of 168-pound champion Joe Calzaghe or one of the other title holders at 168 or 175 pounds. He said in his last couple of fights, he struggled to make the 160-pound weight limit in the middleweight division, where he had been since his professional debut in 1993.

“I am getting older now,” Joppy said. “I am at the end of my career. “It was getting more difficult to get that weight off now than it was before. This fight Friday will get me back on track. Virgil McClendon is a good fighter. I am looking to take care of business, fight again in June and then be in line for a title shot.

“This fight I am fighting at 175 pounds. I am going to take my time getting my weight down. I’ve been off since July of last year, so I am taking my time and hope to fight at 168 in June and keep my weight there.”

Ron Remus Productions, in association with Carlos Llinas CLIP Boxing, is promoting the Armory event, the first one there since a Don King-promoted Showtime fight there four years ago. Remus said his relationship with Joppy is just for this fight, but he would look forward to putting him on future shows.

“We wanted to have a hometown hero on the show, and he’s got a great story,” he said. “He wants to come back, and we figured there was no better place to do it than D.C. … We think he can come back to be a champion again.”

Joppy has no regrets about his setbacks and the comeback trail he is on. “I feel blessed,” he said. “I was world champion twice. I can’t complain about where I am now. I always said don’t complain about your place, just give thanks to where you are at. But I do want to make the Hall of Fame someday.”

His meeting with Don King may someday warrant a plaque of its own there.

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