At 48, Hopkins Still Chasing Championship History

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He has no shortage of answers for why he’s facing Cloud, from money (“I’m just getting what was there years ago, but they gave to James Toney and Roy Jones.”) to finishing off faded promoter Don King’s dwindling stable (“I’ve made a career off his guys.”) to proving he’s still the ferocious competitor of a decade ago when he successfully defended his middleweight title a whopping 20 straight times (“It takes away from my legacy when I don’t win.”).

Hopkins was convicted at age 17 of robbery and assault, and spent nearly five years in prison. That time behind bars in the 1980s gave him more reason to want to exercise his freedoms — like the right to decide his immediate future — whenever he pleases. Oddly, one more championship belt around his waist is mostly an afterthought.

“I’ve got 11 belts at home in the trophy case I can look at if I need to look at belts,” he said. “It’s a trophy. It represents something. But right now, I’m not bigger than boxing, but I’m bigger than belts.”

Hopkins has never been stopped, but Cloud could be the fighter who earns that awaited KO against the man better known in the ring as B-Hop.

Nazim Richardson, Hopkins’ long-time trainer, favorably compared Cloud’s punching power to Antonio Tarver and Felix Trinidad. Hopkins, naturally, beat both of those fighters. Richardson said the only time he ever advised Hopkins to retire was after the Tarver win in 2006, not because of fading skills, but to build on the legacy his star fighter talks so often about preserving.

“I thought if he left then, anybody who left on sports on top, it’d be called, ‘The B-Hop,'” Richardson said. “I thought, ‘The B-Hop’ would be called leaving on top of the sport.”

Hopkins is opening his wallet to keep former heavyweight champion Joe Frazier’s name on top of the Philly sports scene. Hopkins has pledged to pay the balance on a fundraising effort to place a statue of Frazier at Xfinity Live, an entertainment complex near Philadelphia’s three sports stadiums.

Lawyer Richard Hayden, who represents Xfinity Live, has been scouting locations on the site and said the $150,000 needed for the statue, plus a maintenance fund, is close to completion.

“He very generously offered to be the last money in,” Hayden said.

Frazier defeated Muhammad Ali in “The Fight of the Century” 42 years ago Friday at Madison Square Garden. Fitting then, that Hopkins is fighting in New York for the first time since be beat Trinidad two weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. He just finished a run through Central Park training for the Sept. 15 bout at the Garden when the second plane hit the World Trade Center.

He tried to leave the city but wasn’t able to because of travel restrictions. Instead, he trained in the Bronx. He would go on to defeat Trinidad in a unification bout to become the undisputed champion — a proud moment he said he never really got to truly enjoy because of all the horror and sadness leading to the fight.

“That was a huge night,” he said. “In a good way and a bad way I’m part of history.”

He looks to make history again in New York, this time as the ageless wonder and the oldest champ.

(Photo: AP)

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