By Matt Richardson
Photos: Rich Kane – Hoganphotos/Golden Boy
Golden Boy Promotions and Don King held a final press conference on Wednesday afternoon to promote Saturday night’s fight between IBF light-heavyweight title-holder Tavoris Cloud and former two-division champion Bernard Hopkins. The card, set to be televised live on HBO, will be the second boxing event to be held at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York since the venue opened last September.
In front of a relatively small group of media at the arena, the promoters held court to make a final push for the card. Some highlights:
· Hopkins didn’t speak. Not even a little. The 48-year-old fighter has been known to fill quite a few fight reporters’ notebooks and he’s killed a few batteries in their tape recorders. But on Wednesday, Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KO’s) remained mum. He sat on the podium for the duration of the press conference in a hooded sweatshirt, sporting dark shades and his trademark executioner mask. But when his turn to speak came, he elected to walk off the podium instead, leaving his trainer Nazim Richardson to vouch for the team. “On Saturday, you will see the return of the Executioner,” Richardson vowed. “Bernard Hopkins has left the building but the Executioner is still here,” he said. During his time at the microphone, Richardson also complained that Hopkins’ style of fighting has been underrated, stating that “they actually judge his fights a different way. Boxing is an art. If you want fighting, there’s a whole other sport out there.” Richardson said Hopkins didn’t want him to mention this concern to the media but Hopkins never rebutted his trainer because he never uttered a word.
· Cloud is prepared and ready. Cloud appeared to take his time when speaking at the podium, electing to take it all in. “Standing up here, I feel a different type of energy,” Cloud (24-0, 19 KO’s) said. “I feel like I beat so many odds already, what the hell is another fight? I feel good because my whole life, I watched boxing,” he said. “You see these guys fighting on TV and I think to myself ‘man, I can do that.’ I know this Saturday I’m going to be victorious because I’m going to put on a great show.”
· Don King is back. Perhaps the most famous boxing promoter of all time, King has been largely unseen in recent years. His stable, which once boasted dozens of the world’s top pugilists, has dwindled to just a handful. But the 81-year-old was robust and funny at the press conference. He said Golden Boy promoter Richard Schaefer would shed “golden tears” once Hopkins is “knocked out” by Cloud (King’s fighter). “I want to have all the cameras on him, all teary eyed,” King declared. He also ranted about HBO not giving him any dates to televise his shows, claiming that Schaefer “has taken all the dates on HBO because he has such a blazing stable.” King also went on a bizarre tirade about the possible return of Felix Trinidad and how he still yearns to make rematches for “Tito” against Oscar de la Hoya and Hopkins, regardless of how Hopkins does against Cloud. While those fights remain highly unlikely, it was good to see King back doing what he does best – boasting and promoting. “My magic lies in my people ties,” King claimed, repeating one of his oldie but goody punch lines.
· Hopkins can make history again – sort of. Hopkins broke George Foreman’s record of being the oldest fighter to win a major championship when he defeated Jean Pascal for the WBC and linear light heavyweight championship in May 2011. He can technically break that record again here by beating Cloud for his version of the title. “It’s going to be history in the making once again,” said Schaefer. But Hopkins lost his title to Chad Dawson last April. Dawson lost his next fight, at super middleweight, to Andre Ward. But Dawson hasn’t lost the light heavyweight championship he won from Hopkins. So if Hopkins wins, he will have a title but not necessarily a championship and his record-breaking claim will be dubious.
· Hopkins will walk to the ring second. Despite Cloud holding the belt on the line, it was determined that Hopkins will walk to the ring after his opponent. This was determined via a coin flip at the press conference. Actress Rosie Perez and New York State Athletic Commission chairwoman Melvina Lathan completed the flip, which landed on heads, or “H,” for Hopkins.
· Thurman-Zaveck could steal the show. In the televised opener, unbeaten welterweight prospect Keith Thurman will face off against former IBF 147-pound title-holder Jan Zaveck. Thurman (19-0, 18 KO’s) has been running through fringe contenders in the division but should have his hands full with Zaveck (who gave Andre Berto a tough fight in 2011). “Zaveck is a tough, tough, tough guy,” Thurman said. “He’s never been knocked down and I love putting people to sleep.” Zaveck seemed unfazed by Thurman’s declared intentions, however. “I promise Saturday, it’s going to be one big night,” he said. “We’re both going to show, it’s not just words. We are set. Saturday is our night.”
· This is technically a triple-header. HBO Latino will begin televising live boxing at 8:30 PM ET on Saturday with a fight from California featuring IBF junior lightweight title-holder Juan Carlos Salgado fighting Argenis Mendez in a rematch of the latter’s 2011 unanimous decision victory. The action will then shift to regular HBO at 9:30 PM to showcase the double-header from Brooklyn.
· The “Fight Game” returns. A live edition of HBO’s “The Fight Game,” hosted by Jim Lampley, will be recorded and shown directly after the fights from the Barclays Center. With three televised bouts and the half-hour news-talk program afterwards, fight fans should get their fix for the evening.
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