By Rick Scharmberg
Golden Boy Promotions held a press conference yesterday at the Liacouras Center on the campus of Temple University in Philadelphia to announce the December 2 bout between former two-time world champion Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins and Enrique Ornelas. The bout will take place at the same venue, which is located in North Philadelphia, the area where Bernard Hopkins grew up. Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaeffer stated, “This fight will be a homecoming for the biggest fighter to ever come out of Philadelphia. Thank you, Bernard, for coming home. Ticket prices are reasonable. You can see this legendary fighter, possibly for the last time, for as little as twenty-five dollars.” The bout will be televised live on the Versys network.
Photos: Rick Scharmberg
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Richard Schaefer hosted the event, and started things by introducing John DiSanto, whose website PhillyBoxingHistory.com selects the Philadelphia fight and fighter of the year. DiSanto presented the award, a beautiful statue with the likeness of the great Philadelphia middleweight “Bad” Bennie Briscoe, to Hopkins, who was selected as its 2008 “Fighter of the Year”.
Before introducing the next speaker, Pennsylvania State Athletic commissioner Rudy Battle, Schaefer stated, “This is a great opportunity for Enrique Ornelas. In his last fight in Philadelphia six years ago, Bernard fought (Morrade) Hakkar, who thought it was a track meet. This time, he is fighting a true warrior in Enrique Ornelas.”
He then went on to mention that three charities in particular will benefit from ticket sales. “Bernard is donating three dollars per ticket to the following charities: the Fraternal Order of Police, the Make a Wish Foundation, and the National Breast cancer Foundation. In addition, Golden Boy Promotions will match all donations,” he said.
Commissioner Battle then took the dais. “It is an exciting time to have a legend, a two-division champion and future hall-of-fame inductee, return. It is gratifying for an individual to return to his home town and be acknowledged for his accomplishments. It is gratifying to me to have been able to referee some of his best fights, such as his seventh round knockout of Segundo Mercado.
“Enrique Ornelas is a tough and tenacious boxer, and I expect a closely contested contest. There will be many dignitaries, former and current champions, and celebrities in attendance,” Battle concluded.
After some words from Versys Vice President Mark Fine, who explained their satisfaction with having a relationship with Golden Boy, as well as their happiness with having Bernard Hopkins appear on their network, Librado Andre was called up and gave some words of support for his brother.
“My brother Enrique has all the skills in the world. I don’t know how he lost any of his fights. We would like to thank Bernard and Golden Boy for this opportunity. Golden Boy has always been there for me,” said Andrade.
Enrique Ornelas spoke a few words, but this was clearly Bernard’s show. “I am looking forward to this opportunity,” he said. “Spread the word about this fight. Bernard is a great fighter, and I thank him for this chance,” said Ornelas, who had a fight scheduled, but dropped everything when this opportunity presented itself.
Richard Schaefer called Bernard’s attorney, Arnold Joseph, to speak. As Arnold approached the dais, Hopkins’ face broke into that mischievous grin and he said to Joseph, “Am I on the clock? If I am on the clock, you can only speak for two minutes.”
Joseph stated, “There are reasons that Bernard hasn’t fought in Philly, such as taxes and money, so when Richard Schaefer called me and said they needed contracts drawn up for this fight, I told him I didn’t think it was going to happen. He said, ‘no no, it will happen’. I called Bernard, and he said this fight was bigger than the money, that it was about giving back to Philadelphia, specifically, North Philadelphia.”
Schaefer then introduced Nazim Richardson, the trainer of Bernard Hopkins. “I see many young and talented athletes here today, and I was thinking that Bernard would be an awful coach because he expects so much out of you because he expects so much out of himself. I tell them they would be better off watching Bernard instead,” said Nazim.
“I know Enrique Ornelas for years,” said Richardson. “The best way to describe him is that he is like a Mexican Joe Frazier. You can take it from there. He will be on Bernard all night. He is not a guy you want to pick a fight with out in the yard. But Bernard is a throwback to a different era. They gave him the right trophy, the Briscoe award. He should have been rolling back then with Bennie Briscoe. This man needs to be appreciated. He is one of the most dedicated human beings ever – not fighter – human being. He will make you better just by being around him.”
Finally, Richard Schaefer called Bernard Hopkins up to speak.
Hopkins addressed the issue of taking this tune up with Ornelas, and then facing longtime nemesis Roy Jones Jr. early next year. “When people say, no offense to you, but when people say that I am forty-four years old and can’t do it anymore, I get off on that.
“I can’t make something happen by sitting on the pine,” he continued, “So I am bringing my foundations to make something happen, something more than just about me. I have to win for the big picture, but I didn’t want to be any part of the matchmaking. I have to be pushed at this level at every step. I need a challenge, and Enrique Ornelas will give me that.”
He continued, “I grew up in this area. Joe Frazier’s Gym is right down the street. I am taking care of myself because it will be a tough fight. Philadelphia sports are hot and they are going to be hotter through boxing. This is a new chapter beginning, promoting me and my company. Come out and support a great cause. I don’t care if I make a dime. Come out to see a forty-four-years-young guy.”
Richard Schaefer then announced that tickets will go on sale today at the Liacouras Center box office, and by calling 1-800-298-4200.