BROOKLYN, NYÔÇöTavoris Cloud sat there with a stoic expression as the hyperbole flew on Tuesday at the press conference announcing his IBF light heavyweight championship defense against Bernard Hopkins on March 9 at Barclays Center.
To Cloud’s immediate right sat the king of overstatement himself, Don King, and to Cloud’s far right sat Hopkins, no slouch at slinging the you-know-what himself, celebrating his 48th birthday by jousting with King on the dais.
Still, Cloud sat there much of the time expressionless, letting the barbs bounce off him like he hopes Hopkins’ punches will on March 9.
Cloud-Hopkins will be the main feature of an HBO-televised event that will also do a split-broadcast of the heavyweight fight between Chris Arreola and Bermane Stiverne, from a different locale. And a third fight will be added to the show from the Barclays Center that has yet to be announced.
As for the age difference, and fighting a living legend, and being “the last horse” in King’s thin stable, as Hopkins’ tried to hammer home, Cloud (24-0, 19 knockouts) could have cared less.
“You know, I don’t think I heard a thing, I just sat there wondering when it all was going to be over,” admitted Cloud, 31, letting out a little smirk in an exclusive interview with RingTV.com after the press conference. “Who wouldn’t want to have a name like Bernard Hopkins on a resume? He turned 48 today, and I don’t know what he has left. I’m preparing and I’m going to be at my absolute best when I get into the ring. I hope he’s at his absolute best.
“I’m trying to separate myself from the light heavyweight class, but I don’t think I’ve got the respect that I deserve, because I feel like in this division fighters have been ducking me for a long time, like Chad Dawson, [Jean] Pascal, and a couple of other fighters. Plus, I need to fight more and it’s coming to fruition in due time. I’m in no hurry to be recognized as the greatest. When it happens, it happens.”
Cloud says he’s ready to make that step. He wants to break through as a big household name in the pay-per-view market, and stopping someone like Hopkins (52-6-2, 32 KOs) would help. Cloud will also be taking this step with new trainer Abel Sanchez, also the trainer of WBA middleweight titleholder Gennady Golovkin. Sanchez replaces Cloud’s former trainer, Al Bonanni.
“Me and Bonanni just decided to part ways,” Cloud said. “We have the same mindset, and that’s attack, but it’s just a different way. We’re doing the same thing, just a different way. I’m using more finesse, I’m being more discreet with things, I think. And basically, we can accomplish the same goals using different means. I don’t plan on letting up on the gas. I’m just saying I might be running diesel or 87, or something like that. I know coming forward is my style, and I’m not changing the way I fight, just making it better. I had to be with somebody that could understand my vision and what I’m trying to do with my own style.”
Cloud remained very balanced through the whole press conference. He said he wouldn’t be consumed by the bright lights of Brooklyn’s sterling Barclays Center venue. Before the event took place, he had an idea Hopkins was going to reach into his bag of psychological ploys.
“Go ahead, let him play games,” Cloud said. “That’s what he likes to do, play games. I think he’s going to trick himself. It’s really this simple: How do you beat Bernard Hopkins? You have to go in there and whip his ass. You have to beat him with punches just the same way you beat any other fighter. I do expect a lot of dirt from him. I’m expecting him to have a bag full of sand when he comes into the ring. But I don’t think he can get into my head.”
In fact, if anyone got into anyone’s head, it was King poking and prodding Hopkins, who seemed to mask his anger at each King bellowing laugh with an arms-folded, stern look. Hopkins even went as far as presenting King a piece of his birthday cake.
Cloud just sat there and shook his head during the proceedings. He knows there’s been doubt over his last victory, when he scored a split-decision over southpaw replacement Gabriel Campillo, on February 18, 2012, in his fourth title defense. Cloud was originally scheduled to fight Zolt Erdei, but he withdrew because of an injured right hand.
“I think there is some redemption working here, and I’ve tried and tried to get back into the ring since the Campillo fight,” said Cloud, who will train in Big Bear. “I have to take my anger and frustration out on Hopkins. I learned a lot from the Campillo fight. I learned you can’t let someone sneak up on you. I was training to fight Erdei, who was a short right hander, and my opponent was totally switched to a tall southpaw.
“I’m going to fight my fight against Hopkins and hit what I can hit. I’ve altered my training against Hopkins, training out of Big Bear, 7,000 feet above sea level, and that’s been huge for me. I’m working on a couple more things, but Hopkins won’t be the toughest guy I ever met. Glen Johnson was a pretty tough joker. Bernard Hopkins doesn’t know what’s coming at him.”
Hopkins has never been stopped in his career. His last stoppage was nine years ago with a ninth-round TKO of Oscar De La Hoya in September 2004. “The Executioner” is also 4-2-1, with 1 no-decision, in his last eight bouts. Cloud has stopped only one (Yusaf Mack TKO8) of his last five opponents.
That didn’t dissuade King from calling Cloud “Mini-Tyson.” That was one time a glint of a smile could be seen creasing the champ’s face.
Photos / Rich Kane-Hoganphotos/Golden Boy Promotions