Naazim Richardson out as Hopkins trainer for final fight
There wasn’t a phone call or a hand-written note.
There was no Skype message or text. No personal visit. No formal announcement. Naazim Richardson only knows he’s not training Bernard Hopkins for his farewell fight against Joe Smith Jr. on Dec. 17 because the bout is just weeks away and he’s not with him.
Richardson, Hopkins’ longtime cornerman, has been dislodged by John David Jackson, a former two-division champion who guides Sergey Kovalev. He doesn’t know why he’s been replaced, just that he won’t be in the corner when the 51-year-old faces Smith at The Forum in Inglewood, California on HBO. There are no hard feelings because Richardson doesn’t know how to feel, he says.
“I have no idea,” Richardson told RingTV.com on Monday. “It was Hopkins’ decision I guess. I tell people that I go back to my business as usual and he calls when he needs some help. I didn’t get a call,” he added. “I don’t know what’s going on with him.”
Richardson isn’t shocked to be on the outside of Hopkins’ training circle. He’s seen other trainers go by the wayside over the years, such as Bouie Fisher, who piloted Hopkins to the undisputed middleweight championship and split with Hopkins in 2002 over a money dispute, only to come back and then leave again. Richardson talks of Hopkins with reverence and the utmost respect. But he’s also aware of his history. Hopkins, Golden Boy Promotions and Jackson didn’t immediately respond to messages for comment.
“With Bernard I’m not surprised,” Richardson said in a phone interview. “From the time I’ve worked with Bernard, at one point in time I was the only guy that worked with him that he hadn’t fired. From Bouie Fisher to (former strength coach) Danny Davis, who he fired a couple times and brought him back. So, it doesn’t surprise me. My thing is this: I don’t know what’s going on. These guys become great by being who they are. So, you can’t knock it.”
Richardson, who had been Fisher’s assistant, took over as lead trainer for Hopkins in December of 2005 for the rematch with Jermain Taylor. He has been with Hopkins (55-7-2, 32 knockouts) up until his last fight in November of 2014 against Sergey Kovalev. “My thing is I’m going to be here and I wish him the best,” said Richardson, who suffered a stroke in 2007 and had to teach himself how to walk again. “And do I think he can beat this guy? I don’t know a lot of this guy but from what I’ve seen this guy can’t beat no Bernard Hopkins. Bernard Hopkins is going to be able to beat guys at certain levels 10 years from now when he’s 60 years old.”