Richardson on Hopkins : ‘You expect certain things from certain people’
Bernard Hopkins insists that it is one and done, that his Dec. 17 scrap against Joe Smith will be his bon voyage bash, a celebration of a glorious and improbable run, which began in 1989.
Hopkins turns 52 on Jan. 15, and has chugged a long way past the due date for all but the most genetically gifted freaks of nature…No, check that; he’s in a class by himself, fighting high-level foes in his 50s.
Come Dec. 17, a most familiar face with whom he’s been in the trenches for many moons will not be by his side, there to offer counsel and sips of water as the old warhorse trots into battle, to see if he can defuse another bomb-thrower, while spitting in the eye of Father Time. Naazim Richardson, who took over the No. 1 cornerman slot from Hopkins’ tutor Bouie Fisher, has been supplanted for the exit extravaganza. I broke the news here on Nov. 15 and Hopkins referenced the switch on a Wednesday conference call to hype the Golden Boy Promotions affair, to screen on regular HBO.
“We came to a decision that I think Naazim is not capable of working in this fight because of his situation, personally,” Hopkins said on a conference call on Wednesday, as laid out in a RING story by Mitch Abramson. “And I didn’t want to be in a situation where I felt that I have to guess or have to scramble later on down the line. So, to me, it was really a hand fitting in the glove when it comes to having my options to be with John David Jackson. I’m in good hands.”
Hopkins suggested that Richardson should be asked directly about the circumstances, so I did. Reached on the phone, Richardson told me that, in fact, he is “not dealing with any personal situation.”
Indeed, he’s been working with heavyweight hopeful Travis Kauffman, who is fighting this month, and he told me his cruiserweight vet/former RING champion Steve Cunningham will be gloving up early in 2017. So no, there’s no health issue hanging over his head or any personal entanglements weighing him down, Richardson told me.
Richardson also made it clear that he isn’t sore at Hopkins and understands “This is a business.” He had a stroke in 2007, was paralyzed and had to battle his way back, so he said he has things in pretty good perspective.
He draws on not-too-ancient history, recalling that Hopkins split from his longtime trainer Bouie Fisher in 2005. Hopkins parted ways because he said Fisher’s health had declined. Fisher countered, saying the split was over finances. They’d split over purse splits in 2002, as well.
Richardson and Hopkins last talked a few months ago, the Philly teacher said. They aren’t in a shoot-the-bull relationship, so he hasn’t been in phone contact with the living legend, who works as an executive at Golden Boy and as an analyst for HBO. “You expect certain things from certain people,” Richardson continued. “It would be out of character for him (to have processed this split more explicitly, face to face or on the phone at least). It’s not something I’d expect. I’ve known him for many years. There’s not too much he can do to surprise me. It’s his business. He can do it any way he wants.”
Richardson told me he respects the chops of John David Jackson, who handles the Hopkins reins in camp and, in a few weeks, on fight night. He has a gut feeling that Smith is too rudimentary for Hopkins. (“I think maybe John David could beat Joe, not taking anything away from Joe.”) He also foresees the possibility that Hopkins gets a W, feels bold about soldiering on, gets showered with praise and thinks that maybe the new trainer is giving him a shot from the Fountain of Youth…and then, maybe, he’ll be tempted to look to take down a sterner test, in theory, like an Adonis Stevenson.
So no, Richardson’s in business, feeling fine, health-wise, and is working in gyms with fighters. He made that clear – and this: “I know how some boxers are…I hope Bernard finds what it is he’s looking for.”
Michael Woods has run; he has crawled. He has scaled these city walls. But he still hasn’t found what he’s looking for…waitaminnit…I’m sorry; that’s Spider-Man. I get these Brooklyn guys confused.
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