Bernard Hopkins defends his undisputed middleweight title tonight in his home town of Philadelphia, against unknown Frenchman Morrade Hakkar. The bout will be Hopkins's second less-than-super fight since his stunning upset of Felix Trinidad a year and a half ago.
Far from cashing in on the Trinidad victory, Hopkins is making a reported $1.125 million for the Hakkar fight, a considerable sum by any standard other than that of one of the world's top fighters -- which is how many viewed Hopkins after he dominated the great Puerto Rican.
Opportunities for the titanic fights against Roy Jones Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya have failed to materialize. Hopkins, 38, said he is unbothered.
"It ain't how much money you make, it's what you do with the money you have," Hopkins said. "I've been good with the finances I have. That's why Bernard Hopkins can say what he wants and stand by it without a sliver of a doubt that my electricity will be cut off, or whether I can put food on the table for my daughter and wife."
Hopkins (41-2-1) styles himself as the anti-establishment champion, relishing opportunities such as his testimony before Congress about corruption in the sport. The initial decision to make the Hasim Rahman-David Tua heavyweight eliminator bout the main event hurt Hopkins, and his stubbornness forced the issue. Rahman-Tua now is listed as the co-feature, but Hopkins took the whole affair as another sign that he is not the boxing community's favorite son.
"I've always been the main event, as far as Philadelphia is concerned," Hopkins said. "That was something brought up by my adversaries out there."
Paranoia tinges his brilliance. Hopkins constantly refers to "They," the forces at work against him, which at any given time have included state boxing commissions, every major promoter and television network, the media and even his own once-trusted handlers.
"Don't think I shot myself in the foot," Hopkins said. "They want you to think that. Beating Trinidad is something mainstream boxing people never wanted. They wanted to shut me down way before the fight. . . . They don't want me to beat them twice.
"Just imagine how the world is getting cheated so badly. When you see me fight, you're seeing a masterpiece at work. They rob you all of that."
In the months after the Trinidad victory, Hopkins alienated Bouie Fisher, the trainer who cultivated his career, and Lou DiBella, the adviser who helped turn him from a good, lesser-known fighter into a star, facing both in court. His disputes undermined his chances for a lucrative multi-fight contract with Showtime or HBO, which is televising the Hakkar fight.
"I can't do anything to hurt Bernard more than he has done to himself," said DiBella, a former HBO executive-turned-promoter. "He's done so much damage to himself that I don't wish any more to be done. It's still a shame he has garnered so little out of one of the great victories of all time. It's sad, and it's pathetic."
Hopkins settles for Hakkar (29-3), who is somehow the No. 1 challenger mandated by the WBC. It will be Hopkins's 16th defense of his middleweight title, and he has plans to reach 20, unconcerned with his relatively modest paydays against seemingly less-than-modest opposition. He defies the notion that, even at his advancing age, his considerable skills are atrophying.
"Each year it's the same thing, 'You're 35, 36, 37 years old," Hopkins said. "Well, now I'm 38 and still kicking [butt]. Why am I still doing it? I need the money. Because some day I'm not going to be able to kick [butt]."
Boxing Note: Washington's Lamont Peterson advanced to the light heavyweight final of the U.S. Amateur Boxing Championships in Colorado Springs on Thursday with a 14-8 decision over Chad Aquino. Peterson faced four-time champ Rock Allen in the final.