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BOXING STEVE SPRINGER

Hopkins Hasn't Figured Out When to Say Yes

June 14, 2003|STEVE SPRINGER

When Bernard Hopkins left for a vacation in Cancun, Mexico, this weekend, he left behind his contract to fight International Boxing Federation cruiserweight champion James Toney.

Unsigned.

The Toney-Hopkins fight, tentatively scheduled for Aug. 9 at Las Vegas' Mandalay Bay Events Center, may be canceled because of a dispute over money.

Shocking.

It may be canceled because Hopkins believes he's being cheated.

Hard to imagine.

Hopkins claims he was promised $4.3 million to fight Toney but says promoter Don King is cutting that to $2.5 million. Not true, says Toney's promoter, Dan Goossen, who insists the pot simply isn't that big and $3 million is all there is for Hopkins.

Although Toney is the champion, he has agreed to settle for $2.1 million in roughly a 60-40 split with the challenger.

While still holding out hope Hopkins will change his mind, Goossen and King are moving to Plan B, a Toney fight against International Boxing Federation heavyweight champion Chris Byrd.

Byrd is still complaining that Lennox Lewis, generally recognized as the true heavyweight champion, won't fight him. But with Lewis committed to facing Vitali Klitschko next Saturday at Staples Center and interested in a possible Roy Jones fight at year's end, Byrd knows he too needs options.

Hopkins is running out of options. When he upset Felix Trinidad in 2001, Hopkins appeared to have won the respect and earning potential he had long sought. Jones, who beat Hopkins by decision a decade ago, was interested in a rematch. Down the road, Oscar De La Hoya said, he would like to culminate his career with a Hopkins fight.

And after Toney upset Vassiliy Jirov two months ago to win the IBF title, Toney also reached out to Hopkins.

But anybody who is any good who reaches out to Hopkins better have a fat check in their hands. So far, nobody's check has been rich enough to lure Hopkins into a big-money fight. Instead, in the nearly two years since his technical knockout of Trinidad, Hopkins has fought Carl Daniels, whose best days were behind him, and Morrade Hakkar, who never had good days.

"Bernard Hopkins is a man who won the lottery and lost the ticket," chortled King before the current stalemate developed.

Hopkins may be claiming King stole the ticket, but, says Goossen, Hopkins never had any intention of cashing in that ticket.

"When Bernard suggested a 60-40 split, James shocked him by taking the deal," Goossen said. "James tucked his ego into his pants because he wants the fight. Bernard is looking for a way out. This isn't about money. This isn't about Kingonomics."

Toney insists he doesn't care if the fight happens, although he must surely know that a victory over Hopkins would be far more meaningful than a win over Byrd.

"Let him stay on vacation," Toney said of Hopkins. "Dan is going to find somebody for me to knock out."

What are the odds the fight will still happen?

"We are relying on Bernard Hopkins to make a sensible decision," Goossen said, "and what are the odds of that? He says he'll take the fight if things change when he gets back from Mexico. The only thing that will change is that he'll be sunburned."

Split Decision

Featherweight Marco Antonio Barrera, saying he wants to exercise greater control over his career, is attempting to break from his promoter, John Jackson of Forum Boxing, and his manager, Ricardo Maldonado.

Barrera has gone to court to break his agreements with the pair, citing violations in their contracts in both state and federal law.

Negotiations have been underway with Bob Arum, promoter of Erik Morales, for a third Barrera-Morales fight in October. The fighters split their previous matches. Barrera says he wants the third fight but wants to be more personally involved in the negotiations.

Star Wars

Entertainment stars are frequently found along Universal Citywalk. But today, the stars will be of the boxing variety.

Lewis, the World Boxing Council heavyweight champion; Shane Mosley, former lightweight and welterweight titleholder; and Lucia Rijker, considered by many to be the best female fighter in the world, will all take part in an open workout at Universal City today, along with super-featherweights Phillip N'Dou and Yoni Vargas.

Lewis, preparing for his title defense, will step into the ring, located next to the Hard Rock Cafe and the movie theaters, at 1 p.m.

Mosley, in training for his Sept. 13 rematch against De La Hoya, will go at noon.

Rijker, who will face Jane Couch on Saturday's undercard, and N'Dou, who takes on Vargas, will work out at 2 p.m. Vargas will open the session at 11 a.m.

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