Jermain Taylor sounds like a pretty nice guy, though that won’t do him much good when he faces Bernard Hopkins on the night of July 16 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Not that being a nice guy is a bad thing, but it doesn’t count for much in certain places, like prize rings, football stadiums or the 18th green at Augusta. You can be nice all you want, but it’s still a 30-foot putt for birdie that everyone stands up and applauds.
Hopkins himself seems like a pretty nice guy, but unlike Taylor, he’s got something more riding on this fight than his future and his reputation. It’s personal to Hopkins, who doesn’t get along well with Taylor’s promoter, Lou DiBella. It all goes back a few years when DiBella – who used to advise Hopkins – took the fighter to court on a defamation lawsuit and won.
They haven’t been very close since.
That’s why Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) says it’s not only Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs) he’ll be staring across the ring at when he defends his undisputed middleweight title for the 21st time. If he looks hard enough, he’ll be seeing DiBella and all the ghosts he says that have been haunting him most of his career.
“Jermain Taylor is the closest guy (to DiBella) I can physically beat up without going to jail,” Hopkins said last week. “But he’s going to look like 30 different people.”
That’s a heavy workload to be carry into the prize ring.
DiBella, meanwhile, has been doing his best to keep the spotlight on Taylor and the fight instead of his feelings about Hopkins.
“I’m not talking about Bernard Hopkins anymore,” he said when he was told that Hopkins still expressed a certain disdain for the promoter. “Bernard Hopkins can say anything about me he wants, but I’m taking the high road, someplace he’s never been.“
Lou just couldn’t let it go. He was moving along just fine on that high road until that last little dig.
While the Hopkins - DiBella feud is entertaining in a sad sort of way, no one is buying tickets to see them duke it out. This is Taylor’s time – not DiBella’s – and to the promoter’s credit, he’s the first to tell you that.
“Jermain Taylor is bigger, younger, stronger and faster than Bernard Hopkins,” DiBella said. “The end is coming for Hopkins. It’s time for a new sheriff in town. He‘s been a great champion, but his days come to an end on July 16.”
Taylor, meanwhile, isn’t worried about lawsuits, spats, agendas, sheriffs or trash talk. He just wants to fight.
“My whole life has prepared me for this,” he said. “I’m just ready to fight.”
Asked what makes him think he can beat Hopkins, Taylor said his style of boxing and his work habits were the key.
“I have a good jab,” he said. “And I’m coming to fight. I’m actually coming to win. I’ve been watching his tapes and the man is dangerous. I’m not taking anything away from him.”
But Taylor is a long way from conceding the fight. If anything, he sounds extremely confident. As for any hard feelings heading into the fight, he said it wasn’t personal between him and Hopkins.
“I’ve been boxing for 14 years,” he said. “If I got mad at all my opponents, I’d be the scariest guy in the world. Outside the ring, I’ll take him out for a meal.”
Inside the ring, he’ll just take him out.
“I feel it’s going to be a great fight,” Taylor said. “But if I catch him, he‘s going to sleep. I‘m a lot stronger than Bernard Hopkins and a lot faster. If he wants to fight dirty, I’ll fight dirty. However he brings it, I’m going to take it to him.”
That doesn’t sound very nice, Jermain.