If there’s a potential spoiler in this small crowd of two, it’s probably Robert Allen and not Felix Sturm. Allen is a middleweight who can fight more than a little, and if undisputed champ Bernard Hopkins is off his game at all because of this Joe Cortez craziness, we could see something most of us didn’t plan on seeing.
It was nice of Hopkins to change his mind and decide Friday to defend his title against Allen on Saturday night at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, even with Cortez serving as referee.
Realizing the sun actually does rise and set on his own set of shoulders, Hopkins put Saturday’s entire fight card on ice when he was ready to pull out after learning Cortez was designated as the third man in the ring.
Hopkins said he didn’t want Cortez as ref because he had twice turned him down for other fights and he thought Cortez might hold a grudge. There was also that little incident a few years ago when Hopkins did the Philly Stomp on the Puerto Rican flag before his fight with Felix Trinidad.
Cortez is Puerto Rican.
Next column: Is there paranoia in the fight game?
According to reports, Hopkins was so upset about Cortez that he at first booked a Thursday afternoon flight to take him home. Later, he chartered a private jet to fly him back to Philadelphia.
Nothing like adding a little drama to a fight that could probably use a last minute pick-me-up.
With Hopkins threatening to back out, that meant no Oscar De La Hoya vs. Felix Sturm middleweight “sleeper” on the same night in the same ring. That meant no future “Collision Course” extravaganza between projected winners De La Hoya and Hopkins on Sept. 18. That meant no paycheck for Cortez and no big payday for anyone. That meant promoter Bob Arum would age 10 years in the amount of time it takes to watch a jet take off for Philadelphia.
“(Hopkins) would be making a fatal mistake,” Arum was quoted as saying by the Associated Press. “That would be the end of his boxing career.”
Hopkins is scheduled to make at least $1.25 million against Allen, and he could make $10 million or more against De La Hoya in September.
Wonder why he changed his mind and didn’t fly home.
Maybe it was all just a publicity stunt to sell a few more tickets, pull in a few more HBO pay- per-view buys.
I can hear Arum now.
“Look, Bernard, ticket sales aren’t exactly reminiscent of Leonard – Hearns. It’s slow and getting slower. We need a kick start, something to put us over the top. So here’s what you do. You pretend you’re really upset with Joe Cortez being named referee for your fight, and you threaten to pull out at the last minute. You throw a little fit, buy a plane ticket back to Philly and … No, no. Wait. I got a better idea. Instead of the plane ticket, you charter a jet to take you back home. Yeah, that’ll work. Charter a jet. It’ll make all the papers just a day before the fight and suddenly, people will be tuning in and wondering what the hell is going on with Bernard Hopkins. Yeah, don’t worry. I’ll pick up the tap on the charter. Of course, you’re not really flying anywhere.”
Or maybe Arum really was caught by surprise by Hopkins, who saw an opportunity and took it.
Wonder how much Hopkins finally settled for?