Bernard Hopkins, Roy Jones Jr Trainers Interview Transcript
Kelly Swanson, President Swanson Communications: Thanks, everybody, for joining us. We have a very special call today. This is the season for boxing, and we are looking forward to a terrific fight coming up shortly, April 3rd. Today we have some esteemed trainers on the call for both Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones: Naazim Richardson, Bernard Hopkinsí training, Alton ďCoach MerkĒ Merkerson, Roy Jones, Jr.ís trainer. Weíre also joined today by Richard Schaefer, Chief Executive Officer, Golden Boy Promotions, and Bobby Goodman, Chief Operating Officer of Square Ring Promotions. Without further ado, Iíll turn it over to Richard Schafer to talk about the fight and the people on the call..
Richard Schaefer, CEO Golden Boy Promotions:
Welcome, everybody. We have 2.5 weeks to go to fight week, so the promotion is starting to heat up. The sponsors are activating all across the country. The movie screens, I just got confirmation this morning, they will start tomorrow with the trailer, so the fight will be promoted in over 10,000 movie screens across the United States, and will be available on HBO Pay Per View and in selected movie theaters across the nation and in pretty much all states as well, so itís really exciting. You have Hopkins and Jones, two great legends meeting in the ring for a long awaited rematch, great fighters, great athletes, and now a chance to meet each other, to see who really is the best between the two of them.
The fight is April 3rd at the Mandalay Bay Event Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. As I said, live on Pay Per View. Tickets are still available. We have sold a tremendous amount of tickets. Thereís about 2,500 tickets left in all price categories, so get your tickets, and make sure youíre going to be part of that legendary night, that legendary event.
It is a pleasure to have two great trainers on the call today with ďCoach MerkĒ Alton Merkerson and, of course, as I said before, one of the very best trainers in the world, in my opinion, a man who has been maybe not as much appreciated by the media as he should be. He has guided the career of Bernard Hopkins for a long time, recently now started to work with Sugar Shane Mosley as well and guided him to a sensational knockout victory over Antonio Margarito about a year ago and is going to be in his corner ago in the Floyd Mayweather showdown.
But here he is. He has guided one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world for a long time with Bernard Hopkins. It is a pleasure for me now to introduce to you Brother Naazim Richardson, who will give you an update on how camp is going, on how well he sees is developing Fight Night as well, and give you some general updates from camp, please, Brother Naazim.
Nazim Richardson, Bernard Hopkinís trainer:
Iíd like to thank everybody for having me, and I appreciate that introduction, Mr. Schaefer, and I look forward to the showdown between Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins. And camp has been going excellent. Itís a privilege to work with a guy like Bernard Hopkins. Heís been doing it for a long time, so his preparation is down to a science.
And we realize we take nothing for granted with Roy Jones because, in my opinion, and this is my personal opinion, I feel as though the man has gone desperate now, and the desperate man is dangerous, and heís an exceptional talent, and we look forward to this match up, as many have over the years. I said, I was teasing Bernard. I said, some of these young guys on the under card werenít old enough to spell boxing the last time these two guys fought. But it should be a great match up, and we feel confident going into this fight.
Richard Schaefer: Great. Thank you, Naazim. It is the fight, as we all know, is a co-promotion with Golden Boy and Square Ring, and itís a pleasure now for me to introduce to you Bobby Goodman. You all know Bobby, who is going to be introducing Alton Merkerson. Bobby, please.
Bobby Goodman, CEO Square Ring Promotions:
Thank you very much, Richard. Itís a pleasure to be on the call today, especially with two such esteemed trainers, and two legends of the sport in Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, Jr. I do want to say that I was present at the first meeting of these two great athletes, and theyíve since demonstrated that they are among the greatest ever, pound-for-pound, in our sport, and itís a long time coming to have this rematch.
I do want to introduce a guy that has been with Roy since the start, since the amateurs almost, and has done a fantastic job with Roy Jones, one of the great trainers in the world today, M. Alton Merkerson ďCoach MerkĒ.
Alton Merkerson, Roy Jonesí trainer:
Hello, everybody. Itís a pleasure being here on the conference call, and thanks for the compliments on both fighters. You know, Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins are very seasoned athletes. Theyíve been in the game for a while. Theyíve been great champions. Theyíve been great role models, and they both went down in history already, so in reference to making history, theyíve done it already.
But these two guys fought back in 1993, and Roy beat Bernard, and Bernard feels that he shouldnít have won and that he canít beat him now. And Roy feels that he still can beat Bernard, so both of them are going to really prepare for this fight and be the best that they can be, and this competition is going to take place on the 3rd of April.
Camp with Roy is going very well. Heís training just as hard for this fight as he did any other fight that heís had in the past. Heís mentally and physically focused for the fight. He knows Bernard is going to be ready for the fighting, and know Bernard is really working hard for it.
You know, youíve got to give credit where itís due. Bernard is one of the slickest guys out there, and weíre not taking anything for granted either. Weíre going to be very versatile, be able to deal with any given situation that occurs in the ring. Itís going to be one great fight. Everybody should come and check this fight out because itís something that people are going to really want to see. Itís going to be an exciting fight.
Call open to questions
Question (Q): Naazim, Iíve known you for a long time. I know you have a very strong ethical, moral base. Some of you guys may not know, but what he did with Antonio Margarito, he also did with Felix Trinidad back in 2001 with the illegal hand wraps, and you also work with Bernard Hopkins, who is a real stickler for what he puts in his body, so given those two things, how do you, what would you do to change it so that the illegal hand wrap situation doesnít happen, and given the platform, which Shane Mosley and whatís happened with Mayweather and the Olympic style drug testing? What are your thoughts on both of those things, how you would implement change?
Richardson: Well, Iím not going to say that Iím at liberty, you know, to really comment on it as far as structure and introduce him to change effectively because thatís really not my area of expertise. But what I will say is, and just being a watch hound, we have to make sure that the commissioners are going to do what theyíre there to do. Iím confident in our commissioners. And, like I said, itís just a matter of Ė it all Ö anything can get run down after a while.
After we do something so many times, we start taking things for granted. And what happens sometimes in boxing at this level is that weíve all been around each other so much that we just start taking things for granted. You know, and sometimes you have to go back and sharpen up the eye and make sure everybody is doing their job, and checking in on these guys. And thatís all it is, is just really making sure to keep our sport clean and keep us in the position where we keep our athletes protected. Thatís all we can do because thatís my only goal is to protect my athlete at all times, before, during, and after.
Schaefer: I think maybe what Iím going to add here as well, Lem and ďCoach MerkĒ, you know, we always have to remember that boxing is two guys in the middle of the ring hitting each other. This is not dunking a ball or hitting a ball with the bat. This is not like Ė this is hitting another person. This is different. This is not about cycling up a hill, you know. This is two people hitting each other and, therefore, playing with each otherís life.
Iím not saying that cheating or having tools available, which are unauthorized is acceptable in any sport, but here in boxing, it really is playing with somebodyís life. Itís not just about winning a game. Itís really playing with somebodyís life, and thatís why I think, in boxing, there should be zero tolerance, be it with illegal hand wraps, be it with performance enhancing drugs or whatever. I think this is really, you know, this is very serious, and I agree with ďCoach MerkĒ. This is not up to a trainer or fighter or promoter. It really is up to the athletic commissions to insure that they keep both of their eyes open and, I mean, they see that certain things are happening, that they act accordingly, swift, and strict.
Q: Now, ďCoach MerkĒ, touching on the same two subjects, you had the double whammy in your last fight. I donít know if itís been publicized or not, but you had a conversation with me about Danny Green, both in relation to whether or not he was tested before the Roy Jones fight for drugs, and also something about his hand wraps. Could you address that issue and bring it to light, and then talk about how you were able? Have you guys moved on from that?
Merkerson: Yes, weíve moved on. We have an appeal and trying to get the fight turned around. You know, itís very important that everybody know their job in this sport, from the promoter all the way down to the athlete. And I think a trainerís job is very difficult because he has to know everybodyís job. The main concern of this whole thing is the safety of the athletes.
Everybody has rules and regulations. Just like in Australia with Danny Green, every championship fight, and Iíve worked over 100 world championship fights, you have to take a urinalysis test after or before the bout. And, you know, preferably, you know, and everybody should be required to have it after the fight because if you get it before the fight, you can do anything after you take the urinalysis test.
The test wasnít conducted. I donít know why the IBO didnít actually conduct it. I questioned the commissioner there, and I said, ďWhen are we going to take the urinalysis test?Ē He said, ďWeíre not going to take one.Ē I said, ďIf youíre fighting for a belt, you have to take a urinalysis test.Ē So I fought it. I fought it, and nothing happened.
But prior to the fight, I had a young man go over to check out Danny Greenís hand wraps, and I told him exactly what to look for. He complained to the commissioner. The people from Square Rings, John Wirt and also confronted the commissioner and stated that the hand wrap was illegal. First of all, you canít use any adhesive tape besides one-inch surgical tape and soft gauze. They have something that, some kind of material that they used that once it gets wet, and you put it on, it gets hard afterwards, so the guy actually made a cast out of it.
The commissioner actually didnít know his job, or they were trying to do something under the table. If in fact I would have knew that prior to the fight actually taking place, I would have told them there was going to be no fight. They actually complained to him, and he said, well, if Roy Jones doesnít fight this guy, heís going to be disqualified. I didnít know anything about this until after the fight was actually over. So to try to do something illegal to inflict punishment or pain or even injure somebody in the right is totally uncalled for an unacceptable in this sport because these guysí lives are on the line, and itís totally wrong.
But just like a coach stated, itís in the commissionerís hands. Once that guy goes into the locker room, and youíve got a commissioner there to monitor the hand wrap, he should know exactly what a person can and canít do. And if he canít do that and hold people to what the rules and regulations state, he doesnít need to be in that position as a commissioner.
Q: Naazim, what does Bernard, what does your assessment of his secret to the so-called fountain of youth and why he keeps going? Thatís for you. And then for Alton, what would you say to people who say that Roy Jones has been knocked out three times, and even though he sounds good, and his reflects may or may not seem to be there, he still is safe, you know, for fighting in the future? So those are my last questions for each of you.
Richardson: As far as the question you posed to me, the fountain of youth is primarily starts with your youth. Bernard took care of his body when he was a young man. He lived right. He never was one to party, a lot of late night Ė a lot of unnecessary different activities on his knees and his legs for putting in position for his body to reward him later on in his years.
And what weíve learned, and I emphasize this to a lot of young athletes. You get kids in boxing, especially in boxing; Iím starting to see it a lot. You have guys that are athletes in boxing. Theyíre actually athletes. So, I mean, guys, theyíre football players, basketball players, baseball players, but they just happen to be able to box. And they bring those attributes to boxing.
Well, thatís well and fine until you start getting older, and then you canít rely on those attributes. When you can no longer rely on your athleticism, you would have had nothing. You have to have left the sport. If you can no longer rely on your athleticism, you would have left the sport.
Bernard Hopkins learned the sport. When you look at Bernard Hopkins, Bernard is not a football player. Bernard is not a basketball player. Bernard is a fighter, and heís one of the few out there actually. So Ö boxing, heís able to do it a lot longer than a lot of these other guys who rely so much on their athleticism. And now that their athleticism has faded, your fight has to fade.
I mean, once itís gone, youíve got to sit down too, you know what I mean, if you didnít learn the craft. Thatís why you have guys who are all time greats like Ray Lenard and them. They had so much athleticism, but you notice when Hearns, when Ray got Ö with a fighter like Hearns who had more gifts than him, he could go to the fundamentals of boxing. Ray Lenard got his hands high, got behind his jab, and still was able to defeat Hearns because he knew his craft too. And then like the man said earlier, you have to know your craft in this sport.
Q: Thank you. Alton?
Merkerson: Yes. Iíll agree with the coach totally. You know, you can be a young fighter, but you can be an old fighter. Iím not going to use this guyís name to criticize him, but letís take a for instance Kelsey Banks. Kelsey Banks had over 400 amateur fights. After the Olympics in í88, he turned pro. He had a couple fights. He wilted. He faded away, and people said, well, why did he fade away so soon. Heís so young. He wasnít young.
You know, any time you have a kid that has 400 and some fights, I donít care if itís amateur or pro, thatís a lot of fights. And you have a wear and tear on you. Weíre not like an automobile where you can rebuild and re-overhaul yourself.
Once you get to a certain point, youíve got a beginning stage, a progression stage, a sustaining stage. After you reach a sustaining stage, the only thing you can do is go down hill. But like the coach stated, if you take care of yourself, and you do things the right way, and you donít get punished when youíre coming up, youíre going to last a lot longer. And I agree with him on Bernard. Bernard has a very good body. Heís taken care of himself over the years.
And getting to Roy and the statement that you made, Iím going to say this, and Iím going to make it short. For the time that Roy has been fighting, Roy is 42 now, and heís been fighting 32 years. Roy has gotten more in the last four years of his boxing career than he ever did in his whole boxing career, you know. And the reason being, things happen when you get older, you know, reflexes, timing slows down. You canít do the things that you did before. He hasnít lost those things, but itís just that split second that makes a difference in boxing.
Now if you ride a horse long enough, youíre going to fall off the horse. I donít care how good you are, how good a rider you are. If you ride them long enough, youíre going to get thrown. So it happens, the time that Roy got caught three times, he got caught clean. He got caught clean, and the fact of the matter is, every time that he got caught, he was winning the fight prior to getting caught. So if you get hit right, youíre going to go. His preparation has been the same that itís been over the years, but he wasnít getting hit then.
Some people take shots better than other people, you understand? In football, you get guys that make contact on the line all the time. This is a different type thing. Youíre not just going straight to the head, but those guys, after years and years of wear and tear, my son played pro ball for six years. Sometimes he canít get out of the bed in the morning, you know, because of all the injuries and all of the doggone wear and tear he had on his body when he was coming up.
But my concern is the same concern that everybody else has for Roy. We have had brain scans. We have done everything that weíre supposed to do. He doesnít have any brain damage. He hasnít had any major injuries to him from the knockouts. Yes, itís getting close to the time where Bernard and Roy is going to give this thing up because you canít do it forever. But right now, from a medical standpoint, heís fine, but the reason I stick with Roy, and Iíve been with him for 20 years, and Iím going to continue to be with him.
Iím not afraid to stop a fight. If in fact that he was getting punished and didnít get caught with one shot clean, I would stop the fight, and thatís what another young, inexperienced trainer probably wouldnít do just to worry about their credibility and what people say about them. But itís not going to be long before we give it up and do some other things, but Roy is fine right now.
Q: Did he pass his Las Vegas test?
Goodman: Roy had to take a very comprehensive physical, and he did do that. Heís done everything theyíve asked of him and more. Medically, heís fine. Heís 100%.
Q: Bobby, you mention in your opening remarks that you were present at the first fight 17 years ago.
Goodman: Yes, I was.
Q: Bobby, what was your role there? Where were you working at that time?
Goodman: At that time?
Q: Who were you with? Which fighter were you with?
Goodman: I believe I was with Madison Square Garden, and we had some interest in it because they were talking about Riddick Bowe, who was in the main event who won to fight at Madison Square Garden.
Q: Okay, but you were not associated with either Roy Jones or with Bernard Hopkins on thatÖ?
Goodman: No, I was not.
Q: You were just sort of like a bystander watching the fight.
Q: Can you just give me your recollections of that fight? I mean, Iíve seen it, of course. Itís, frankly, not a very good fight, but your thoughts about what you watched that night, if you have any particular remembranceÖ.
Goodman: Yes. This was two extremely talented fighters who had a great deal of respect for each other just coming into their own in this sport in a big way. It was Royís first world championship at middleweight, of course, and Bernard, who had been a middleweight and went on to become the greatest middleweight champion in history, just fell a little short of the mark. Bernard tried to press the action through the fight, and at that time, I just think that Roy Jonesí hand speed was a little bit more than Bernardís at that time, and it was two fighters showing great respect and great skills, and the right person won that event that night. Now weíre doing it again, and they have been the tops of their field, pound-for-pound, for many, many years, and they are two legends of the sport.
Q: Alton, were you also at the first fight, or were you not with Roy at that time?
Merkerson: I was with him. It was the first world title fight that we had. I was at the fight. Roy trained very hard for that fight. As a matter of fact, I had to cool him down some. I thought possibly he was over-training, and we were over-training. But he actually had an injured right hand in that fight. I tried to pull him out of the fight. I told him, look. I said, letís not take a chance. And he made a statement to me, and I had a lot of respect for him. You know, if your athlete thinks he can do it, you canít try to pull him back and say he canít. I said, ďRoy, letís pull out of the fight because youíve got an injured right hand. We can do this later.Ē
He said, ďYou just get an opportunity like this once in a lifetime. I can beat him.Ē And when he told me that, I said Ö you can beat him, letís go ahead with it. I think it was a very technical fight. We kept Bernard on the end of our jab. We made him pay for the mistakes and stuff, and we got Bernard frustrated in that fight.
But Iím going to tell you what happens with time. You learn from your mistakes, and both of these guys have gotten a lot smarter since that time. They donít react with their physical abilities as much so as their thinking now, so itís going to be a very technical fight on the 3rd, and weíre going to see some things different than we did the first fight.
Q: Well, I donít think anybody else on this call was at the fight. Brother Naazim, you were not at that fight for any reason, were you? You were not yet working in Bernardís corner, correct?
Richardson: No, I worked with him in the gym at times, but I wasnít at that fight. But I wasnít at that fight.
Q: Got you. Let me ask another question. ďCoach Merk,Ē you addressed a little bit about as far as it might be time to be moving on pretty soon with Roy and his career, and you had been with him for a long, long time. You have been here, seen him be knocked out by some of the fighters that have stopped him. I know that Bobby and everybody on the Square Ring side has talked about, yes, Roy has passed a comprehensive physical in Nevada, and that thereís no issues with the testing. Obviously if there was, they wouldnít allow him to have a license to do the boxing mach. My question for you, coach, is for somebody thatís had such a longstanding personal relationship with Roy Jones, even though the medical tests may be just fine, donít you worry when youíve seen what has happened when heís been hit, be it against Danny Green or, you know, being completely dominated and knocked out by Glen Johnson, what happened with Tarver? I mean, are you concerned that itís one too many instead of one too few?
Merkerson: Like I stated before, yes, Iím concerned because Roy is like a kid, like one of my own kids. Iím very concerned about it. But you know, itís one thing about a person when they become an adult. You know, you can lead a guy to the water, but you canít make him drink. You know, if Roy decides. He has decided that heís going to fight. Iíd rather be here with him than without him because Iím going to look out for his best interests and look out for his welfare.
Yes, Iím concerned, but heís not going to stop boxing right now, you know. And Iíve talked to him. I havenít told him to stop, but Iíll always say, when you get a certain age, and certain things happen, you have to know when to hold them and when to fold them. I was concerned when those things happened. We got tested. Iím not just going to keep driving it to the ground. Yes, Iím concerned. I was concerned then, and Iím concerned now. But after all the medical tests, everything came back, and there was nothing wrong. The tests all came back okay. So I canít keep harping with the guy, and I know heís going to fight anyway about, well, you need to leave it alone.
You know, a person has to make a decision on his own when it comes to that, just like drugs or alcohol. All the counseling and all the rehab in the world you can take, youíre not going to stop doing drugs until you get ready to stop yourself. So Iíll be the first one to say if I think itís that time, you totally need to stop. You donít need to do it anymore. It hasnít reached that point yet.
Q: Anybody on the call could address this. Iím wondering. You know, there were a lot of people that looked forward to this fight for a long time. The two fighters, Bernard and Roy, for different reasons, the fight never happened for a long time, whether it was arguing about money or percentages or whatever you want to talk about.
The reaction I get from people, and Iím coming to the fight, and Iíve covered these guys forever, and Iíll be damned if Iím missing the last chapter, but a lot of folks that Iíve spoken to over the last week or so, particularly down in Dallas where some of the other media members when I was at the Pacquiao fight just have absolutely savaged this fight. They say itís a disgrace. They say that nobody cares about it anymore. And Iím just curious.
Do you think that this is just a little bit too late that whatís the point at this time? Bernard is still one of the top fighters out there. We all know whatís happened with Roy the last few years. Iím wondering how in the world do you go about trying to sell a fight that so many people are against? Maybe Richard could talk about it, maybe Bobby.
Schaefer: Well, you know, you just said it very well. Who wants? There are people out there who like to miss out on the last chapter, and there are people who donít like to miss out on the last chapter. And it sounds like youíre one of those who doesnít like miss out on the last chapter. Those who like to miss out on the last chapter should just stay at home.
Goodman: These are two of the great legends of our sport who have decided, and they both decided this, that they wanted to do it one more time. And theyíve got all the people surrounding them who care about them, who love them, and they will be there to protect the boxers, as well as the athletic commission, the referee, and other people concerned with the event.
Merkerson: Let me put a hypothetical situation out. Iím going to say this, and it might sound dumb, but you know, people like excitement. People like revenge. People like to do something that people think they canít do. Right now, if you came up with Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas because Mike Tyson was supposed to beat Buster Douglas so bad in that fight, and it was a 43 to one odds, and he beat Tyson. What if somebody said today, okay, weíre going to give Mike Tyson a year and a half to get in shape, and everybody said heís through, and Buster Douglas said, Iíll get down to 270 pounds, and Iíll be ready to fight this bum. Just hypothetically saying it, how many people do you think are going to come and see that fight?
Merkerson: Of course. See, itís the same thing. I donít understand where people get this from. Theyíre talking about Tyson and Ö right now.
Q: What Iím getting at though is do you think that two years ago, even before the Danny Green fight, there was still a lot of anticipation about the fight. Do you think that Ė do you feel bad that even though itís still happening, and there are going to be people that want to see it, that itís just unfortunate that it didnít happen when it was supposed to happen in the last few years, and that itís nowÖ?
Merkerson: I would have loved for it to happen then, but you know, everybody has egos and pride. Iím going to tell you about that because, you know, when Roy was on top, Bernard was on top, Roy has more pride at that time than Bernard did, so they tried to put the fight together. Okay. Thatís when the 60/40 thing came up. Okay? It wouldnít happen because Bernard said, no, I wonít do it unless itís parity. Iím not going to do no 60/40. Then all of a sudden, Bernard is on top. Roy had a few losses. That 60/40 was thrown out to Roy. No, Iím not going to do it.
Now the guys come to a happy medium and said, okay, letís do 50/50. In my opinion is Ö thatís my opinion. Okay. If I knock you out, I get 60, and you get 40, and it donít matter. Fifty-fifty is parity. Both of the guys are legends. Both of the guys are great fighters. Itís going to be a good fight. Thatís what I want to see. And we can have some closure to this whole thing.
I would have liked to saw a fight eight years ago, but it didnít happen, but thatís the way business is. You know, if you donít come to agreement, things just donít happen. All the way from the promotional parts all the way down to the fighters, so yes. As a coach, I would have liked to have saw it eight years ago. The guys would have been more at their prime. Everybody would have been more excited about it. But still, thereís no closure to the fight. Bernard wants to beat Roy because he donít think Roy is going to beat him the first time. Roy wants to beat Bernard because he said, well, I beat you then, and I can beat you now. NowÖ.
Richardson: Let me interject Ö Bernard had really come to terms with the Roy Jones fight. He really found peace in the fact that two of the guys that destroyed Roy, he destroyed them. Heís the only guy that ever stopped Glen Johnson, and they never speak about that too much in the media and whatnot, and Ö a lot of people thought Ö won the first fight, and he definitely won the second fight. Then Bernard walked Ö gave him harder work than Ö at the top. So he was comfortable that I can retire knowing that the guys Ö put it to bed.
Then when the talk came up about it, and Ö lining it up, he went back into the fight, and he was interested in it. Now Iím going to tell you that I told him, and I tell everybody, and I went on record and said it. I didnít think the fight was going to happen, and the reason being is, one is, I picked Danny Green. I picked Danny Green by knockout, so I didnít think that was going to happen. Then when that came to terms, I really didnít think it was going to go on.
But like Coach Merkerson said earlier, I support Bernard Hopkins. And if a man like him has earned the right to pick a fight that he wants to fight, who has in this sport? This man fought more mandatories than anybody I could name. Every time he fought, he Ö fight. There was a time when Bernard yelled out heíd fight anything from junior middleweight to light heavyweight, and even Ö he was overseas Ö fighting, didnít call out. But even Ö coming over later on in Bernardís years. I still know this, even includingÖ.
Every man that Bernard fought Ö beating or got the win over him. Every one of them wound up on the back after fighting Bernard, every single one of them. So he feels like I can do enough damage to a man that if I get an opportunity to fight them again, the work I put on the first time, the residue will still be there. Thatís why he would rather the rematches immediately. Öyears ago, but like you said, it didnít work out.
There were 60/40 splits talked about in the media, and then, in private, some of those 60/40 turned to 80/20 in private. Now that makes a man say, you know, a lot of nonsense went in between it, but here it is. Bottom line, like I said, when one guy was on top, it did happen. When another guy got a little more clout, it happened. So thatís all we can look at, and that's what it is. And my opinion is, Iím telling people, and Iíve told people, and I told Bernard. I would not take this fight.
I told him. I said, if you all want to see Roy Jones like you saw Roy Jones, come to this fight. I know. Iím fully confident, and I told Bernard. Danny Green didnít see this Roy Jones. Carver didnít see this Roy Jones. Roy knows he cannot get in front of Bernard Hopkins looking like heís looking to get those guys. He knows that.
Like I said, Bernard is a wrecking machine. Bernard is not a knockout puncher, get you in one shot. Bernard ruinsÖ. Bernard Ö fighting guys. And like I said, even with Ö being as great as he was, the minute after he fought Bernard Hopkins, the next fight he was on his back Ö win over him. Like I said, you arenít sure if Bernard is 45 years or old if Jermain Taylor is 45 years old right now.
So heís the man who put in all this work all those years, and then he says, I want to fight Roy. And I say, like Merkerson said, Iím with you. I said, you know, I support you. I support you, man. Iíve got your back, but a lot of people werenít interested in that fight. He said, Iím going to fight Roy Jones. And I was like, why?
Q: This question is for ďCoach MerkĒ. Coach, in your opinion, what was the key to Royís first victory over Bernard Hopkins? What exactly did he do to control that fight?
Merkerson: We knew that Bernard was a very crafty fighter. Bernard wasnít as experienced then as he is now. And neither was Roy, but Roy has always had Ö he had good hand speed, good ring gentlemenship, ability to make a guy miss and make him pay, all of those things at a young age. Both of those guys were young then, and not taking anything, Bernard just wasnít at the level. Iím not saying the level, but he wasnít sharp as Roy then. Royís jab was tremendous, you know. Bernard couldnít handle it. He kept Bernard turning.
It was a thinking game. I didnít do that much coaching in that fight because they did things by natural instinct. I saw Butch Lewis and Michael Spinks getting very frustrated in the corner because Bernard wasnít doing some of the things they wanted him to do. You know, you get all these people saying, especially trainers, when they get in the ring after the fight is over talking about, if he wouldnít have did what I told him to do, or what I showed him. Isnít not about the I. Itís about we, them, and us because the trainer is not throwing a punch. Roy used good judgment in the fight. Bernard didnít use good judgment in the fight. Once Bernard got frustrated, it was free sailing then. Thatís all I can say about the fight.
Q: Yes. Youíre saying Bernard couldnít make the necessary adjustments to handle what Roy was doing to him, but more specifically, do you think Roy beat him technically speaking, or was it more his natural speed, his reflexes?
Merkerson: His physical ability, but his ability to think. Itís one thing about any good athlete, you know. If youíve got a guy that youíre playing basketball against, and heís not a very good defensive player, and he goes for fake, youíre going to fake to the inside and take the baseline and go and lay the ball up on him. Itís the same thing with boxing. You capitalize on the peopleís mistakes. Bernard made some mistakes in that fight, and Roy capitalized on them.
Now Bernard is a much smarter fighter than he was then, and Roy is a much smarter fighter than he was then. What these two individuals are going to do now is use their mental frame of mind more so than their physical ability.
Q: Do you think we will see a fight where itís more competitive the second time around, given theirÖ?
Merkerson: I think it is.
Q: Ömaybe more exchanges?
Merkerson: Yes. I think so, but both of these guys are not going to make dumb mistakes. The dumbest fight I saw in my whole coaching career was when Nigel Benn fought Iran Barkley in Las Vegas. The bell rung. Both of them were so upset from the press conference, both of them ran out in the middle of the ring. Five seconds in to the fight, both of them threw right hands, and Nigel Bennís landed first.
These guys are too seasoned to do anything like that. Theyíre hungry for the fight. They want to win, but theyíre not going to make dumb decisions. It might be a defensive fight starting out, but once one of them realize that this person is making mistakes, theyíre going to capitalize on them and try to do what they can to win the fight. Itís not going to be an all out brawl if thatís what youíre saying because neither one of the guys fight like that. They never have.
Q: I have a question for Naazim Richardson. Naazim, in your opinion, has Bernardís style changed from when he first fought Roy Jones?
Richardson: Yes. His style changed naturally. Like I said, theyíre older fighters now, and you have to reinvent yourself. Like I said, if you learn this sport, and then you have to reinvent yourself in order to sustain yourself in this sport. And the people who canít reinvent themselves, you see the outcomes start to change Ö in this game. Mohammad Alli was a sticky move guy when he had those attributes, and he was a young guy. He was athletic. Later on, he had to reinvent himself to the robodo in order to sustain himself with the later on years with the guys that came along.
Q: How would you have described Bernardís style in 1993, mid Ď90s compared to his style now?
Richardson: Seek and destroy. He was a seek and destroy guy, so he was able to run out in the middle of the ring, and Roy was able, with his athleticism, he was able to take advantage of it, you know what I mean, because Bernard was an overly aggressive guy in those days. So anybody who is overly aggressively, you see guys fall back, and you take advantage of them. You know what I mean? So that wasÖ.
Like I said, now he takes a different approach as far as assessing the area ands then dissecting the flaws and breaking it down. And thatís what heís capable of doing, and heís still. Like I said, heís taking care of his body where the different in Bernardís body now is actually his body, heís in better. I think, condition wise, Iíve always told Bernard. This Bernard Hopkins will beat the death out of that old Ö Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones, this Bernard Hopkins will take him to school. Heíll take him to school. Heíll be standing in the center of the ring, and wondering why he hadnít got picked apart like that. This Bernard Hopkins is better than that Bernard Hopkins of 14 years ago. I feel like that, and thatís what I say. If you ever want to check an athlete and see if they learned their craft, the older guy, a lot of times is a little too smart for the younger version of themselves. Now in terms of if you were dealing with athleticism, athleticism is always going to fall to youth. So Iíve always watched that. With every athlete, Iíve always measured athletes like that, with the young athlete.
I asked one of my guys Ö but not all the time. What would the young Bernard do with the older Bernard? Then you can assess whether or not how well youíve learned your craft.
Q: My question is to both trainers. In the first fight, I was fortunate enough to be there at the first fight in Washington, D.C. at RFK Stadium, and now will this second fight be Ė do you think that this second fight will be similar to the first fight or how do you predict this fight will go? Will it be at the same pace that it was the first go around?
Richardson: Iím confident it wonít be like the first fight. Iím very confident that it wonít be like the first fight because thereís a whole different approach behind Bernard and it encompass Bernardís thought process preparing for this fight. And I was around to see how he prepared for the first fight, so I knew what the ideas were. I knew what their approach was, and I wasnít an outsider looking in, and I wasnít in agreement with it, so I know it wonít be similar to the first fight. But I do believe, and like I said, when you compare the young athlete to the old athlete, I believe this Roy Jones is going to fight Bernard Ö stand a chance against the Roy Jones who fought Bernard before. I do believe that. I believe Roy is going to bring that kind of preparation. And Iím confident that everything Roy has, heíll bring to the table, everything he has. I wouldnít be surprised if he did retire after this fight because itís going to take everything he has, mentally and physically, just to get up for this endeavor.
Q: I wanted to ask Alton Merkerson a question. Now letís just say for argument sake that if Roy is able to come up with a victory, whatís next for him?
Merkerson: Like I stated earlier, you know, weíre getting ready. Weíre in the last chapter of this book that weíve been writing for over a decade, two decades. I donít really know. Itís something that Roy and I and his dad probably will talk about after the fight. But you know, with both of these guys, itís not about them having to prove anything to anybody in the boxing world at all because they both made history. I think itís all about self-satisfaction now.
When you get to a mountaintop, how high can you go? You canít go any higher. Only you can do is do things for self-satisfaction, self-gratification. Itís not to prove anything to anybody else. This is boiling down to Bernard, I still can whoop you. Roy, no you canít. You did it once, but you canít do it again. So both of them love the sport. Both of them have been in the sport for a long time.
But in reference to this fight and the last fight, itís totally going to be different for the simple reason, both of these guys are much smarter. Both of these guys can look down the barrel and be able to know when youíre going to pull the trick, and make your miss, and make you pay. Thereís not going to be a lot of running and moving and stuff. Thereís going to be smart, and ring gentlemenship used in this fight. Itís going to be a good fight, but itís going to be a technical fight. Thatís just the way I see it.
Schaefer: Iím looking forward to Fight Week. I know this is a fight, which has been in the making for a long time, and I canít believe we actually are only a little over two weeks away from that. Irrespective of what people say, I am happy for these two fighters, that theyíre going to fight each other, and Iím really excited about it. I know that both of them will bring their best to the ring that night, April 3rd, and Iím excited. Iím excited for the fighters. Iím excited for Golden Boy, and for all the fight fans out there to be part of this event. Thank you so much, and Iíll see you all out in Vegas hopefully. Thank you.
END OF CALL
ďThe Rivals: Hopkins vs. Jones II,Ē set for Saturday, April 3 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nev., is promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Square Ring Promotions and sponsored by Cerveza Tecate. The event will be broadcast live on pay-per-view beginning at 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT.††
Tickets priced at $750, $500, $300, $200 and $100 are on sale now at†all Las Vegas Ticketmaster locations (select Smith's Food and Drug Centers and Ritmo Latino).† Ticket sales are limited to†eight (8) per person.† To charge by phone with a major credit card, call Ticketmaster at (800) 745-3000.† Tickets also will be available for purchase at www.mandalaybay.com or www.ticketmaster.com.