LAS VEGAS – Bernard Hopkins looks at Jermain Taylor and sees someone who needs schooling in the fine art of boxing.
Yeah, Taylor is 23-0 since winning an Olympic bronze medal in 2000. Taylor clearly is the most qualified middleweight opponent for the champion, who will make his 21st title defense Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
Still, Taylor hardly is a refined fighter, according to Hopkins, and the champ plans to teach the challenger some lessons.
“He’s flawed,” Hopkins said. “I’ve studied him and found about 10 flaws. I even exposed one of them (publicly), but there’s still nine more.”
Hopkins, who at 40 has seen about everything an opponent can offer in the ring, claims Taylor has been taught to move his right hand toward his chest instead of keeping it up to protect the right side of his face. That leaves the 26-year-old Taylor vulnerable to a left hook when he jabs with his own left.
“I exposed it and they said, ‘He’s right,’ ” Hopkins said with a wide smile before winking at his audience. “I’m the fighter telling his team from afar: ‘Hey, dummies, why don’t you correct that problem?’
“I gave them a tip on what they need to work on – one of the things they need to work on. He’s cocking that right hand by 4 or 5 inches.”
Hopkins won’t be forthcoming on the other imperfections he’s spotted in Taylor. He plans to expose them with his fists.
Taylor merely shrugs when asked about the coaching advice from Hopkins. If he has so many problems, how did Taylor get in this position, with a big payday against the man considered by many as the world’s best fighter?
“I’ll just stay aggressive,” Taylor said. “If you stop one thing, I’ll come back with another.”
Taylor had a bad habit when he was an amateur of not using his jab, which since has developed into one of the best in the business.
“I was right-hand crazy,” he said. “I wasn’t using the left at all, driving my coaches crazy. So my coach tied up my right hand so I couldn’t throw it. All I could do was jab, jab, jab. It got to the point in my fights when I was whipping guys with one hand. I had to.”
Taylor estimates he was 16 or 17 at the time, and he remembers that the lesson worked too well.
“They had to get me back to using my right hand, because I started using only the left,” he recalled. “It was, like, every day for a month – left, left, left. It took me a while to get back to throwing my right. It wasn’t automatic.”
The only thing automatic about this matchup, Hopkins said, is that Taylor will learn a lot while absorbing a beating. That’s why he spoke about Taylor’s habit of moving his right hand.
“I corrected a problem because I didn’t want nobody to say, ‘He wasn’t ready’ about Jermain Taylor,” Hopkins said. “And I love the idea they want to get into mental warfare with me.”
Perhaps the Taylor camp is eager to throw off Hopkins by bringing up his past legal problems with Taylor’s promoter, Lou DiBella. When DiBella promoted Hopkins, he guided the veteran to the top of the sport, getting Hopkins away from low-money paydays and, in 2001, into a fight with Felix Trinidad worth nearly $3 million to Hopkins.
Two months later, Hopkins not only fired DiBella, but he accused him of extorting $50,000 to set up an earlier fight. DiBella sued and won a $610,000 judgment that Hopkins has since appealed.
Maybe Taylor isn’t the only opponent Hopkins is trying to vanquish. Hopkins scoffs at that notion.
“Fighting Jermain Taylor is a personal vendetta,” he said. “I could’ve fought anybody, somebody easy, but that’s not Bernard Hopkins. That’s not me.
“A fighter is judged by the quality of the fights he fights, by longevity, being a champion. I don’t duck nobody.”
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