Middleweight champ eager for 'risk' vs. heir apparent

Updated: April 6, 2005, 11:22 PM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins, universally considered the best fighter in the world pound-for-pound, is serious about making the most of his final year in the ring.

That's why Hopkins, who's planning to retire after a final bout just before his 41st birthday in January, is going to fight Jermain Taylor, widely regarded as the heir apparent to the middleweight throne.

After weeks of negotiations, the camps have come to terms, Hopkins told ESPN.com on Tuesday.

HBO is holding July 16 for the pay-per-view fight. Hopkins said it would take place either in Memphis or Las Vegas.

Bernard Hopkins
Hopkins (right) beat Oscar De La Hoya last September. Hopkins wants his career to end with high-profile fights.

"In the next day or two the agreement will be signed," Hopkins said. "Everything is a go. Everything is agreed upon. We are going to go ahead and sign it."

The terms of a rematch clause still needed to be ironed out between Hopkins' Golden Boy Promotions and Taylor promoter Lou DiBella, but Hopkins said it's not a deal breaker.

"We reached an agreement on the major terms," DiBella said. "Jermain desperately wants this fight. He wants to fight Hopkins when Hopkins is still considered the best."

Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) has big plans for his final year in the ring. Last month, he extended his division record for title defenses to 20 with a decision against top contender Howard Eastman. After he faces Taylor, Hopkins is eyeing two more fights – a fall bout against the winner of the light heavyweight rematch between Glen Johnson and Antonio Tarver followed by a January fight against the winner of the May 14 Felix Trinidad-Winky Wright middleweight fight.

"I want to do major fights for the last year of my career," Hopkins, who has not lost since a 1993 decision to Roy Jones, said. "I want to make a statement on the way out and to have risk there in every fight."

Taylor, 26, poses a serious risk, Hopkins said.

"I believe that most people think that Jermain Taylor is the heir apparent and I want to prove he is not," Hopkins said. "But Jermain is worth getting up for. He will be the next champion after I leave. I ain't no fool. Right now Jermain Taylor, if I wasn't around, would have one of those belts."

Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs), a bronze-medal winner in the 2000 Olympics, scored an impressive knockout of Daniel Edouard on the Hopkins-Eastman undercard and was available for Hopkins' summer fight. Hopkins saw the situation as an ideal opportunity.

"Why not capitalize while the iron is hot? We already got people buzzing," Hopkins said. "He's available right now. It's a win-win situation."

Hopkins gave Taylor the fight without securing options on his future fights, aside from a rematch clause. Taylor, who will be the studio guest this week on ESPN2's "Friday Night Fights," will earn $1.8 million. Hopkins will earn at least $3 million.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.