- Dan Rafael, Boxing
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LAS VEGAS -- Their light heavyweight championship match is titled "Coming to Fight," and champion Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright got a head start on the action at Friday's weigh in at Mandalay Bay after Hopkins instigated a scuffle.
After both fighters weighed in at the contract limit of 170 pounds for their showdown Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET), they faced off for the traditional staredown on the stage in front of several thousand fans inside the arena.
Things got heated between the two, and after some finger wagging and trash talk, Hopkins stuffed his open fist into Wright's forehead, pushing him back. Wright shoved him back and a mini-melee broke out on stage.
There were some punches exchanged between camps and a lot of pushing and shoving before order was restored. Hopkins stormed off the stage, along with promoter Oscar De La Hoya.
Keith Kizer, executive director of the Nevada Athletic Commission, and two members of the commission who were also present -- Joe Brown and Dr. Tony Alamo Jr. -- reviewed ESPN's video footage of the incident and determined that Hopkins threw the first blow.
Kizer said that 10 percent of Hopkins' $3 million purse ($300,000) would be held by the commission and that a complaint would be filed against him Monday.
"We will withhold 10 percent of the purse until we have a hearing on the matter," Kizer told ESPN.com. "I looked at the DVD and based on what I saw, I will file a complaint against Mr. Hopkins on Monday."
The next commission meeting is July 31, the earliest the complaint can be addressed. Hopkins faces a maximum fine of his entire purse, which is unlikely, and a possible suspension. The likely outcome will be a fine, perhaps the $300,000 that was withheld.
Although it was an ugly scene, it may help ignite business for a pay-per-view bout many believe will be a boring, tactical fight between two defensive counter punchers.
Wright, 35, the former undisputed junior middleweight champion and a top middleweight contender, is moving up for the shot at Hopkins, 42, who won the title with a masterful decision against Antonio Tarver 13 months ago before a short-lived retirement.
Wright believes Hopkins' out-of-character behavior at the weigh in means he has gotten into Hopkins' psyche.
"He's getting scared," Wright told ESPN. "That's cool. [Saturday] night he's gonna pay for it. I know I'm in his head," Wright said. "I am in his head and in his heart. He's thinking about me bad."
Wright (51-3-1, 25 KOs) explained his version of what happened: "[We] was jawing back and forth [during the staredown]. I said, 'What you talking for? We got a fight, stop talking.' He said, 'I'm from the street.' So what? He pushed me and I pushed him and his bodyguard. We ready to fight before the fight. I'm gonna hurt him."
Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) left the arena without comment.
Arnold Joseph, Hopkins' attorney, planned to meet with members of the commission to review the video.
"Bernard was put in a no-win situation," Joseph told ESPN.com. "Members of Winky's entourage were taunting him and closing in on him. He said he needed to protect himself and get space between Winky and his camp."
Hall of Fame former undisputed middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler, working for ESPN as an analyst, was at the weigh in and was disgusted by what he saw.
"No class. It's unprofessional," said Hagler, one of Hopkins' idols. "You can't do that. Got to save it for the ring. If you knock him out today, you don't get paid tomorrow."
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
Their light heavyweight championship match is titled "Coming to Fight," and champion Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright got a head start on the action at Friday's weigh in at Mandalay Bay after Hopkins instigated a scuffle.