Hopkins: 'I want Joe Calzaghe next'
LAS VEGAS -- Bernard Hopkins came out of retirement at age 42 to put an end to Winky Wright's 7½-year unbeaten streak.
Now the patient, defensive master who outboxed Wright for a unanimous decision at the Mandalay Bay Events Center on Saturday night is looking to take on an undefeated Welshman for the next chapter in the twilight of his career.
"I want Joe Calzaghe next," Hopkins said of the Welsh 168-pound champion. "Tell him to come over here, and I'm going to beat him, too."
Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) was triumphant after picking at a gash that opened over Wright's left eye with a head-butt in the third round. Wright (51-4-1) scrambled and counterpunched, but couldn't get away.
Wright grew frustrated and tired in the late rounds, and Hopkins stuck with a steady strategy in a light-heavyweight fight featuring more action than most expected from two guarded counterpunchers. Wright was active and resilient, but Hopkins usually was a half-step ahead.
Judges Glenn Trowbridge and Dave Moretti scored it 117-111 for Hopkins, and Glenn Hamada scored it 116-112. The Associated Press also gave it to Hopkins, 115-113.
Wright thought the fight was his, but didn't blame Hopkins for the head-butt.
"I thought I won the fight, but it was a close fight," said Wright, who doesn't plan to fight again at 170 pounds. "I don't think the head-butt was intentional. It was a head-butt. That's that."
Hopkins praised his opponent, calling it "a very close fight."
"Winky is tough, and he kept coming," Hopkins said. "He knows that I respect him a lot. I had no ill intent. It was all good for both gentlemen, and boxing is back."
Hopkins retired last year after a career highlighted by 21 straight middleweight title defenses and last year's shocking win over Antonio Tarver. Months later, he abandoned retirement for a shot at the 35-year-old Wright, who hadn't lost in 13 fights since December 1999.
By calling out Calzaghe, Hopkins has set the bar higher as his career nears its physical limits.
Calzaghe, the WBO super middleweight champion, goes into a Nov. 3 unification bout against Denmark's Mikkel Kessler, the WBC and WBA champion who is 39-0 with 29 KOs.
Calzaghe has 20 successful title defenses behind him -- putting him five short of Joe Louis's all-time record. At 43-0, Calzaghe is also nearing Marciano's 49-0.
But Hopkins said he was in great shape too and didn't want to quit now.
"Now people look at me and say, 'Look at your shoulders. Look at your midsection. It's like you're a wide receiver for an NFL team,'" he said. "Why cheat myself and not be able to exploit the situation by continuing?"
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press
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