Jones, Hopkins sign deal for 2010 bout
LOS ANGELES -- Sixteen years after they first met, Roy Jones and Bernard Hopkins will finally fight again.
For years, they talked on and off about a rematch, but the negotiations always fell apart over how they would split the money.
But with both men now past their 40th birthdays and no significant fights looming for either, they finally nailed down the elusive deal, signing an agreement Friday for a light heavyweight fight sometime in the first quarter of 2010, both sides told ESPN.com.
It will be televised on HBO PPV.
"Sixteen years ago they fought each other and went on and made history in their own way," said Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer, Hopkins' promoter. "Each one is considered today as ring royalty. That's why I think when those two guys are going to fight it will be to determine who will be king of the ring. We went back and forth for so long, but we finally pulled it off. They both signed and they will fight. It will be a truly historic showdown. A lot of people didn't believe it would ever happen. But guess what? It's going to happen."
However, the deal is contingent on Jones' first winning a Dec. 2 fight in Australia against Australian cruiserweight Danny Green, which has been planned for a couple of months.
Also as part of their deal, Hopkins is allowed to take an interim fight before the end of the year. In an interview at Schaefer's downtown Los Angeles office, he said Hopkins, who hasn't fought since easily outpointing Kelly Pavlik 11 months ago, was inclined to fight a tune-up bout. Schaefer said he was working on a plan under which Hopkins would fight in his hometown of Philadelphia against an opponent to be determined on the same day as Jones' fight in Australia.
Under the terms of the agreement, Jones (54-5, 40 KOs) and Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KOs) agreed to split the revenue 50-50, which had always been the sticking point. If there is a knockout or a TKO, the winner of the fight will get 60 percent and the loser 40 percent.
"I don't like that at all," Jones, 40, said of the knockout provision. "I love it. I absolutely love it. Love it. That is all I can say. I'm definitely looking forward to this fight. The fans have wanted to see it for a long time. For the longest time, he wouldn't take it. Now he's taking it. I'm ecstatic. I can't wait."
Jones said he thought about pulling out of the Green fight but won't because he had given his word and signed a contract. John Wirt, CEO of Jones' promotional company, said Jones was receiving a "multimillion dollar payday" for the fight with Green.
"I'm in a very difficult situation," said Jones, who would be 41 for the Hopkins fight. "I respect Green. I know we signed and I thought maybe I should just pull out. But I can't deny Danny. This is one of the biggest fights in the history of his country. This is how it is. So I'll give him the biggest fight in his country and that will get me ready for Hopkins and the biggest fight in my country. I'd rather let the Green fight go, but I'm a man of my word. It wouldn't be fair to back out on him now.
"It's time to take care of my business and then come back here and beat Bernard Hopkins."
Before either man became a star, they met for a vacant middleweight title on May 22, 1993 with Jones winning a clear unanimous decision. Jones would go on to dominate the sport as the pound-for-pound king for about a decade and win titles in four divisions. Hopkins would later claim the middleweight title after Jones left the division and go on to make a division-record 20 defenses before moving up and claiming the light heavyweight championship.
"I beat him with one hand the first time," Jones said of their first fight, in which he fought with a damaged right hand. "What am I worried about?"
The sides have other smaller issues to work out, such as which fighter gets first billing, who walks to the ring first and who is announced first.
Wirt said the sides agreed to settle all of the outstanding issues with a coin flip.
"This is a straight up 50-50 deal," Wirt said. "We'll settle everything with a coin flip. We're going to have a commemorative coin made with Roy's face on one side and Bernard's on the other and use it to decide everything. We'd like to get that televised on ESPN. It would be fun."
Schaefer and Wirt gave a lot of credit to HBO's Mark Taffet for bringing the sides together. Jones had been on board with a 50-50 deal. Getting Hopkins, who would be 45 for the fight, was more difficult, but they made a lot of progress during a meeting in Las Vegas last week among between Schaefer, Hopkins and Taffet.
"There have been a lot of people who worked very hard, but a lot of credit goes to Mark, who shepherded this thing through and really helped make it happen," Wirt said.
Schaefer said there is no site yet for the fight, but that he and Wirt would speak to venues in Las Vegas, New York and Atlantic City, N.J., although they preferred Las Vegas.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com