Calzaghe unfazed by Hopkins' rhetoric

Updated: February 22, 2008

AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth

Their fight is two months away, but Bernard Hopkins and Joe Calzaghe are immersed in verbal overdrive.

Hopkins, Calzaghe talking now, fighting later

From the moment light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins and super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe, two of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, got in each other's faces during the weigh-in for the Floyd Mayweather-Ricky Hatton fight on Dec. 7, the've waged a war of words.

Those first few weeks of verbal bombs came even before their fight -- dubbed "Battle of the Planet" -- had been agreed to.

But now that the live HBO bout -- not a pay-per-view -- is set for April 19 at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, courtesy of a reported $11 million site fee put up by the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino and $6 million from HBO, Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) and Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs) have only ratcheted up the rhetoric.

The fighting will have to wait until the spring, when Wales' Calzaghe will box in the United States for the first time. For now, we have the prefight hype, and plenty of it from a four-city media tour that began last week in London and continued this week in New York, Los Angeles and Las Vegas.

Hopkins, of course, instigated the nastiness when he vowed during their beef at Mayweather-Hatton that he would "never let a white boy beat me."

Sick of facing each other day after day during the press tour, the two fighters really heated things up during the tour's last stop in Las Vegas on Thursday.

As they were called together for yet another photo opportunity, Hopkins -- who had been booed during the event even though he was on his United States turf -- told Calzaghe, "B----, I'm going to make you cry."

The usually mild-mannered Calzaghe answered, "You're getting f----- up on fight night."

Calzaghe, 35, is boxing's longest active reigning champion at more than 10 years. He has heard it all from opponents and wasn't too concerned about Hopkins' words.

"Hopkins is a bully, simple as that," said Calzaghe, who likely will be the crowd favorite during the fight because of the heavy support from fans expected to travel to Las Vegas from the United Kingdom. "I'm not intimidated by him. I just find it funny that a grown man like him carries on the way he does. Let's see who's doing the talk after the fight."

One thing Hopkins, 43, refused to do during the media tour was apologize for his racist remark. He's never been one to apologize for anything negative he says and he wasn't going to start now.

"I said what I said and it's up to Joe to prove me wrong when we meet on April 19," Hopkins said while in London.

Hopkins, who won the light heavyweight title with a dominant performance against Antonio Tarver in 2006, was an underdog when he knocked out Felix Trinidad to win the undisputed middleweight title in 2001. Before the fight, he promised to punish Trinidad to the point where his father and trainer, Felix Trinidad Sr., would have to rescue him. That is exactly what happened.

Hopkins promised a repeat performance against Calzaghe, who is trained by his father, Enzo Calzaghe.

"I get tired of people at press conferences saying that I am not going to win," Hopkins said. "Give me my last little bit of credit. On April 19, you are all going to see something special. I know what I am going to do. I said what I said and I am going to prove it. I am going to punish him. I am going to punish him slowly and it's going to take his father to be merciful to him. My motivation is that someone in his corner is lying to him, telling him he is doing well."

Again, Calzaghe was unmoved by Hopkins' threats.

"He can talk all he wants, but I don't think he'll be running his mouth after I've kicked his butt on April 19," Calzaghe said. "He's trying to get under my skin, but I've been a world champion for more than a decade and I've seen it all before. The harder the fight, the more pressure there is, the better I perform. Agreeing to fight me was the biggest mistake he's ever made."

Taylor marching on

While former middleweight champ Jermain Taylor rests in the wake of his decision loss to Kelly Pavlik in their 164-pound rematch last week, Taylor's promoter, Lou DiBella, has begun preliminary work on his next fight. The bout, which could take place at 168 pounds, or perhaps 170, could come in mid-June on HBO PPV against either Roy Jones or Felix Trinidad, DiBella told ESPN.com.

Taylor

He said the first target is Jones, who outpointed Trinidad last month.

"Jones is interested and has been calling," said DiBella, who a couple of years ago tried to set up Taylor-Jones. "Roy and I have talked and we're interested."

But DiBella said he has also fielded calls from Don King, Trinidad's promoter, about a fight.

Trinidad is looking for a fight now that the possibility of facing Pavlik has evaporated because Trinidad can't make 160 pounds and Pavlik intends to defend his middleweight title June 7.

DiBella said one scenario could involve Taylor facing Trinidad or Jones in June and facing the other in the fall.

Ponce De Leon plan

When they met in a junior featherweight title eliminator in 2005, Celestino Caballero routed Daniel Ponce De Leon to win a decision. Since then, both have claimed 122-pound titles, but Ponce De Leon (34-1, 30 KOs) has never showed much interest in avenging his only defeat.

Ponce De Leon

But that time could be at hand as Ponce De Leon promoter Golden Boy and Seminole Warriors Boxing and Sampson Lewkowicz, who represent Caballero, are working on a rematch/unification fight. If it's finalized, it would happen in May on the HBO PPV undercard of Shane Mosley's proposed bout with Zab Judah, both sides told ESPN.com.

Caballero (28-2, 19 KOs) has already accepted the fight, Warriors' Leon Margules said. Lewkowicz said they want the rematch with Ponce De Leon and have turned down an offer to fight June 27 in Canada as a prelude to a potential unification fight with Steve Molitor.

Golden Boy's Eric Gomez said Ponce De Leon has said he'll take the rematch but his commitment is lukewarm. Golden Boy is growing impatient with Ponce De Leon, who has said he wants important bouts but has already turned down offers for a rematch with bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa and featherweight belt holder Jorge Linares, both of whom accepted.

"Ponce has already turned down two fights this year," Gomez said. "We offered him the Penalosa rematch and then we offered him Linares. Linares said, 'Let's do it.' Ponce said he wasn't ready to go up to 126. He wants to defend his title one or two more times and then go up. Now, we've offered him the rematch with the only guy who beat him. He wants big purses and that means fighting the biggest names out there. They're interested in the fight, but we need a firm answer."

"ShoBox" super middleweight special

Inkin

The super middleweight division is one of the hottest in the sport and Showtime sees that. It's one of the reasons that network executive Gordon Hall, who oversees "ShoBox," has secured rights to the March 29 eliminator between England's Carl Froch (22-0, 18 KOs) and Germany's Denis Inkin (32-0, 24 KOs), who will meet in Froch's hometown of Nottingham on a special edition of "ShoBox."

Showtime will carry the bout on same-day tape delay.

The winner becomes champion Joe Calzaghe's mandatory, although that bout is unlikely because Calzaghe is moving up to face light heavyweight champ Bernard Hopkins. More likely, the Froch-Inkin winner will fight for a vacant belt.

"ShoBox" typically features prospects, but Hall told ESPN.com that Froch-Inkin, along with an undercard featuring top British lightweight prospect John Murray (23-0, 12 KOs) against John Fewkes (16-0, 2 KOs), was too good to pass up. "Two very good fights and the price is right," Hall said.

Mijares-Montiel? Not so fast

Mijares

After junior bantamweight titleholders Cristian Mijares and Fernando Montiel retained their titles with strong performances on last Saturday's Pavlik-Taylor II undercard -- Mijares outpointed Jose Navarro and Montiel knocked out ex-titlist Martin Castillo -- the drumbeat began for them to unify. But while Mijares could unify belts in his next fight, it doesn't look as though it will be with Montiel.

Instead, he could meet fellow titleholder Dimitri Kirilov of Russia in May on a small pay-per-view card, both camps told ESPN.com. However, the Mijares camp wants the bout to take place in Mexico, while Kirilov's handlers want it on neutral turf. If the bout happens, it is contingent on Kirilov defeating Cecilio Santos Feb. 28 in New York.

Montiel could land on Top Rank's April 26 Chavez Jr. PPV card.

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.

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QUICK HITS

Hopkins

• Golden Boy is no longer trying to salvage a March 22 fight between junior welterweight titlist Junior Witter and Demetrius Hopkins, who has had a falling out with the company. Golden Boy hoped to keep the HBO fight together even after Hopkins claimed he was unaware of the offer because a former adviser didn't give him details. Hopkins has since signed with adviser Cameron Dunkin and is going in another direction. Golden Boy tried to make another fight for Witter, but HBO rejected potential opponents such as ex-titleholders Randall Bailey and Lovemore N'Dou and Herman Ngoudjo.

Andrade

• Golden Boy will fill the available slot on the March 22 "Boxing After Dark" card (headlined by the Joel Casamayor-Michael Katsidis lightweight title fight at the Morongo resort in Cabazon, Calif.) by sliding in a super middleweight title eliminator between Librado Andrade and Germany's Robert Stieglitz. HBO approved the fight, which will produce a mandatory challenger for titlist Lucian Bute. For $251,000, promoter Lou DiBella won Tuesday's Andrade-Stieglitz purse bid. He bid as a favor to Golden Boy, which handles Andrade but isn't an IBF-registered promoter. Stieglitz promoter Spotlight Promotions was the only other bidder ($166,622).

Linares

• Featherweight titlist Jorge Linares (25-0, 16 KOs), the prodigy from Venezuela, could make his second defense against Australia's Billy "The Kid" Dib (17-0, 9 KOs). Eric Gomez of Golden Boy, which promotes Dib and is working with Linares' promoter Akihiko Honda of Japan, told ESPN.com that both camps have accepted the bout. "Both sides have given us the green light," he said. "Now we need to place the fight." There are two possible spots, on the undercard of the proposed Shane Mosley-Zab Judah HBO PPV fight (either May 17 or May 31) or on the undercard of the May 3 Oscar De La Hoya-Steve Forbes fight, although HBO hasn't committed to televising an undercard fight. Dib was originally being penciled in to face Orlando Salido in a March 22 eliminator to earn a crack a different organization's belt, but the deal fell through.

Forrest

• Representatives for junior middleweight titlist Vernon Forrest and first-season "Contender" winner Sergio Mora have reached an agreement for them to meet on Showtime. The bout, Forrest's second defense, is penciled in for May 10, although no venue has been secured.

Miranda

• Seminole Warriors Boxing is talking to Showtime about buying the super middleweight showdown between all-action Edison Miranda and undefeated Jean Pascal, who are scheduled to meet in June in Montreal in an intriguing fight between A-level trash-talkers. If the bout goes to Showtime, it will happen June 7.

Chavez Jr.

• Junior middleweight Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. returns to headline a Top Rank PPV card April 26 in Mexico. Top Rank's Bob Arum told ESPN.com that Chavez will face Italy's Michele Orlando (35-5-2, 18 KOs). Orlando has won five in a row since February 2006, when he was stopped in the 10th round by Michel Trabant (who recently appeared on HBO and was blown out by Andre Berto).

Williams

• Ex-welterweight titlist Paul Williams, who lost his title in a shocking upset to Carlos Quintana Feb. 9, required 12 stitches to close cuts over both eyes, according to promoter Dan Goossen. Williams needed nine stitches to close the more severe cut over right eye and three to sew up the cut over his left eye. Williams also has picked up his contactual option for a rematch with Quintana, according to Quintana promoter Lou DiBella. There is, however, a question of whether it will happen immediately. Quintana could have to make a mandatory defense first. There is also question about whether an American broadcaster would buy it considering how badly Quintana beat Williams.

Chagaev

• While Wladimir Klitschko and Sultan Ibragimov meet Saturday to unify their versions of the heavyweight title, belt holder Ruslan Chagaev (24-0-1, 17 KOs) doesn't seem interested in unifying or in meeting newly appointed mandatory Nikolai Valuev, from whom he won the belt. Instead, Chagaev promoter Universum has applied for an exception to his mandatory in order for him to meet Luan Krasniqi (30-3-1, 14 KOs) in Germany in May in what would be Chagaev's second consecutive optional defense, according to German media reports. Krasniqi, 36, is 2-2 in his last four (both defeats by knockout) and coming off a fifth-round TKO loss to Tony Thompson last July.

Spinks

• Promoter Don King heads to St. Louis next week to make official on Thursday a March 27 card at the Scottrade Center, where St. Louis' Cory Spinks will defend his junior middleweight title against mandatory challenger Verno Phillips. Junior welterweight prospect Devon Alexander, also of St. Louis, faces Miguel Callist in the co-feature. Alexander and Callist were to meet in January on the Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad card, but Callist fell out with an injury and Alexander defeated DeMarcus Corley. King doesn't have a television outlet for the card and might not get one, but he plans to make it available on his www.donkingnetwork.tv Web site. The site offers some freebies from King's expansive library -- for example, one of the fights available features a young Felix Trinidad in a welterweight title defense against Yory Boy Campas -- as well as some classics for $9.99.

Abraham

• Middleweight titlist Arthur Abraham (25-0, 20 KOs), talked about as a possible opponent for division champion Kelly Pavlik in the fall, isn't taking too many chances March 29 when he meets Elvin Ayala (18-2-1, 8 KOs) in Kiel, Germany, in his seventh defense. "I have big plans for 2008. I will start with Ayala," Abraham said. A win over Ayala, who drew with "Contender" first-season winner Sergio Mora in October, could propel Abraham into a spot on Pavlik's June 7 undercard in New York.

Castillo

• Jose Luis Castillo, notorious for his trouble making weight, is on target to make 140 pounds for his junior welterweight eliminator against Timothy Bradley Jr. March 8 in Cancun on the Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter undercard. During a recent prefight weight check administered by the WBC, which is sanctioning the bout to produce a mandatory challenger for titlist Junior Witter, Castillo (56-8-1, 48 KOs) checked in at 151 pounds; Bradley (21-0, 11 KOs) weighed 148. Bradley, fighting the most notable opponent of his career, made light of Castillo's weight issues. "I'm glad to see that Jose, who has had problems making weight lately, is within the range of our weight limit for this fight. I just hope he laid off the Valentine candy," Bradley said.

Quotable

Tarver

"I'm getting too old to go 12 rounds. I can only go four. I'm not going to waste any time. I'm going to go in and take him out. I'm not at an age to be tussling for 12 rounds." -- Former light heavyweight champion Antonio Tarver, who is 39, on his mind-set heading into an April 12 (Showtime) bout against titlist Clinton Woods of England.