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Fight could be memorable for wrong reasons

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

You can follow Kevin Iole on Twitter at @KevinI

LAS VEGAS – Lines at the ticket windows are short. Great seats are, most definitely, still available. The pay-per-view broadcast, which will set you back $50, will be shown once, and only once, and then, presumably, will vanish into the ether.

Buy the rematch that's been 17 years in the making and you might even see a good fight.

Chances are more likely if you happen upon the Bernard Hopkins-Roy Jones Jr. light heavyweight bout on Saturday, either in person at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, or on pay-per-view, that you'll see a one-sided beatdown of a once-great champion.

Think Larry Holmes versus Muhammad Ali and you should have an idea of what kind of a fight to expect.

A lot has been made about the age of the contestants, but their ages are irrelevant. Hopkins is 45 and Jones is 41, but Hopkins remains a formidable opponent for anyone in the world. Jones, who once was as gifted as a young Ali, now looks like a fairly good reincarnation of the 1980s version of the iconic heavyweight.

Therein lies the problem with a match that came about because Hopkins is so competitive, he couldn't let go of the idea of a rematch of a fight he'd lost 17 years ago:

It's no longer a fair fight.

Jones believes he'll knock Hopkins out, but says he believes Hopkins took the fight because he feels Jones is finished.

"Bernard Hopkins is a shark; he's a bottom feeder," Jones said. "He's a catfish. He's waiting around for someone to die, and then he'll bite into it. If something is dead, he'll try to taste it. If something is alive, he doesn't want any part of it. If something is close to dead, he'll try to eat it.

"He wanted to wait until I was done. He didn't have anywhere else to go and now he thinks he'll get his revenge and ride out into the sunset. That's the only way he is looking at it. It won't be happening that way, but that is the plot."

Jones isn't done as a fighter; there are still men he can beat. He's simply not able to compete with the elite men in the world any longer.

He's coming off a first-round loss in December to Danny Green, whom Jones would have beaten with one hand had Jones been 30 and not 40 when the bout was held. He's 5-5 in his last 10, has been knocked out three times and hasn't beaten a legitimate top 10 fighter since winning a majority decision over Antonio Tarver in 2003.

It's a fascinating debate whether a prime Hopkins could ever have beaten a prime Jones. Hopkins was the far superior technician and the master strategist; Jones was far faster, much quicker and far more athletic.

In 1993, Jones was just reaching his peak, moving on an upward arc toward the pinnacle of the sport, when he met Hopkins for the middleweight championship in Washington, D.C.

Hopkins was, in his own words, still "green," and wasn't the complete fighter he would become. Jones won the fight going away despite a broken right hand.

A match between, say, the 1994 version of Roy Jones and the 1998 version of Bernard Hopkins might have been a fight for the ages.

Saturday's bout will be one, instead, for the aged. Minutes after college basketball delivers the Final Four, boxing will serve up the Final 40s.

Jones, who earns no guarantee and only makes money from the upside of the pay-per-view sales after expenses have been paid and Hopkins gets a $3.5 million cut, has been pitching every angle he can.

Asked if he is concerned he's putting himself in danger, given he's been knocked out several times and hasn't shown the same ability to take a punch that he once did, Jones delivered a startling answer:


Essentially what he was saying is, if you don't want to come out to watch the car race, come out to see the wrecks.

"Yes, I do," Jones answered. "I take my hat off to you and I thank them for being concerned about me for putting my life on the line."

Jones went on to predict he'd knock out Hopkins, though the Mandalay Bay sports book will give you cool 11-1 odds on that if you want to take it. Hopkins is even money to knock out Jones and is a 5-1 favorite to win.

Jones is clearly confident despite his shaky recent history that even prompted some of those close to him to question the wisdom of him fighting. If Hopkins does knock him out, though, it will probably be the last time Jones fights.

He's selling the fight hard, not only encouraging fans to see the wrecks but to watch if the cars erupt into flames.

Fans are concerned for his welfare, he was told. They should be, Jones said, and made the point that if Hopkins stops him, this would likely be the end.

"No, that's very possible [I've lost the ability to take a punch], you know what I mean?" Jones said. "It is boxing, so that is very possible. And if that's the case, then I know after this one that if Bernard Hopkins can hurt me, because Bernard Hopkins is not that big of a puncher, if he can hurt me then after this one maybe it's time to hang it up."

Hopkins, though, doesn't want to give the impression he's going to beat up on a weak sister, though he really has no choice.

Hopkins said he's taking Jones seriously and if you know Hopkins at all, you know he's telling the truth. The man is fanatic in his preparations and leaves nothing to chance.

Have no doubt that Hopkins prepared for Jones like he would have prepared for the reincarnation of Sugar Ray Robinson.

"I don't want to look like a bully on Saturday night," Hopkins said. "I want him to bring his 'A game.' "

Hopkins may not be the same man who routed a seemingly invincible Felix Trinidad in 2001, but he's not far off it. Even at 45, he's got the kind of hard body that would make The Chippendales jealous.

And that's not by chance. From his earliest days as a boxer, Hopkins treated his body with reverence. It was his tool and he took the finest care of it.

"The fountain of youth primarily starts with your youth," Hopkins trainer Naazim Richardson said. "Bernard took care of his body when he was a young man. He lived right. He never was one to party, [not] a lot of late nights."

As a result, Richardson said, Hopkins can compete as well at 45 as he could at 25, perhaps better. He's equally as well-conditioned and far more knowledgeable, even if he's sacrificed a tad of his reflexes to age.

He'll finally get the chance for revenge on Saturday, to release nearly two decades of frustration by pummeling Jones around the ring. It is, he says, deadly seriously, personal.

It doesn't seem nearly as personal to Jones as it does to Hopkins. Jones simply hopes to make a score off the fight's success. He pleaded with fans to pay the $50 and purchase the pay-per-view, despite his so-so recent record and his loss in December.

"We've laid down our hard earned lives to put on two stellar careers over that 17-year period between fights," Jones said. "So why not lay down your hard-earned money to watch two guys who put their hard-earned lives on the line to entertain you people for 17, 18 years?

"They understand who we are. They know who we are. They've watched us for years. We've entertained them for years, so why not give back to us and let us go at it one more time for the ages? They know one thing for sure; they're going to get what they pay for."

Muhammad Ali made many of the same promises in 1980, only to get thrashed as if he were a rank amateur.

Nearly 30 years later, history, it appears, may be about to repeat itself.

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