July 11, 2001 – By Paul Upham: Reigning WBC and IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins declared war on WBA middleweight champion Felix “Tito” Trinidad yesterday in New York when he took a Puerto Rican flag from Trinidad’s hands and threw it on the ground in front of a large gathering of media and fans at Bryant Park.
Promoter Don King is taking the two fighters on a whirlwind media tour this week including New York, Philadelphia, Miami and Puerto Rico to promote the September 15 fight which will crown the winner as the undisputed middleweight champion.
Speaking on a media conference call later in the day, Hopkins did not regret his actions and said it was a retaliatory act for the way Trinidad’s supporters had disrespected the United Sates national anthem.
“I'm not apologising for nothing. You don't do things and then apologise for it. You think before you do things. I'm old enough now, that anything I do I think before I react,” said Hopkins. “No. I don't apologise and I said to him I don't apologise for it. As a matter of fact, I would do it again if I had to.”
The undefeated Puerto Rican champion said that Hopkins actions did not worry him and that he was just playing mind games in the lead-up to their super-fight at Madison Square Garden in New York on September 15. “It bothers me that this guy talks and does things with my banner. What he did this morning, he took my Puerto Rican flag. He got me by surprise. He took my flag from my hand and he threw it to the ground,” said Trinidad.
“This is disrespectful behaviour and nobody should do that with a flag. That will not take me out of concentration. I am a very experienced fighter and I know the reasons why he is doing this. I am not worried about that. No matter what things he does, it will give me more reasons to train hard.”
Hopkins claimed that the Puerto Rican fans had blatantly disrespected the American people during Trinidad’s last win against William Joppy last May in New York.
“That's the disrespect I've been getting all my career and he disrespected our flag when he fought in Madison Square Garden. The fans are not respecting us and Trinidad is not respecting me as a champion and his father is not respecting me as a champion. They have to realise that there is a price to pay for that. I am starting to lay the foundations of the ‘Executioner’ today. No, I'm not apologising for nothing. What am I apologising for? If he wants me to apologise then take it out on my butt in
the ring,” said Hopkins.
“This is war. At war, I don't have respect for Trinidad, I don't have respect for is country. I don't have respect for nothing. When they had the national anthem sung for Americans in New York, they booed the American national anthem. The booed our flag. I'm saying that he should be grateful that he can come over to the United States and make the money that he is making and that he has the opportunity to come to America and earn that opportunity.”
“I say that whatever he thinks that I am playing or not playing mentally, the fight has started now. This is the mindset that has kept me in the race for all these years. I don't like Trinidad right now and I'm not supposed to like him. This is a fight, this for something that I have been trying to establish for years and years in my career. There is no game. It's more serious than just promoting. I'm serious with that. For summer, I couldn't really enjoy it. I wanted to go to work, I want to go to camp, I want to get away and I'm glad this media thing is starting right now and I'm glad that now we are getting on board to promote this fight.”
Trinidad was totally stunned by his actions says Hopkins and it showed him that he can get under Trinidad’s skin.
“I got up and had my presentation and had my flag and I was waving my flag and Trinidad' people, audience and fans were booing. I got the flag up and I 'm waving the flag. The same thing they did when William Joppy fought him in Madison Square Garden. They have no respect. I had to let them know that they ain't going to disrespect my flag and disrespect my situation. I love America and I am here. Then do expect me to respect your flag. I know how to get under their skin,” said Hopkins.
“He tried to pull away the flag and I just man-handled him and took the flag and threw it on the ground. I did and it showed me that this guy here is used to being a guy that got the advantage over guys that's four or five inches shorter than him. This is a different ballgame now. The look on his face was like a kid seeing a ghost late at night and calling for mummy and she ain't running in the room fast enough. He didn't expect it and I didn't expect him to do anything to try to counter that because he didn’t expect it coming. That's what you do, you hit them when they don’t expect to get hit and that’s how you take this guy out.”
“They tried to say that I disrespected their flag, well, maybe I did. If I did, I'm not apologetic. Until they understand that I am not going to respect them until they respect me. I don't like Trinidad, I'm ready to fight. After the fight if he still continues to stick his hand out like we all do and say good fight then that's fine. But right now we are fighters.”