New Hopkins on a fast track to the world title

August 22, 2001 – Interview by Paul Upham: Demetrius Hopkins, 8-0 (3), may be the 20-year-old nephew of WBC/IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins (left), but he is on a fast-track to a world title of his own. “We want to get him to 12 fights and then we are going to challenge for a world title,” said trainer Jimmy Green. “Demetrius is a special fighter.”

With the training he is getting and his amateur background, we are looking to put him in for a world title after 12 fights.”

A talented amateur with a record of 125-11 (he was the outstanding 1999 National Golden Gloves champion), Hopkins missed out on selection on the 2000 USA Olympic team after a controversial loss to Ricardo Williams Jr.

“We decided to turn Demetrius pro after he lost to Ricardo Williams at the Olympic trials, but that was a controversial loss,” said Green. “We were winning going into the last round. We had Ricardo down 10-3 on the computer. They then pulled the plug on the computer and went to the score on the papers and it was a popular decision for Ricardo Williams because he was the favourite. Had we stayed on the computer, he would have lost. Politics played a big part.”

Living in Philadelphia all of his life, Jimmy Green fought as an amateur and missed out on a professional career after a thumb in his eye left him with a detached retina. With a love of the sport, he turned to training and opened “Champs Gym” in Philadelphia.

Green was a friend of the Hopkins family and has know Demetrius since he was eight years old. “I started working with Demetrius when he was 13 years-old and he was boxing with my son. He’s a good athlete all-round. He ran track, played basketball and football,” said Green, who has trained many professional boxers and is impressed with the speed in which Demetrius has developed.

“He’s got their real quick. I also trained Meldrick Taylor as an amateur and a pro. To tell you the truth, Demetrius has got to this level quicker than any fighter I have ever trained and I have trained just about every fighter down in Philadelphia. Demetrius is something special.

“He listens very well. He can adapt to the style that I train more so than any other kid and it’s something that he loves to do,”

Young Demetrius grew up in Philadelphia and started his boxing training long before his uncle would become a professional and says that boxing was always part of his family.

“I’m from a boxing family. It started on my grandfather’s side. I started boxing training when I was 10, it was always something I wanted to do,” said Hopkins, who really admires fighters from the past and the skills they used.

“Sugar Ray Robinson, Joe Louis, Jack Dempsey and all those old great fighters. I really like the way Sugar Ray Robinson used to throw those short six inch hooks,” he said.

Asked to describe his own style, the 5 foot 11 ins Hopkins said, “Whatever their style is, I’ll adapt to it. I have always been a professional fighter. In the amateurs, you have to throw a lot of punches. In the pros, you have to settle down, you have to pick your shots. I like being a pro fighter better than an amateur fighter.”

Being Bernard Hopkins nephew has put extra pressure on Demetrius, but it has allowed him to have a better understanding of what it takes to be a world champion “It has put a little pressure on me, but he fights in his own shoes and I fight in mine. Sometimes we just sit and talk about fights, which is great,” said Hopkins, who believes his uncle can become the undisputed middleweight champion.

“Yeah, I think so. He’s got the style to beat Trinidad,” he said

Jimmy Green says there is no comparison between Demetrius and Bernard’s styles, although he expects the younger nephew to follow in his uncle’s footsteps at super-lightweight and welterweight.

“They are totally two different fighters. Demetrius is a master boxer-puncher. He’s got good feet and defence. It’s just the whole package there. Good jab, right hand and hook. He’s still learning right now, but he’s going to be the whole package down the road. To tell you the truth, he reminds me of Sugar Ray Robinson and that’s his favourite fighter,” said Green.

“Our plan down the road is to take a world title at 140 and 147 lbs. We are going to take our time because I am going to let him grow. I am not going to rush him at 147.”

Hopkins will feature in the main support bout to Omar Sheika vs Thomas Tate on September 14 in Patterson, New Jersey on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights when he meets Larry Mosley.

Looking at the world title unification match between WBC/WBA champion Kostya Tszyu and IBF champion Zab Judah, both Hopkins and Green favour the hard-hitting Russian, now a citizen of Australia.

“I think Kostya Tszyu is the best in the division. He’s strong. He’s going to give Zab Judah a tough fight. It will be a good fight,” said Hopkins.

“It’s tough, but right now I have to say Kostya Tszyu. I like him. He’s a good puncher and I don’t think much of Zab Judah’s chin,” said Green. “After Zab Judah and Kostya Tszyu, I don’t see much else in the division. We tried to make a match with Hector Camacho Jr, but he turned us down. Lou Duva tried to make a match with him in the future and he turned us down. It tells you the type of kid Demetrius is.”

Green has been associated with Lou Duva since 1984 when Meldrick Taylor turned pro with Main Events and it allowed Hopkins the opportunity to be managed by the man he has always respected.

“Lou is a helpful guy and a fun person to be around. He has so much experience at the top,” said Hopkins.

Now in training camp in San Antonio, Texas, Hopkins is working hard to acquire all the skills that Green and Duva can impart on him as he climbs his way to the top. “This is our training base. We have got good facilities and good sparring and Mexican boxers out here. They are tough and they come right at you. We are also working out with the San Antonio Spurs,” said Green.

“I’ve been training with Tim Duncan and the Spurs. It’s fun being around the basketball players doing different type of training,” said Hopkins.

Green is impressed with the dedication Hopkins has shown at the start of his professional career, and the way he conducts himself in training camp.

“Each fight he is getting better and better. He is the only kid that I know who can have breakfast the day of the weigh-in and make weight. He is very disciplined, he has no problem making weight,” said Green.

Known as “The Gladiator”, Hopkins is hoping to restore boxing pride to his hometown of Philadelphia, which has such a rich tradition in the sport.

“I’m trying to bring the spirit back to Philadelphia. I’m more of a boxer, but I’ll fight to the end to win, just like a gladiator,” said Hopkins. “I’m getting better and better each fight. I work really hard in the gym. Working in the gym is like doing your homework in school. Once you get the world title, you have graduated from college.

“When it does happen, I’ll be ready. I’m not fully a pro yet. It’s going to take me some time to get the whole package. I’ve got a good work ethic and training team around me and I’ll be ready when the opportunity comes along,” said Hopkins, who knows what will take him to the top.

“Hard work and dedication is going to get me to the world title. Hard work and being smart.”

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor
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