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Wednesday, November 30, 2005
Taylor, Hopkins are yin and yang of division

By David Avila

You couldn't pick two prizefighters more yin and yang than Jermain Taylor and Bernard Hopkins.

One is from the rural sawdust towns of Arkansas and the other from the concrete jungle streets of Philadelphia. These two pugilists epitomize the word "dichotomy."

In three days, the boxing world will witness the effects of two dissimilar fighters connecting like opposing ends of a fully charged battery. Sparks are going to fly at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas Saturday, when Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) defends the middleweight world championship against former owner Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs).

The rematch of their July duel, dubbed "No Respect," will be available on HBO pay-per-view (9 p.m. ET).

"I'm not just going to take his titles, I'm going to take his career," Hopkins said threateningly at his Big Bear Lake training campsite.

Such animosity and venom was not evident before their first encounter July 16, when Taylor scored a close and controversial victory over Hopkins for the titles. In fact, Hopkins never seemed more amiable to an opponent. Taylor, with his "aw shucks" personality, seemed ultra-respectful.

But that was four months ago. The end of Hopkins' 10-year reign over the division shook the cobwebs from the Philadelphia fighter. Rage has replaced respect and fury reigns between both fighters, who are eager to prove their talent.

HBO PPV Saturday 9 p.m. ET
Mandalay Bay Events Center

Las Vegas, Nev.

• Middleweights: Jermain Taylor (24-0, 17 KOs) vs. Bernard Hopkins (46-3-1, 32 KOs), 12 rounds, rematch, for Taylor's unified title.
• HBO PPV: Tale O' The Tape
• Junior featherweights: Oscar Larios (56-3-1, 36 KOs) vs. Israel Vazquez (38-3, 27 KOs), 12 rounds, rubber match, to unify titles and for vacant Ring magazine title.
• Junior middleweights: Ike Quartey (36-2-1, 30 KOs) vs. Carlos Bojorquez (25-7-6, 21 KOs), 10 rounds.

"Hopkins was mad," said Oscar De La Hoya, a former Hopkins opponent who is now a business partner in Golden Boy Promotions, the company that is co-promoting this fight with Lou DiBella.

"I don't respect him," Taylor said by phone from his training camp in Memphis, Tenn., where he was recently lauded by Memphis Grizzlies basketball fans and an Elvis Presley impersonator.

"He's a dirty fighter."

About 2,500 miles west, Hopkins bristles at the mention of Taylor's name. When told the young champion posed with the imitation king of rock and roll, Hopkins let his feelings be known to any reporter within earshot.

"You got a fake Elvis with a fake champion," Hopkins said loudly during a media day training session at De La Hoya's training camp in Big Bear. "There were two impersonators."

Comparing the two middleweights, it's hard to find similarities.

Jermain Taylor/Bernard Hopkins
In the first fight Taylor (left) took it to Hopkins early, but Hopkins rallied in the late rounds.

Hopkins, 40, imprisoned for five years during his 20s, found life after prison difficult and never had anything handed to him. He had to take it. That's what landed him in a Pennsylvania prison. But it also made him focused, driven and careful. It's evident in his safety-first fighting style, in which no opponent is taken for granted.

"I told everybody before the last fight what I was going to do," Hopkins said. "My plan was carried out."

Taylor, 27, was a 2000 Olympian who was scooped up after his amateur career and spoon-fed opponents. Regardless, the steely-eyed, clean-cut athlete emerged at the top of the heap with a devil-may-care aggressiveness.

"I'm the type of fighter who loves a good fight," Taylor said with enthusiasm. "I don't like to have a crowd booing me, even though Bernard [could not] care less."

Based on one exchange, when Taylor ended up with his head between his gloves facing the crowd instead of his opponent, Hopkins promises a finish not reliant on judges.

"He turned his back," Hopkins said. "I was merciful."

Hopkins feels the referee should have deducted a point, not halted the action.

"When I get a guy hurt, I'm supposed to execute him," Hopkins said, shaking his head at his inability to finish the job. "If he starts throwing that left jab, he'll be wearing a right hand."

Despite losing the majority of the latter rounds, Taylor seems unfazed and determined to carry out his plan with a few minor changes.

"I learned a lot from fighting Bernard. He's made me a better fighter," Taylor said. "The first fight I started too fast, throwing too many wild punches. I feel I know his style now. He's a good, dirty fighter."

So, if you're hoping to see a sterling example of the Marquis of Queensbury rules, forget it.