Updated: April 5, 2010, 8:47 AM ET

Hopkins hopes to reverse fortune against Jones

Rafael By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com
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LAS VEGAS -- Perhaps the public doesn't care much anymore about seeing Bernard Hopkins and Roy Jones fight again, and judging by the poor ticket sales and low pay-per-view expectations, it doesn't. However, the fight means an awful lot to the future Hall of Famers.

Yes, it has come years too late, but they don't seem to care.

"You know why I don't have no regrets? First of all, I beat him the first time," Jones said. "So I wasn't the one that needed to make the sacrifices to make the fight happen again. I'm not seeking revenge. I already beat him one time.

"So I can't regret that man not wanting to get in the ring with me until my career is over. The only reason he's fighting me now is because he feels like I'm done. He feels like I'm washed up. He feels like I'm old goods. He feels like there's no way I can survive 12 rounds with him now, but he's wrong. But that's the only reason he came to fight now."

Said Hopkins, "This ain't a joke to me. I know I'm not getting the Roy Jones that I would like to have five, six, seven years ago. It is what it is. I can't B.S. that. But my thing is I got him where I want him and won't let him get away. He's going to show up because he rather lose to you than lose to me. It's about ego and pride."

Seventeen years after Jones convincingly outpointed Hopkins -- essentially with his left hand because of an injured right -- to win a vacant middleweight belt in 1993, they still don't like each other. Both are taking their light heavyweight fight Saturday night (PPV, 9 ET, $49.95) at Mandalay Bay seriously and personally.

"There's so much passion and emotion in this fight," said John Wirt, CEO of Jones' Square Ring Promotions. "These guys really just plain don't like each other, and you know that's what a fight is all about. A lot of it's sport, but a lot of it's just that these two guys don't like each other."

The fighters realize that the rematch should happened years ago, when it would have been huge. They blame each other for it not happening until now despite numerous attempts to put it together during the past decade. But that, they say, is water under the bridge. Now they're focused on ending their rivalry once and for all, whether anyone else likes it or not.

"As a coach, I would have liked to have seen it eight years ago," said Alton Merkerson, Jones' trainer. "The guys would have been more at their prime. Everybody would have been more excited about it. But still, there's no closure to the fight. Bernard wants to beat Roy because he don't think Roy was going to beat him the first time. Roy wants to beat Bernard because he said, 'Well, I beat you then, and I can beat you now.'"

Hopkins, the former middleweight and light heavyweight champ, is just happy to finally have the rematch, however long it took to make.

"This is 2010. That was 1993. That's 17 years I've been waiting for this fight," said Hopkins, the former middleweight and light heavyweight champ. "It's personal to me, and it's important to me that I get this man in the ring and that I send him on his way to the Hall of Fame. I want to make sure that the last person he remembers is 'The Executioner.'

"You listen to Roy Jones, and he says something I agree with. You hate to say it, but we are rivals, and you hate to say it, but it took us 17 years to get here. A lot of other things have happened in our lives in the time it took to get here, but now that it's here, his worst nightmare has come to pass. Me. This means a lot to me."

How much?

"Every fight I am motivated by something different," Hopkins said. "This time around it's all about healing the 17-year-old wound that has been with me since I lost to Roy in '93. A win will finally close this particular chapter of my career.

"I want to punish and destroy Roy Jones Jr. for good."

Because of the way Jones (54-6, 40 KOs), 41, has been fighting lately -- including a first-round knockout loss to Danny Green on Dec. 2 -- Hopkins (50-5-1, 32 KOs) could do just that. The 45-year-old is still widely considered one of the top fighters in the world even though he hasn't had a knockout since he stopped Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in 2004.

Despite his status as a heavy underdog, Jones figures he beat Hopkins once with a bad hand and could do it again with two good ones.

"I only hit with one hand last time," said Jones, a former four-division champion. "I've got two hands now. With two hands, I'm going to beat the hell out of this old man. Hopkins has been waiting a long time for this fight, [but] this fight is going to have the same result that it had the first time. Bernard is not going to feel happy with himself on Sunday morning. He is going to be in a lot of pain on Saturday night. I know how he fights. He is going to try to rough me up. I will be ready for anything he tries to do.

"I want to show him that he still can't beat me. He hates me now because he wasn't better than me then. He can keep on hating me for another 17 years."

Hopkins, as intense as he has ever been before a fight, says he remains wary of Jones, even though most have written him off.

"I know that I have to go in there and execute and do what I've been waiting to do for all these years," Hopkins said. "I have everything to lose; Roy has everything to gain. On that note, he is dangerous. He's desperate. A desperate man is a dangerous man. He can't be underestimated because he still brings a punch to the game. Your legs can go, your reflexes can go. One thing never leaves -- the crack."

Naazim Richardson, Hopkins' trainer, said they haven't gotten caught up in Jones' decline.

"I guarantee the Roy Jones Jr. you are going to see Saturday is not the one you saw against [Antonio] Tarver, [Glen] Johnson or Green," Richardson said. "This is going to be the very best Roy Jones Jr. you've seen in years. I am confident of that, and that is the Roy Jones Jr. we prepared for."

Ruiz ready for Haye

Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty ImagesNew team, new attitude: John Ruiz feels a change in personnel will help lead him to victory.

With a new corner and a new promoter, former two-time heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz (44-8-1, 30 KOs), 38, hopes he can turn back a younger, quicker foe in David Haye, 29, and come home with a new belt. Ruiz will challenge the Briton for his title in Manchester, England, on Saturday night.

"Experience plays an important part, but so does youth," Ruiz said. "We'll see what comes out on top. I have a new team -- trainers Miguel Diaz and [assistant] Richie Sandoval, and a new promoter, Golden Boy -- but there are still some people who've been part of the team for a long time [such as attorney Tony Cardinale]. I'm at peace, blessed with my family, and I've never been in tune with boxing like this during my career."

Haye (23-1, 21 KOs), who is also with Golden Boy, is making the first defense of the title he won in Germany in November via majority decision against Nikolai Valuev, who owns two tight decisions against Ruiz.

"[Haye's] fast, moves around a lot, and gives different angles. I have to be prepared for that, like corralling an animal," Ruiz said. "It's going to be a tough fight, the only way I want to see it. He won the title, nobody gave it to him."

Ruiz and Diaz hooked up last year. This will be their second fight together.

"We've created a special relationship that's very important for a fighter and trainer," Diaz said. "Fighters are smart, and they soon know who is telling them the truth or B.S.ing them. John didn't respond to everything I said right away. Now, if I tell him to jump off the second floor … he may wonder why, but he'll do it. … There's nothing really new to John, just things we've brought back from his past, when he was an amateur and his early pro career. People who are seeing him now that knew him back then are saying it's so good to see his old jab. We added a few things, bobbing and weaving and coming off the ropes throwing punches, putting his shoulder behind his punch. Things like that. We're going to win."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.

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