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BOXING Hopkins sets sights on bigger paydays



Published: Mon, February 21, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



After his latest title defense, he's more concerned about cashing in.

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Bernard Hopkins got the number he wanted in making his 20th title defense. Now he's looking ahead, to making money and history as a middleweight champion approaching middle age.

Hopkins had barely finished beating Howard Eastman Saturday night when he laid out his immediate future. There wasn't much sense looking too far ahead, though, because at the age of 40, time is beginning to run out.

"It's about history, along with the money," Hopkins said. "I'm not interested in making mandatory defenses against fighters you've never heard of anymore."

Hopkins joined former heavyweight champion Larry Holmes as a fighter with 20 defenses. Joe Louis had 24 straight during his career, but only a handful of fighters have ever gotten to the plateau.

Possible opponents

Hopkins mentioned a rematch with Felix Trinidad, a fight with Jermain Taylor or a move to light heavyweight to fight Glen Johnson as possibilities.

The money would be biggest for Trinidad, whom Hopkins already has beaten, and there would be history by moving up to light heavyweight to fight Johnson. Taylor might be the most intriguing prospect, though, after he looked spectacular in winning his fight on Saturday night's undercard at Staples Center.

"If the media wants it, I'd be ready to take the test with the young lions," Hopkins said.

Taylor was certainly ready, after remaining unbeaten by stopping Daniel Edouard in the third round.

"I believe I'm ready for him, I'm a fighter," said Taylor, a 2000 Olympic bronze medalist. "I'll fight him whenever and wherever."

Hopkins wasn't terribly impressive against Eastman, a British fighter who had never won a fight outside the United Kingdom. He started slow as usual, allowed Eastman to chase him around the ring, then caught him with counter punches when it mattered.

It wasn't pretty, and the crowd of 12,828 booed at times, but Hopkins is at the stage in his career where he fights his own fight and isn't concerned with how he wins.

"I didn't want to bore nobody, but I'm taught to fight the fight that's best for myself," Hopkins said. "I heard some boos, but I heard a lot of cheers too."

Good enough

Hopkins didn't even seem that interested in the fight until the fifth round, the round Eastman had predicted he would knock him out. The two fighters exchanged big punches in the final seconds of the round, and the flurry seemed to get Hopkins going.

From then on, each round was a carbon copy of the other as Hopkins used the experience gained in 19 previous title defenses to remain unbeaten in the last 11 years.

"I give myself a B-minus," Hopkins said. "He hung in there and had some moments. But the smart man in boxing lives to see another day. I wanted to fight my fight, and not Eastman's."

Eastman complained that Hopkins ran from him and called for a rematch. But there would be little call for that considering the fight wasn't that attractive to begin with, and Hopkins won by wide margins on all three ringside scorecards.

One judge gave Eastman only one round, and though Eastman threw more punches than Hopkins, he only connected on a small percentage of them.

One man impressed with Hopkins was Oscar De La Hoya, who promoted Saturday's card. De La Hoya was stopped by Hopkins in the ninth round last September in his 19th title defense, and the two are now business partners.




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