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2 middleweights set to fight in Las Vegas



Published: Wed, June 29, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Bernard Hopkins could be a formidable opponent for Jermain Taylor.

MIAMI (AP) -- Barely 10 miles separate their training camps in South Florida, yet the lives -- and careers -- of middleweights Bernard Hopkins and Jermain Taylor have a more noticeable gap.

Nearly five years after winning a bronze medal at the 2000 Olympics, Taylor will try to do what 18 others have failed to do: dethrone Hopkins from his middleweight reign when the two fighters meet July 16 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

"I'm supposed to be the next in line," Taylor said Tuesday, when he and Hopkins had open workout sessions in Miami. "He's had his chance. Now it's his chance to step down."

Taylor, of Little Rock, Ark., overwhelmed his opposition leading to his challenge of Hopkins. However, the middleweight champion, who has held at least a portion of the 160-pound title and unified the crowns with victories against Keith Holmes, Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya, will loom as a difficult obstacle.

Age not a factor

Despite turning 40 in January, Hopkins (46-2-1, 32 KOs) continues to defy age, having successfully defended his title 20 times. The Philadelphia native's ninth-round knockout victory over De La Hoya made him the only fighter in the sport to hold all four major sanctioning body titles.

"He has that advantage that he is 15 years younger than myself," Hopkins said of the 26-year-old Taylor. "But I want him and the media to remember that he has used youth as his argument to win. And I want someone to remind [him] when he falls on fight night that you're still young, even though you're not the champion."

Taylor (23-0, 17 KOs) believes in the boxing adage of a fighter "aging overnight." He counts on his speed and talent to pose to Hopkins the difficulties the likes of De La Hoya, Trinidad or Antwun Echols were unable to accomplish.

"Of course it's a big fight, but I am not going to get too psyched about it," Taylor said. "I am faster, I am stronger than he is. I am just an all-around better fighter."

Hopkins, who has talked of retiring before he turns 41, believes Taylor has a future ruling the division but not during his watch.

"Bernard Hopkins must accomplish what I have to do with this fight because it settles a big score with me," Hopkins said. "It sends a message that even though you all paraded the next heir apparent of the middleweight division, you might have to wait another five or six years before you find one.

"I want to set a high standard in the middleweight division that when I leave, a decade goes by, my name is still mentioned. That a person still hasn't come up to accomplish 20 straight successful defenses."




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