Calzaghe dismisses Hopkins

Jan 23, 2008 - 4:19 PM By Frank Malley Special to PA SportsTicker

LONDON (Ticker) -- Joe Calzaghe turned up the heat for his battle against Bernard Hopkins when he accused his American opponent of being "an idiot" for making a racial slur recently.

Hopkins has been reported as saying, "I'll never let a white boy beat me. Never."

But Calzaghe (44-0, 32 KOs, whose light heavyweight fight with Hopkins will take place on April 19 at the Thomas and Mack Centrer in Las Vegas, dismissed the racist element of Hopkins' comments.

"That didn't hack me off," Calzaghe said. "It was embarrassing for himself. He made himself look an idiot. I'm not offended because I know what's going to happen. I'm not bothered if it's a black guy, a green guy, a yellow guy or any kind of color. I'm just not going to lose full stop.

"It is just a stupid comment from an adult. It doesn't get under my skin at all because when he gets in the ring he's going to get beaten full stop."

It was typically no-nonsense talk from Calzaghe who is surfing a wave of euphoria following a brilliant year in 2007 in which he picked up $3 million for beating Mikkel Kessler and went on to be named BBC Sports Personality of the Year.

At 35 and undefeated in more than 14 years as a professional Calzaghe will be moving up a weight to take on 43-year-old Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs).

A $ 5million career-best pay day is the prize, but it is the lure of America which has finally seduced Calzaghe, who has been criticized in some quarters for being reluctant to fight outside Britain.

The experience of sitting ringside while watching his big pal Ricky Hatton take on Floyd Mayweather Jr. last month was also a big factor in taking a fight against a man who has been in the ring with Roy Jones Jr. and Jermain Taylor and knocked out Oscar de la Hoya.

"Going to watch the Ricky Hatton fight and seeing the tremendous support with the British fans really told me I had to get a fight in the States before I retire," Calzaghe said. "It was an amazing reception. Ricky fought a brilliant fight but, believe me, British fans this time are going to see a win and a spectacular win.

"You're going to see Joe Calzaghe smashing the hell out of whatshisname, Mary Poppins."

Around 5,000 tickets go on sale to British fans in two week's for a venue which holds 18,000 and a fight which will be shown live on Setanta Sports but which is not pay-per view.

Those lucky enough to get a ticket could witness one of the last outings of one of Britain's greatest boxers.

Calzaghe is adamant that 2008 will be his last in the fight game. H e is determined to retire undefeated after two more bouts, but dismisses the likelihood of a superfight with the 39-year-old Jones, who won a unanimous decision from Felix Trinidad on Saturday.

"After the Kessler fight I achieved everything I wanted to in the super middleweight division as undisputed champion," Calzaghe said.

"Roy Jones is not the fighter he was. He's sharp in spells and you can see he was a great fighter. But I'd rather fight a fighter in his prime. The rest of my career I want to fight big fights, fights where I have something to gain and not just something to defend."

Calzaghe is looking forward to his trip to the U.S.

"Hopkins is the Ring champion so let's go to Vegas with three American judges and an American referee," Calzaghe said. "I'm taking a big risk in going to America in the first place but it's all about challenges. That's what I need."

Calzaghe does not believe going up a weight will prove a problem.

Promoter Frank Warren said it was a fight which he had tried to make for four or five years and had been brought about by Calzaghe's increased profile.

"Bernard Hopkins needs Joe Calzaghe whereas a few years ago it was the other way around," Warren said. "But it's crucial that Hopkins comes to fight. We don't want him running."

Hopkins has a reputation as a spoiling fighter but hiding from a Welshman who believes he is on the cusp of immortality would be difficult.

"I could go on until I was 40," Calzaghe said. "My last fight was probably my best performance, but in boxing it is so easy to go on to one fight too many. Very few fighters retire undefeated. I want to be one of the very few like Rocky Marciano who can be world champion and retire undefeated at the right time. Hopefully, I'll stick by that and go down in history. Money's great but staying undefeated is more important to me."

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