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Hopkins, Wright talk tough

Everything about Bernard Hopkins’ appearance is serious, from his dark eyes to his sharp tongue to his ripped physique. Adding to that image is his nickname, "The Executioner."

Hopkins has a prison background and an old-school boxing mentality, constantly threatening punishment to his opponent.

As he stared down Winky Wright, whom he will fight for the Ring Magazine light heavyweight title on Saturday at Mandalay Bay, Hopkins said, "He understands what kind of hard man I am. I’m going to kick his ass."

None of that stopped Wright from laughing Thursday as Hopkins launched a one-sided verbal attack during their pre-fight news conference.

"I ain’t going to sell this fight," Wright said during a brief and uninspiring speech.

Hopkins, the 42-year-old underdog, is barking loudly. Now he needs to prove he still can box as impressively as he talks.

The 35-year-old Wright (51-3-1, 25 knockouts) has not lost since 1999 and is a minus-150 favorite.

"He’s not going to sell this fight, but I am," Hopkins said. "I will beat him up. I’m going in the ring to make him quit, to beat him up and to knock him out. We’re all clear that I said it now, so when it’s over, pay homage to it.

"I think what sells is personality, and if you can fight behind that, you become a modern-day Muhammad Ali … somebody that you know you must give some credibility to what he says before it happens. If I was a guy who knew the inside, and not just hearsay, I would have to bet on a guy like Bernard Hopkins."

Oscar De La Hoya, president of Golden Boy Promotions, hosted the news conference and made every effort to hype the event, available on HBO pay-per-view. Hopkins is a Golden Boy fighter.

De La Hoya propped up Hopkins (47-4-1, 32 KOs) as a live underdog.

"I’m actually a little surprised that (Wright) is favored," De La Hoya said. "They might have him favored because he throws more punches and he’s a bit younger. But Hopkins is a bigger guy and a more experienced fighter."

Hopkins’ last outing, a lopsided unanimous decision over Antonio Tarver on June 10, 2006, was supposed to be his last. But most boxers don’t understand the meaning of retirement, and Hopkins decided his departure from the ring was premature.

"That performance was an A-plus performance," Hopkins said. "Why not come back after that? Why tease myself and leave? Yes, for others it was perfect, it was the perfect ending, but I have to be comfortable.

"I didn’t break the promise because I’ve got an itch to fight and I can’t face denial that it’s over. I ain’t a fool. I think I’m highly intelligent. Enjoy me while I’m here. When I do leave, people will miss me even more."

Hopkins volunteered to move down from 175 pounds to fight Wright at 170. Wright, who prefers 160 pounds, moved up because he wanted to meet the challenge.

"Bernard’s going to be a lot bigger and a lot stronger, but he’s going to get dominated," Wright said. "He’s going to go back to the retirement home because he should’ve stayed there.

"He ended his career with a great fight by beating Tarver. Now he’s going to mess that up by getting beat by me. He wants to run his mouth, and I’m going to close it."

Hopkins and Wright are two of the biggest names in boxing, but whether their styles will create an exciting fight is a larger debate.

One certainty is their personalities in and out of the ring are strikingly different, and Hopkins jumps at the chance to make that point.

"It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at Winky and see what he do. Some have called him boring," Hopkins said. "It’s Bernard Hopkins who’s going to bring the show on, who makes the show what it is, and that’s what people are going to come to watch, and that’s why people are interested.

"Winky’s a passive guy. Listen, it’s called personality. I’m not passive, and I don’t have a passive job. So I fight the way I talk, and I talk the way I fight, and I mean what I say."

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