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By Rick Reeno

The "Cinderella Man" of the new millennium, WBC heavyweight champion Oleg Maskaev, had a golden opportunity to make some big bucks against a fighter who is fully capable of still making the middleweight limit if he tried hard enough.

The dream of moving to the heavyweight division to capture the biggest prize in boxing is not going to happen for recent retiree, Bernard Hopkins. Prior to his twelve-round domination of Antonio Tarver last June, Hopkins announced that regardless of the outcome, he retire upon the completion of the fight.

In a conversation that took place a year ago, Hopkins told me that he was hoping for Jermain Taylor to beat Winky Wright in order to establish himself as star. There was an underlining fear in Hopkins' head that if Taylor lost to Wright, the sport of boxing would never let him retire in peace.

"Oh man, if Winky Wright beats Taylor, that's it! I'm packing my bags and moving to Europe because they will never let me leave," Hopkins said.

The win over Tarver was so convincing that many hardcore boxing fans wanted Hopkins to stay retired in order to leave the sport on a much deserved high note. Hopkins, a career middleweight, moved up two weight divisions to unseat the recognized light heavyweight champion. It was a performance for the ages, and few insiders expected the 41-year-old fighter to make a comeback.

But, the scenario that Hopkins had predicted to me a few months earlier, happened a week after he defeated Tarver. Jermain Taylor and Winky Wright battled to a draw in a bout where many observers felt Wright should have been given the nod. Rather than crowning a new middleweight king, the jury was still out on who was the best fighter at 160-pounds and Taylor had lost some considerable momentum that was gained after he won two consecutive decisions over Hopkins.

Following the draw between Taylor and Wright, Hopkins became the goose that laid the golden egg. He was being challenged by fighters from all corners of the sport. One notable fighter was very vocal about moving up to the light heavyweight division to challenge Hopkins, and that man was super middleweight king Joe Calzaghe. Like Hopkins, Calzaghe's popularity began to explode at a late age.

In a move that stunned many, Hopkins revealed to boxing writer Tim Smith that he was planning to come out of retirement in order to move up to the heavyweight division and challenge Maskaev for the WBC title. Initially, most took the announcement as a publicity stunt. The minds of many began to change when it was revealed that Golden Boy Promotions and Dennis Rappaport, Maskaev's promoter, were in negotiations for the fight.

In a telephone conversation with BoxingScene.com, Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer stated that a reasonable offer was made to Maskaev for a pay-per-view showdown with Bernard Hopkins, and it was turned down.

"We made an offer to them for the fight, and they did not accept our offer. There was a brief window of time for him to put in for another fight," Schaefer said. "Now he is mandated to defend his title against Samuel Peter. If I were Oleg Maskaev I would have taken the fight. We had the time to do it, but they did not accept our offer and now he must fight Peter."

At least for the moment, Hopkins has decided to abandon his mission of cleaning up the heavyweight division in order to focus on other lucrative fights. The plan has been laid out for Hopkins’ ring return on July 21, on HBO pay-per-view. According to Schaefer, Roy Jones, Jr. and Joe Calzaghe are both in the running to face Hopkins on the July date.

“Originally the date was July 14, but it was changed to July 21 because the 14th became a HBO World Championship Boxing show. There are discussions for Bernard to face Roy Jones and Calzaghe. We are going to pursue both avenues and get the best deal that we can. A fight against Roy Jones, Jr. or Joe Calzaghe are very big fights.”

Hopkins and Jones met in 1993 in a bout where Jones cruised to a unanimous decision to win the vacant IBF middleweight title. Over the years, rematch negotiations between Hopkins and Jones have fallen apart more times than Britney Spears being photographed without underwear. There was even talk of a pay-per-view rematch being set last year. Originally Jones was slated to face Hopkins in the first quarter of 2006, but after a few snags in negotiations, Hopkins agreed to fight Tarver. Neither HBO, boxing writers, or the fans, were able to push Hopkins and Jones to agree on the financial terms.

After fourteen years, Hopkins appears confident that the fight will get made. Schaefer says that discussions with Jones’ promotional firm, Square Ring, are “moving along nicely” and further discussions will take place.

After the news was broken that Hopkins may pick Jones as his comeback opponent for July, complaints rained down from boxing fans over the selection of Jones and the $50 price tag that goes along with the fight. Hopkins is a fighter who is past his prime, but still at a level where he is crafty enough to beat any of the best fighters in his class on any given night. Jones has been trying to rebuild his career after suffering three consecutive losses, including two by way of devastating knockouts. In the mind of many fans, he is still a shell of his former self.

Some boxing writers have even used the word mismatch to describe a Hopkins-Jones rematch, but Schaefer disagrees and feels that the fight will do very well because of the history involved between both boxers and all of the angles attached to the fight.

“When you take a fighter like Roy Jones, a legend, who accomplished so much in his career, and match him against another legend in Hopkins, they will both come in at their best. They will bring their pride, and their desire, and their will to win. It will be a very exciting night,” Schaefer said.

“Jones has a chance to redeem himself against Tarver. What better way to do it than against the man who beat Tarver. Jones was Hopkins’ only clear defeat. Hopkins never got a chance to redeem himself after that loss. I think the fight will do very well.”

One angle Shaefer missed was the fact that Hopkins is also the only man to stop Glen Johnson, which would give Jones some redemption for the 1994 knockout loss to Johnson.

I've been skeptical of a rematch ever taking place between Hopkins and Jones, but this time I have a feeling that the fight will actually happen. A fight against Hopkins is probably the biggest fight Jones can make unless he is willing to fly out to England to face Calzaghe, which he is not. If Jones was actually willing to make a fight with Calzaghe, it would have been made when Calzaghe was screaming for a fight with him for a better part of last year.
 
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