"Ray Leonard and all of those guys got Joe Smith in their conversations now. Everybody knows who Joe Smith is now because he made his presence known. Some people in boxing knew of him. You know how that goes. Now everybody knows who Joe Smith is...We gotta stop pointing at Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev and saying that they are the hardest punchers in the division because there is another kid that is throwing his hat in that arena too...Brother Naazim personally wants to thank you for doing the best to protect my athlete and doing the best to look out for the athlete that I worked for all of these years," stated world-class trainer Naazim Richardson, who spoke passionately about
PC: Brother Naaz, always a pleasure my man. I know you haven't gotten much reprieve from the Bernard Hopkins questions, so I wanted to let you address it and kind of put it to rest.
NR: People stop me in the street every day, like a young lady stopped me in Wal-Mart and she asked me, "Why weren't you there to keep him from falling out like that?" And I told her, "How could I have stopped him?" She said, "If you would've been there, he wouldn't have fell out like that." But we don't know that and we will never find out. Bernard made choices. I said this before and I'll say it again, I pray that he gets whatever he is looking for. Now people have come to me, a man asked me an interesting question the other day, "What did you think about the fight?" I said, "I don't want anybody I work with to lose and I don't want to see any fighter lose badly. It's a part of our business, but I don't wish that on anybody." The thing is Bernard put himself in a position to finish any way that he wants to finish. I didn't want to see him lose. In the back of your head, do you want to see the guy have some moments because Bernard said some real things about me? You can say that, but I didn't want to see him lose and I damn sure didn't want to see him get stopped like that. My thing wasn't even to just address Bernard. I felt I needed to do this interview to address Joe Smith because I feel my interviews discussing the fight was taken out of context towards Joe Smith. I said this earlier and I'll say it again, I didn't know about Joe Smith. I didn't think I had seen him fight until I saw him fight and then I realized I had watched him fight in New York before. I take my hat off to the kid. Like I said, "We may be talking about Joe Smith after the fight," and here we are. Ray Leonard and all of those guys got Joe Smith in their conversations now. Everybody knows who Joe Smith is now because he made his presence known. Some people in boxing knew of him. You know how that goes. Now everybody knows who Joe Smith is now. Anybody that don't know Joe Smith didn't know who Bernard Hopkins is. This young bull went in there and staked his claim. He said, "Adonis went 12 with Fonfara, I got him in 1. Kovalev went 12 with Bernard and I got him too." We gotta stop pointing at Adonis Stevenson and Sergey Kovalev and saying that they are the hardest punchers in the division because there is another kid that is throwing his hat in that arena too.
PC: When you look at the way that fight between Bernard and Joe Smith concluded, with Hopkins saying he was shoved out of the ring and had he not sustained an injury he was frustrating Smith, do you think we see Bernard Hopkins in the ring again?
NR: Here is a man that's in position with an outstanding promotional company; he's doing commentating on Jim Lampley's show The Fight Game. Very few guys that leave this sport are in the position that he's in. He can turn the page on this chapter the fighter and start a new chapter involving the rest of boxing. My thing...and I looked at it and I say this, people that don't care for Bernard saw him lose, people who wanted him to lose saw him get knocked out, and people who wanted him to get knocked out saw him get knocked out the ring. And even the ones who weren't satisfied with that, then he got up and made statements that wasn't consistent with what everyone else saw. I don't point the finger because that could have been any coach or anybody in that position. I had the same dealings with Bernard Hopkins. The Robert Allen fight, my athlete went out the ring. He said the same exact thing. He said, "Take off my boot." I said, "Don't take the boot off because if you take the boot off, the swelling is going to go crazy. The boot is containing it." Then he started talking, "Naazim, I can't lose my title like that." I said, "Hold, hold, hold; wait a minute. Ex, you don't lose your title like that; this is a no-contest." I said, "Mills Lane, this is a no-contest, right?" And Mills Lane said, "Let me check." My thing with these athletes, and I don't care how good you are, you were just getting punched in the head and in this case, you fell out of the ring and you may have hit your head. But after the Joe Smith fight, this guy got up and said, "I got pushed out of the ring." I've never seen camera angles so accurately assess a situation. When they use replay in the NFL, you're still not sure if the ball touched the ground. Those cameras were so accurate that not only could you see everything that happened in the ring, you could hear everything that happened outside of the ring too. So now you get stuff that's all on the internet and it's making him look crazy because he's saying he was pushed and somebody threw up a forearm and he went down because of the forearm and nobody is telling him. I've been down before and when you're down, it's time for people to start kicking. Sometimes you put yourself in position where they gonna kick you. You're surrounded by the wrong people or you said the wrong things going in. I told people that I wasn't going to say a whole lot about Bernard going into that fight. I said, "I hope that he don't get hurt and I hope that Joe Smith don't get hurt. Let them collect their checks and go their separate ways."
But I do want to say this to Oscar and his company, Golden Boy Promotions, and everybody that works in Golden Boy Promotions, to John David Jackson, to Danny Davis, to Shareef, to Malik; his corners, to everybody at the Joe Hand Gym who supports him and everybody that supports him in the game, to his lovely children, Latrece and Bernard Jr., and their mothers, those two lovely women, Brother Naazim personally wants to thank you for doing the best to protect my athlete and doing the best to look out for the athlete that I worked for all of these years. I also can't forget to personally thank Kelly Swanson and Lisa [Milner] for all that they did for my athlete because I know what they were working with. I hope they will all keep him well after the game. Bernard said some real things about me, but he knew he could because Bernard knows what kind of dude I am for real. Bernard knows the man that I really am. So Bernard knows in no way, shape or form could he hurt me; not without a pistol. But it was offensive to people who love me. He said that because he didn't want the public to belittle him for his decision of not going with Naazim. He didn't want the public to belittle him. So he went another way and in the long run, that other way still led to the public having a loud cry and going in on him. Now here is the thing, Percy, in boxing we find out if you can fight; once we find out you can fight, we found out can you be a champion, and once we found out if you can be a champion, we found out can you be great? That's why I don't get on Mayweather when he compares himself to the all-time greats. Who else was he supposed to compare himself to? He has done everything else and there wasn't nobody left. There is nobody left for him to compare himself to but Ray Robinson and them guys. So once we find out that you're great, you compare yourself to the all-time greats. Now once we realize you're in the mix with the all-time greats, now every all-time great has to find out what separates them from even the all-time greats. Mayweather, undefeated fighter; Muhammad Ali had all of the tools and transcended the game in and out the ring, and Ray Robinson, one of the greatest skill sets and records on display. We had to put separation between the all-time greats. Bernard's separation was that he would finish you better than every all-time great. He was finishing better than the Robinson's, he was finishing better than the Ali's, and that's a magnificent thing, man. This guy's almost 52 years old. I used to tease him. I'd say, "This guy is 111 years old still fighting at a championship level and that's great." But the clock is there for a purpose. Everything has its seasons and then it moves on to the next. When you were looking at Joe Louis, you never dreamed of a Muhammad Ali, and when Ali walked away, we thought boxing was over. We thought boxing was over after Ali left. When you were looking at Ali, you couldn't imagine a Mike Tyson. That's the way the game has always been. The next star is coming. We don't always know from where. We never thought Azumah Nelson, when they threw him in with Salvador Sanchez, we never thought that he would become one of the legends of the game too. "Who is this guy Azumah Nelson? He was just replacing somebody. He's just a fight for Salvador." He went in and gave Salvador all the hell he wanted. Next thing you know, we talking about this kid Azumah Nelson just like I said we might be talking about this kid Joe Smith. I give him his accolades. I give him his accolades because I spoke about him before the fight when I didn't have information and I said that. Joe Smith made a statement and the statement itself made me think he was trying to set himself apart. He said, "I'm a common guy, fighting for a better way of life for my family." I said, "My man!"
PC: So you were rooting for the story and not the fighter because obviously people will think you were rooting for Joe Smith?
NR: I didn't have a dog in the race. I'll be honest, I was tired of seeing the highlight of Bernard going out of the ring. I watched the fight and I have my opinion. When a fighter goes out of the ring, sometimes you just have to grab them. A guy hits his head on the floor, why would you let him talk and speak and say a whole lot of things? He can say anything because we don't know what the damage is. But then when a guy says, "I run my own show." He beat Beibut Shumenov and I worked with him, people got on his back because Beibut Shumenov went into a fight without a chief second in the corner. And everybody cursed Beibut out because of that. My thing was, we bad-mouthed Beibut because of that, but should we? Here is my thing, should we? If you're not going to listen to the dude in the corner anyway, then why waste your time having him there? He could be somewhere else with another fighter. So maybe Beibut Shumenov was ahead of the curve. He out there and he think he know it all; he ain't the first fighter to think he know it all and that's arrogant, but at least he said, "Hey man, listen, no sense in me putting you in there because I ain't going to listen to you anyway. I'm going to be doing it on my own." He was man enough to take that sacrifice and he made that decision to go the way he wanted to go.
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