Trainer Naazim Richardon is widely regarded as one of the best strategists in the sport, and has helped craft the game plans that have seen fighters such as Bernard Hopkins and many others overcome the odds time and time again. Richardson is now set to do that more, as Bernard Hopkins seems set for yet another unification fight, and will once again be the underdog if he does face Light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson.
In part one of this interview with Naazim Richardson, he speaks about Adonis Stevensons’ latest fight with Andrzej Fonfara and analyses the performance of both fighters. Naazim also talks about the likelihood of a title unification bout between Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins, and what he thinks are the strengths of each men going into the bout. Lastly, Richardson comments on the recent Hall of Fame inductees and his desire to have Bernard join alongside his peers. Here is what Bother Naazim Richardson had to say.
Jenna J: Adonis Stevenson recently had a tougher than expected fight with Andrzej Fonfara. What did you think about Stevenson’s performance?
Naazim Richardson: I thought it showed exceptional resilience from Adonis Stevenson. My thing is that, if you don’t know Fonfara — which a lot of people didn’t know — you don’t know what to expect from him, but Fonfara is a talented athlete and I give Adonis Stevenson high points for taking a fight that tough. He didn’t take a quick gimme, he took a tough fight. A lot of respect to him and his team.
Jenna J: Adonis was dominating the fight early on but Fonfara never gave up. When you look at the fight as a whole, how do you evaluate the performance of both fighters?
Naazim Richardson: Fonfara gave him what I expected — a young tough kid getting his first shot like that and he did what you do. He presented himself well to the task, whereas even if he didn’t get the win, you’re still recognized, and here we are still talking about it days later. That’s what an athlete wants to do, if you can’t get the win, at least draw some attention.
Jenna J: With that win, Stevenson now sets himself up for a unification fight with Bernard Hopkins. Now that Stevenson is with Showtime, how likely do you see that fight happening?
Naazim Richardson: I don’t handle that part of the business, but I’m confident that a showdown like that is in the works, for the simple fact that it’s what the fans want, and that’s truly who we perform for. I’m pretty sure that everybody is edging towards that showdown between Adonis Stevenson and Bernard Hopkins, ‘The Alien.’
Jenna J: The people that are giving Stevenson the edge are saying that he’s strong and a southpaw. When you look at Stevenson, what do you think his strengths are against Bernard?
Naazim Richardson: He’s strong, he’s well coached, and he’s very strong. Bernard has never had a problem with southpaws. Go look at his record, I think Bernard has lost to one southpaw out of maybe like 10 times he fought southpaws.
Jenna J: When you look at Bernard Hopkins, what are his strengths against someone like Stevenson?
Naazim Richardson: The strengths are like I said, his experience with southpaws, his experience against power, and he not only has been very well coached throughout his career, he’s a good coach himself.
Jenna J: Do you think Bernard is gonna go in there with the mindset that he has to knockout Stevenson, or do you think he can get a decision in Canada?
Naazim Richardson: My thing is, I prefer not to fight in Canada myself. Bernard prefers to have the entire deck stacked against him, he likes to prove the whole world wrong when he does something. He wants everybody cheering for the other guy. It could possibly wind up in Canada — I know he’s not fearful of it.
The thing is, Bernard Hopkins’ intellect is that we come into every fight looking to manipulate, maneuver and take advantage of and exploit any short comings of the athlete we face. Looking for knockout is something that Stevenson does, he’s strong, if you’re strong what else are you gonna do? Are you gonna outsmart somebody when you’re strong?
If I can bench press more than you, why would I want to challenge you to a spelling contest? You just stay with your strength in the sense that, if my little nephews come over to my house, I’m not gonna challenge them to a game of Call of Duty on the internet, I’m gonna tell them to go get that chess board out — I’m gonna stay to my strength. You work with the weapons that you have. These are the weapons that we’ve been successful with, these are the weapons that we have to bring.
Jenna J: Bernard looked as impressive as ever in his last fight with Beibut Shumenov. When you looked at that performance, what did you see from Bernard?
Naazim Richardson: My thing with Bernard Hopkins is, I have to admit, he’s maybe not faster, maybe not stronger but his intellect has made him a more complete fighter now than he even was when he faced killers such as (Felix) Trinidad and (Antonio) Tarver. He’s developed and grown into a more complete athlete.
Jenna J: If the fight does happen between Stevenson and Hopkins, what do you think fans will be surprised about most?
Naazim Richardson: If Stevenson and Hopkins fight, the fans will search for Stevenson to be the stronger man. I think they’ll be surprised by how strong Bernard is — the fans will be surprised that Bernard is very quick for an older fighter.
We know if Adonis Stevenson is getting done what he normally gets done, the fight won’t be long because his fights aren’t long when he gets done what he wants done. On the same token, when we see Bernard manipulating Adonis Stevenson, you may be in for some real fireworks then.
Jenna J: Felix Trinidad, Oscar De La Hoya and Joe Calzaghe are being inducted into the boxing Hall of Fame. What do you think about that? Bernard could have had wins against all 3 of them.
Naazim Richardson: Well it’s just a testament to his longevity and his diligence and commitment to the sport and conditioning. Bernard Hopkins should put out a fitness tape and he’ll make more money than he made in boxing. He’ll bump Billy Blanks and all these other guys with the P90X, he’ll smash those dudes, because his thing is proven in combat, in serious combat.
They will be in Hall of Fame and this guy is still fighting for titles — he’s not just fighting, he’s still fighting for titles, and if you looked at his last fight, he’s still looking pretty good. This guy unified the middleweight division and he’s on record and on course to unify the light heavyweight division.
I told his lawyer, that they should seek for him to go into the Hall of Fame immediately after unifying the light heavyweight division. He shouldn’t have to wait five years after retirement, he should be able to go into the Hall of Fame right next to his graduating class of Oscar and those guys.