WBA middleweight champ Joppy has sights set on unified title Washington native defends tomorrow against Green

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Unbeaten middleweight champion William Joppy has his boxing future mapped out.

Joppy, 26, who owns the World Boxing Association share of the 160-pound title, is intent on unifying the title as soon as possible.

"I'm going to be like an Amtrak train heading up the East Coast, taking care of business," said the Washington native who makes his third title defense against Julio Cesar Green at Madison Square Garden tomorrow night.

"Really, I don't care who they put in front of me. But I'd like to start off right in my hometown against [World Boxing Council champion] Keith Holmes.

"He does a lot of talking behind my back. We used to train together a few years ago when Keith weighed 154. I was too strong for him then, and I'm much too strong for him now."

If Joppy sticks to his itinerary, his next stop would be to challenge Philadelphia's Bernard Hopkins, who wears the International Boxing Federation belt and is generally regarded as the best of the middleweight kings.

"That's on paper," said Joppy. "Let's decide it in the ring."

Joppy's mission to monopolize the division would then take him to New York to battle Lonnie Bradley, the World Boxing Organization titleholder.

It was Bradley's need for eye surgery that forced him to pull out of his scheduled championship fight with Green. Promoter Don King found a willing replacement in Joppy, who prefers keeping busy.

Although a draw with Rodney Toney two years ago is the only blemish on his 25-bout pro career, Joppy remains relatively unknown to all but hard-core fight fans. His two previous title defenses came against England's Ray McElroy and Brazil's Peter Venancio, hardly household names.

A protege of former world champion Sugar Ray Leonard, Joppy believes his first appearance at Madison Square Garden could be a "coming out party" in terms of media exposure.

"People are going to see just how good Joppy is," said co-manager Ollie Dunlap, a longtime Leonard aide.

"He's only been fighting for five years and is really still a diamond in the rough. Adrian Davis has been sharpening all his skills, shortening his punches, making him more of a boxer-puncher."

Davis, who has tutored several champions, took over as Joppy's trainer after his draw with Toney.

"Joppy is my kind of fighter," said Davis. "He's fundamentally sound, but he's got a lot of flash and cockiness to go with it. He believes nobody can beat him."

A gym rat who loves training, Joppy can spar 15 hard rounds without showing signs of fatigue. He has also exhibited a quick mind for changing his strategy in the course of a fight.

He also has displayed the heart of a champion when necessary. Such a time came when he journeyed to Japan last summer to challenge then WBA champion Shinji Takehara.

"That night Joppy showed just how tough he is," said Dunlap. "Late in the fight, the skin came off his toe and his shoe was soaked in blood. He could have quit, but he came back to the corner in the eighth round and said, 'I'm getting this title, no matter what.' "

Joppy knocked out Takehara in the next round and limped out of the ring wearing his new championship belt. Six days later, blister and all, he was back in the gym, plotting how he could become master of the middleweight division.

Pub Date: 8/22/97

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