There will be no "love-in" at the Washington Convention Center tonight when International Boxing Federation middleweight king Bernard Hopkins and Robert Allen battle in a championship rematch.
When their first encounter in Las Vegas ended last August, Hopkins surprisingly found himself sprawled among the spectators.
This came as a result of a push from referee Mills Lane, who had spent the better part of four rounds trying to separate the two fighters, who did more wrestling than boxing.
Hopkins fell through the ropes to the arena floor. He strained a ligament in his left ankle, which quickly ballooned to twice its normal size. The fight was ruled "no contest" and IBF president Bob Lee mandated a rematch as soon as Hopkins was fit to fight again.
"He bailed out," Allen said. "He could have continued to fight. I think he just fell through the ropes and took a dive."
Countered Hopkins: "People who aren't biased saw what really happened. I've looked at the tapes so many times. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to see that he's a dirty fighter.
"I can't fault Mills Lane. He's a fair referee. Allen had me in a headlock and wouldn't let go. He also kept scraping the laces of his gloves across my face. But I never complain to the referee. You don't want the guy you're fighting to think you're crying.
"Allen treated the 'no contest' ruling as a victory. But that's just trash talking. He should have been disqualified. I could have broken my neck, and who was going to send my wife and kids a stipend every month?"
Still, Hopkins, who calls himself "the people's champion," having held the middleweight crown since 1995 and successfully defended it seven times, said some good may have come out of his bizarre scuffle with Allen.
"Blessings come in different disguises," he said. "The first fight caused a lot of controversy. Some people may think he really has my number. But I never get the respect I deserve."
After spending a good part of his teen-age years incarcerated on assault charges, Hopkins has learned to take care of himself in and out of the ring, especially when it comes to money. He had to sue to break ties with longtime promoter Butch Lewis, whom he accused of shortchanging his purse from his 1993 fight with Roy Jones for the then vacant middleweight title.
"I have to set a standard outside the ring," he said. "People respect and listen to a champion. I have to be able to articulate and explain this business, because a lot of fighters get badly burned. I'm a man who stands up for something I believe in."
One thing Hopkins strongly believes is that it won't pay him to try unifying the middleweight title if forced to accept the terms of Don King, who controls the other two 160-pound champions -- William Joppy of the World Boxing Association and Hassime Cherifi of the World Boxing Council.
Joppy and Cherifi also were scheduled to defend their respective titles tonight, but were sidelined by injuries. Former WBC champion Keith Holmes is also a King fighter.
"I'll never be happy with the way boxing is structured," Hopkins said. "Whether you're dealing with King, Bob Arum, Dino Duva, it's all politics. Fighters have no chance against promoters. It's like a welterweight fighting Mike Tyson.
"The main thing that motivates a fighter is money, but I'm not in control of the buttons. Don't throw me a bone. I'm not a dog. I'm going to force people to pay homage to me. I won't let ego lead me to ignorance. I'm a blue-collar worker, but I just want to be paid what I'm worth. I'm tired of fighting for minimum wages.
"King knows I'm the missing piece to the middleweight puzzle," said Hopkins, now promoted by Dan Goosen. "The longer guys like Joppy and Holmes fight, the more they'll be recognized by the public. But I don't have to sign my career over to Don King."
If six-figure purses elude him as a middleweight, Hopkins said he will consider moving up to the super middleweight class or seeking a rematch with Jones, the current light heavyweight champion, at an agreed upon weight.
"Roy is a great fighter," said Hopkins. "But he can't treat me as 'an opponent.' He can't get millions while I'm getting only $300,000. So I'm sitting back biding my time. I'll just keep plugging away. I can't force anyone to fight me. I can only control what happens in the ring.
"If you make yourself independent of promoters, you're difficult to handle. You have to have some kind of habit they [promoters] can control -- drugs, alcohol or women. But I've got the same habit as promoters -- money."
It sounds like Hopkins is working himself into a rage for Allen, but he says it's just the contrary.
"You've got to know how to control your anger," he said. "Trying to get even is why all the jails are filled. I know that. I've been there. Now I know there's a better way, keeping cool."
Who: Bernard Hopkins (34-2-1) vs. Robert Allen (23-2), New Orleans, 12 rounds, for Hopkins' IBF middleweight title. Sharmba Mitchell (43-2), Takoma Park, vs. Pedro Saiz (23-4-3), Dominican Republic, for Mitchell's WBA junior welterweight title. Keith Holmes (30-2), Washington, vs. Alex Lubo (12-4), Miramar, Fla., middleweights, 10 rounds. Vincent Pettway (41-6), Baltimore, vs. Gerald Reed (15-20-3), Georgetown, Ky., welterweights, 10 rounds.
Where: Washington Convention Center, 9th and G streets, NW
When: Tonight, first bout, 7
Promoter: Don King
Pub Date: 2/06/99