LAS VEGAS - Winky Wright had been vanquished only a half-hour earlier, and already Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins' closest advisers were looking ahead to the next Big Fight. But the smallest and youngest member of Hopkins' inner circle provided a voice of dissent.
At the postfight news conference, Hopkins asked his 8-year-old daughter, Latrece, if she would consent to allow him to postpone his retirement a while longer.
"I want you to stay home with me," Latrece said, reflecting the innocent wish of a little girl who prefers her daddy to be at home instead of away in training camp for months at a time.
"Tell you what," Hopkins said, smiling down at his only child, "let me fight one more and I'll buy you four American Girl dolls."
Even with the temporary $300,000 hold on his purse imposed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission for shoving Wright's face at Friday's rowdy weigh-in, it's a pretty safe bet B-Hop - who was paid $3 million for the Wright fight - can afford four, or 40, of the pricey collectibles Latrece so favors. He might have to keep on indulging her, too, because it could be that Hopkins' protracted farewell party will last until Latrece outgrows dolls and develops her first preadolescent crush on a boy.
"If I wanted to - and I don't say this to be bragging or boasting - I could fight another 4 years," said Hopkins, 42, of a boxing prime that seems nowhere near an expiration date that for most fighters already would be long past. "I am cut from the cloth of Jersey Joe Walcott, Ezzard Charles and Henry Armstrong."
Although you could get differing opinions as to what they had witnessed from 8,626 on-site spectators in the Mandalay Bay Events Center, and an HBO Pay-Per-View audience that should track at 350,000-plus when all the returns are in, this much is clear: Hopkins (48-4-1, 32 KOs) scored a clear-cut, unanimous decision over the favored and Hall of Fame-bound Wright (51-4-1, 25 KOs) to retain his Ring magazine light-heavyweight championship and he strengthened his position as one of his sport's top pound-for-pound performers.
Judges Dave Moretti and Glenn Trowbridge each saw Hopkins as a 117-111 winner in the clinch-filled, sometimes inelegant contest, while Glenn Hamada had it only slightly closer at 116-112. Hopkins also came out ahead on the Daily News card, 116-113.
But boxing matches are like modern art. Hey, abstract expressionist Jackson Pollock became renowned for splashing paint in a seemingly random manner on his canvases. It was unconventional, but it achieved a level of aesthetic and commercial success. Hopkins uses canvas of a different sort, but his style, while at times unorthodox, also plays to rave reviews among more than a few members of the boxing cognescenti.
"By beating Winky Wright, Bernard Hopkins is poised for a number of very big fights if he wants them," said Mark Taffet, HBO's pay-per-view chief. "You have [Jermain] Taylor, [Kelly] Pavlik, [Mikkel] Kessler, [Edison] Miranda. [Felix] Trinidad's talking about coming back.
"Bernard is in the mix with all those guys, and I would think they all would be fights that the public would love to see."
Added Oscar De La Hoya, for whose company, Golden Boy Promotions, his onetime conqueror is one of the marquee attractions: "There's some good opportunities for Hopkins to keep on shining. He's a student of the game. He was always in control [against Wright]."
Of the multiple options presumably available to him, Hopkins' preferred opponent appears to be WBO super middleweight champion Joe Calzaghe (43-0, 32 KOs), who faces a tough challenge in WBA/WBC titlist Kessler (39-0, 29 KOs). They square off in a 168-pound unification bout Nov. 3 in Calzaghe's hometown of Cardiff, Wales.
"I think a Calzaghe fight in Yankee Stadium would be a great event," Hopkins said.
Someone remarked that the New York weather could be dicey for an outdoor bout in March 2008, the time frame Golden Boy and HBO apparently have in mind.
"Y'all can wear jackets," Hopkins said. "That fight is so big, we could put a tent on that thing. What do you call it, a dome?"
If Calzaghe is amenable and can be lured out of his comfort zone in the United Kingdom - "My legacy is super-longer than Joe Calzaghe's, and I think he ought to come to my house," Hopkins opined - he would be the third consecutive lefthanded fighter to have fought the ageless wonder from North Philadelphia. That hasn't posed much of a problem to date for B-Hop, who is now 11-0 against southpaws.
Certainly, the very formidable Wright - who went off as a 2-1 favorite, up from an opening-line 7-5 - appeared to be well off his form against someone who was considerably better conditioned and, if anything, even more slick. At bout's end, Wright, who bled from a cut over his left eye from the third round on after a (possibly) inadvertent clash of heads, appeared totally gassed. Hopkins, on the other hand, looked daisy fresh.
Punch statistics compiled by CompuBox revealed that Hopkins landed 143 of 549 power shots to just 80 of 328 for Wright. That was not a surprise; that Wright was on target with just 87 of 290 jabs was.
"Y'all said that Winky Wright has the best defense in boxing, that Winky Wright has the best jab in boxing," Hopkins said. "So it was easy for me to know what to take away from him.
"I took those things away from him and he was helpless. He had no other tool to work with."
Hopkins made something that should have been difficult sound like, well, child's play.
Now if he can only explain to Latrece why he has to leave home again sometime soon . . .