The fight was over. But there was one bit of drama left to play out. Remember that Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy that Mark Taffet spoke about? It was not presented to Hopkins at the post-fight press conference as expected. Maybe in the shadow of 9/11 and following a rousing conclusion to the Middleweight World Championship Series, a foot-tall sculpture wasn’t foremost on anybody’s mind. But it seemed curious, and rumors quickly began to spread that the trophy had been made with Felix Trinidad’s name on it, and therefore couldn’t be presented to Bernard. About a week later, Hopkins got his trophy at a press conference at Gallagher’s Steakhouse in New York. And here’s what Bernard says happened a few weeks after that.
Hopkins: Bouie Fisher, myself and James Fisher went over to Don King’s house, because I was a free agent when I beat Tito. I fought Tito in the tournament under no contract. Don King wanted to sign me now to a contract. He invited us to Fort Lauderdale, at the Four Seasons down the street from his house in Deerfield Beach—the Four Seasons or one of those hotels—we stayed there, and the next morning a car picked us up, we go to his house, we looking around at all the trophies in his office, he didn’t come out for like an hour, he kept us waiting. But we looking. Guess what was in there? It was the trophy. It was a trophy, the same trophy that I got, that I thought that I was the only one that got this famous trophy that this artist put together to hand to the winner of the tournament, but here’s the Sugar Ray Robinson trophy, sitting in Don King’s office, with Felix Trinidad name on there that was at the arena, that they didn’t give to me, cause it was locked in a room. They lied. And they couldn’t present it to me.
HBO Pay-Per-View’s Mark Taffet offers an alternate theory that might explain what Bernard Hopkins saw that day in King’s office.
Taffet: Well, I do recall this. I do recall that Don had wanted a trophy for himself, because he was proud of the tournament he created, and so proud of Sugar Ray Robinson’s name and memory being symbolic of the greatness of the tournament and the validity of the winner. So I knew that there was a second trophy made for Don, as a keepsake. But I have no idea what was on that trophy. I didn’t see it, I didn’t look at it. So I’m not aware. But I’ll leave it to Bernard to count and recount that. He was there and I wasn’t. Don wanted to see this from Day One through its conclusion and said it was one of the proudest accomplishments of his career. And that’s what the trophy represented to him. But I did not see the trophy itself, other than being aware that there definitely was going to be one for Don to keep.
I mentioned these opposing theories to Lou DiBella, who is never one to mince words.
DiBella: I’m going to agree with Bernard Hopkins on this one. I don’t believe Don had his own replica made because he was so proud of the tournament. Don was fucking shattered—Mark’s in never-neverland, I love him, but if he thinks that’s true he’s out of his effing mind. Don was beside himself that Hopkins won that fight. He had future rights through the tournament to Hopkins, but obviously Hopkins was not Trinidad at that point. Hopkins also did not have any kind of loyalty to Don. Or any desire really to have his career spearheaded by Don, so Don knew he was in trouble there. So I think the trophy that people saw, if they saw it in Don’s office, was exactly the trophy he was gonna present, and it still had Tito’s name on it, and he certainly wasn’t going to hand it to Hopkins. That’s my guess. But you know what? I have never asked Don about it. It’s completely believable to me that the trophy had Trinidad’s name on it. That makes perfect sense to me.
I reached out to Don King in hopes of interviewing him, but I got no response. So the story of the Sugar Ray Robinson trophy will remain something of a mystery. But the story of how that trophy was won is no mystery. I’ll give the final word to the third man in the ring that night, Steve Smoger.
Smoger: From my perspective, the fight lived up to the prefight hype and it was worthy of the stage that it was on, in New York City, in Madison Square Garden, with a packed house. And it looked like the first step in the healing process of the city of New York, and that’s the feeling I got in prefight, speaking with people—it was the first event that people came to. The aspect of recovery is the feeling that I got. The crowd was somewhat somber, but as the evening went on, it got more sporting, and lighter, and again, the fight lived up to and brought it to that level. That’s the feeling that I got. I’m glad it wasn’t a one-round blowout. It was a fight for the ages, and that’s why we’re talking about it.
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