In addition to Hopkins and Smith, Jr., co-main event fighters Joseph “Jojo” Diaz, Jr. (22-0, 13 KOs) and Horacio Garcia (30-1-1, 21 KOs) who will fight for Diaz, Jr.’s NABF Featherweight Title; and Oleksandr Usyk (10-0, 9 KOs) and Thabiso Mchunu (17-2, 11 KOs) who will battle for Usyk’s WBO Cruiserweight Title on the December 17 undercard were also in attendance along with Vyacheslav “Lionheart-Chingonskyy” Shabranskyy(17-0, 14 KOs) and Sullivan Barrera (17-1, 12 KOs) who will face off as the main event on the Friday, December 16 HBO Latino® card at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino in Indio, Calif.
Below are what the fighters had to say at the final press conference:
BERNARD “THE EXECUTIONER” HOPKINS, Former Two-Division World Champion and Future Hall of Famer:
“You have to prove you’re special, no matter how many titles you win. If you use that to stay in the game then you become special and an icon surpasses legend. Common man, special man. Which one do you want? Which one do you want? I want the special, you are that before you become that. If you want to work your way back down to common man, there’s a lot of people down there. I’m not going to predict that I end his [Joe’s] career. One day if he recovers mentally then he might have something to salvage and go forward. I’m a career stopper to most of my opponents that talk like him. Yes, I’m honored to be respected as Joe mentioned, too. I listen to words. Nobody is really paying attention to Joe.
“Joe won’t be special come Saturday. He will stay common.
“Since I gave you some food for thought, enjoy the final one, enjoy the textbook of the sweet science as you heard in the beginning of this press conference. The sweet science that I’ve been taught about boxing…the sweet science has nothing to do with power. It’s not like I can’t hit; I’ll beat you up.”
JOE SMITH, JR., Light Heavyweight Contender:
“I can’t even describe how excited I am to say it’s finally fight week. I’m ready for this Saturday and am very excited. I know I’m going to be there with a legend but I’ve worked very hard in the gym and made many sacrifices to get to where I am today. He is a legend, but Saturday night he’s just another opponent. I’m looking to stop him, be the first person to stop him in his entire career.”
OSCAR DE LA HOYA, Chairman and CEO of Golden Boy Promotions:
“Golden Boy Promotions is going out with a bang in 2016. We’ve put together two spectacular, back-to-back cards in December with these two events, Shabranskyy vs. Barrera and Hopkins vs. Smith, Jr.
“What can I say about Bernard Hopkins that hasn’t already been said? Bernard’s resume reads like a hall-of-fame induction ballot. Between holding the record for the record number of title defenses as middleweight champion of the world (20) and moving up to light heavyweight to capture multiple belts in that division, Hopkins fought and defeated a who’s who of boxing world champions throughout his 28-year career.
“I want to say also, that Bernard is not just a champion in the ring, but in life. He’s had a remarkable life and career-and it’s not over just yet.”
JOE DEGUARDIA, President and CEO of Star Boxing:
“This is truly history. It’s almost like the passing of the guard. One way or another this is the last fight you’ll be able to see of a man who has boxed for decades and has done it his way. This is probably the most dangerous fight Bernard can take. It’s truly special to either watch either Bernard victorious or the passing of the guard.
“Joe Smith is the perfect example of the common man. He’s a heart lion from New York, and he’s the kind of guy like so many others that get up early in the morning; his craft now is as a boxer but he’s a hardworking union member. Saturday night we believe you’re going to see what happens when the common working man breaks his everyday and defeats a legend, and then the doors open up. Joe Smith, Jr. has been working very hard to get this done. He’s focused on the thing that he needs to do Saturday night and come out victorious.”
JOHN DAVID JACKSON, Trainer for Bernard Hopkins:
“Saturday is the day. Smith team feels good and confident; our team feels great and confident. There’s so much you can say about Bernard, but he definitely sees the best and this is a good fight for the fans to see Bernard go out and win. He’s a tremendous individual in and out of the ring. We’re looking forward to a great evening of boxing.”
JERRY CAPOBIANCO, Trainer for Joe Smith, Jr.:
“I would like to thank Joe DeGuardia and Star Boxing, Golden Boy Promotions Bernard Hopkins for picking Joe for this fight. I believe he’s going to make a statement, and as Bernard’s last fight I think it’s Joe’s coming out party. I know my father is looking down on us, and we’re going to be victorious. For all those counting the odds, you can double your money. Thank you very much.”
JOSEPH “JOJO” DIAZ, JR., NABF Featherweight Champion:
“I want to thank Oscar and Golden Boy Promotions and HBO as well for giving me another opportunity to showcase my talent. Man, this is a historic event with the legend Bernard Hopkins. It’s a blessing to be the co-main event. I want to tell everyone that I’ve been through an extensive training camp. My opponent Horacio Garcia will go out there and prove himself, but we’re ready and I’ll see you guys Saturday at the Forum.”
HORACIO GARCIA, Featherweight Contender:
“I am very motivated to give a great fight. I form a part of Canelo Promotions and am part of the team with Eddy and Jose “Chepo” Reynoso and Canelo Alvarez. We have done a lot of work and have a great strategy for this fight.”
OLESKSANDR USYK, WBO Cruiserweight Champion:
“Hello my name is Oleksander Usyk. I will be fighting this Saturday. Thank you to everyone, and I will be ready for this Saturday.”
THABISO MCHUNU, Cruiserweight Contender:
“Thanks to HBO and Golden Boy Promotions for this opportunity to showcase my talent. With every good opposition you always rise to the occasion. Thank you.”
VYACHESLAV “LIONHEART-CHINGONSKYY” SHABRANSKYY, USNBC Light Heavyweight Champion:
“Good afternoon everyone. I will fight this Friday at Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, and you’re welcome to watch me. I’d like to thank everyone at Golden Boy Promotions and would like to wish Bernard Hopkins luck on Saturday.”
SULLIVAN BARRERA, Light Heavyweight Contender:
“I want to say thank you to Golden Boy Promotions, Kathy Duva and HBO for this opportunity. I want to say that this is a great fight for boxing fans, and I’m inviting everyone to go this Friday to Fantasy Springs Resort Casino. I think it’s a great show for everyone. Thank you for coming, and thank you for the support.”
NICK SPAMPANATO, Senior Vice President West Coast and General Manager of The Forum:
“We are proud to continue our rich boxing tradition by hosting the final fight for one of boxing’s living legends – Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins as he faces Joe Smith, Jr. this Saturday, Dec. 17. It’s set to be an exciting night and one for the history books.”
KATHY DUVA, CEO of Main Events:
“Before I start I’d like to congratulate Bernard. We’re very happy to be here. I’d like to thank HBO. The only way to consistently present good events is by all working together and that’s what we’ve done here. Sullivan [Barrera] proved his medal when he risked his number one position against Andre Ward, and he is coming to win on Friday night. Thank you so much and we’re all looking forward to it on Saturday.
“We met Thabiso Mchunu when we met Sullivan Barrera. This [cruiserweight] is the division I believe that you will see action. I have a good feeling about our fight and have a great opponent in Oleksandr Usyk. We’re looking forward to our fighters putting on the best show as possible.”
TOM LOEFFLER, Managing Director of K2 Promotions:
“This is a great boxing weekend. Friday and Saturday shows as Oscar [De La Hoya] had said are tremendous shows. It’s all possible because of the living and fighting legend, Bernard Hopkins. Everyone is here to pay tribute to Bernard. They’re getting the opportunity to showcase their skills on the same fight as this legend. Thank you to everyone at Golden Boy Promotions, and I’d like to thank Kathy Duva and Main Events. Certainly Mchunu wasn’t our first choice; he has a tricky style with southpaw, but this is a true quality HBO matchup. It’s been 13 years since HBO has showcased a cruiserweight championship fight.”
TONY WALKER, Director of HBO Sports:
“I’d like to thank Oscar and all of Golden Boy Promotions for putting together a great night of boxing. This is the greatest collection of promoters on one card we have put together, and I wish we could do this more often.
“This is the final World Championship Boxing show of 2016, and we are finishing it with a bang with this triple-header. This show is unique for all the different stories – you have Diaz who fights out of LA who is taking on a fighter who is trained under the famous Eddy Gomez. We have a cruiserweight bout with Usyk and Mchunu, which is historic since we haven’t had a cruiserweight bout on World Championship boxing since 2008.
“This will be Bernard Hopkins 23rd and last fight with HBO who will be fighting a young lion – and Bernard would have it any other way. The last images of Bernard fighting, with a scowl over his face with his arms crossed as the executioner pose will be seen by his followers from all over. We welcome him as part of the HBO family as he continues his plans post retirement.”