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Ringside Report Looks Back at Two Time Middleweight Champion William Joppy

By Donald “Braveheart” Stewart

“I want to be remembered just like you remember Roberto Duran or Jake LaMotta.” As told to “Bad” Brad Berkwitt in his boxing book, Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime

Born in Silver Spring Maryland, William Joppy 40-7-2, 30 KOs, was a man of his time. As we, in this modern age, spend far too long wondering about how “done” a fighter may be after they suffer a loss, Joppy was a fighter who fought for fighting. He was a ring master at times, and other times things were chancy. But he was never less than entertaining with it.

Competing within three weight categories – middle, super middle and light heavy – he was able to retire with three world titles at the same weight and the same sanctioning body – the WBA. He had to fight to win that world title three times over!

His story began with an Olympic cycle when he was beaten by Chris Byrd in 1991. It meant a dream was to falter, but there was always a bigger picture or so it seems. Later on when asked about that fight, Joppy was to show a fairly bitter tone as he remarked that he, “beat him but his father was the Olympic team coach then.”

His debut came on the 26th of February in 1993 when he beat Dwayne Tennet on points in Camp Hill. Joppy was unconcerned about anything aside from the fact that he was getting paid!
His first fight for a title came on the 16th of September 1995, when he fought Rodney Toney for the NABF middleweight belt. It ended in a majority draw so the search for a title was to continue beyond then.

It took 9 months.

His first world title came in 1996 when he went over to Japan and on the 24th of June, in Yokohama, took on reigning champion, Shinji Takehara. In the 9th round he stopped Takehara with a flurry of punches that marked out the beginning of a distinct and skilled practitioner of the noble art.

He managed two defenses – the first a 6th round stoppage when he was way ahead on the scorecards, against Ray McElroy in Upper Marlboro. Then on the 10th of May 1997, in Miami, he beat Peter Venancio on points. It was very tight and perhaps spoke of limits for him before he went off to Madison Square Gardens.

On the 23rd of August 1997, he defended there, against Julio Cesar Green but was unable to stop his title slipping away from him in a points loss in New York. On the 31st of January the following year he avenged that defeat in Tampa and got back his title with a wide points win – two world title wins down, one to go.

Then in 1998, Joppy’s name was on the lips of a true ring legend. Roberto Duran. In August, in Las Vegas, he went in to battle against Duran in a delayed world title defense. It was meant to be on the undercard of the Evander Holyfield – Henry Akinwande fight, but Akinwande tested positive for hepatitis B and that meant the whole card was rescheduled.

Duran was 47 years old and way past his best. Now a 114-fight veteran, his legacy was being tainted by keeping going. Joppy, if he did one thing, was to beat Duran so convincingly that it led to many believing that Duran should immediately retire from the sport. Duran was stopped in the 3rd round.

Joppy was to continue successfully defending his title.

Julio Cesar Green was stopped in the 7th on the 24th of September 1999 in Washington, then Jonathan Reid though unbeaten when he got in the ring, in Las Vegas, on the 2nd of December 2000, was stopped in the 4th round, and then he came up against another unbeaten fighter.

The time had come for unification and that meant on the 12th of May 2001, facing the fearsome and feared Felix Trinidad in Madison Square Gardens. The fight did not go beyond the 5th round as Joppy succumbed in the 5th.

Sometime later and in an interview with Ike Enwereuzor, just before his fight with Brit Howard Eastman, Joppy reflected on that fight, “Trinidad got caught rapping his hands illegally. He has been cheating the fans all this time. I have taken his lost as a man but know people can see that he’s been cheating. I took it like a man, I’ll be 150% this time. I just made mistakes. Trinidad don’t have punching power he has been illegally rapping his hands. Bernard took away his power after he found him rapping his hands illegally. Trinidad cheated against me and others he fought in the past… I can’t give him any credit because he cheated. He hurt in the first round. He doesn’t have punching power. He has been rapping his hands illegally.”
It was a return to some of the bitterness referred to earlier.

And so, for a third time, Joppy went in search of that belt. In the meantime, Bernard Hopkins had claimed it, and then become the super champion vacating the normal belt. Joppy on the 17th of November, back in Las Vegas, reclaimed it, remarkably for a third time, when he beat British contender Howard Eastman on a close majority points decision, on the undercard of the Rahman-Lewis card. He defended it successfully in Kokugikan against Naotaka Hozumi when he stopped his man in the 10th round on the 10th of October 2002.

Unification beckoned once more. On the 13th of December 2003 in Atlantic City, Joppy then found himself defending against another fearsome contender in the shape of Bernard Hopkins. It was clear that this may well be the beginning of the end as Joppy lost widely with the IBF, WBC and WBA belts on the line.

Joppy then went on to share a ring with Jermain Taylor for the WBC continental Americas belt, however Taylor scored a similarly wide points win in Little Rock, on the 4th of December 2004.
Now he went up in weight to super middle and was hoping for a stellar run and a chance for a second weight world title. He did get a chance when on the 29th of February 2008, he faced IBF super middleweight champion, Lucian Bute in Montreal. Bute stopped Joppy in round 10 and straight after Joppy announced his retirement.

But he did not stay retired.

Two years later he came back. In 2010, in Fairfax, he got a majority draw against Cory Cummings and then in 2011, William Joppy fought Beibut Shumenov in Shymkent for the IBA and WBA light heavyweight titles. Knocked out in the 6th round, Joppy was to return once more to the ring when he beat Cory Cummings in his final fight.
And then he retired…

His legacy? A massive one, and though he may have made some wild claims over previous opponents, Joppy managed to get to the summit and deserves the praise and respect for taking so many of us with him.

Click Here to Order Boxing Interviews Of A Lifetime By “Bad” Brad Berkwitt