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Bernard Fernandez: Ornelas promises his best shot against Hopkins

IT'S IRONIC, when you stop and think about it, that the biggest fight of Enrique Ornelas' boxing career should take place in Philadelphia.

IT'S IRONIC, when you stop and think about it, that the biggest fight of

Enrique Ornelas'

boxing career should take place in Philadelphia.

Ornelas, you see, knows a thing or two about brotherly love. He was at ringside Saturday night in Quebec City, looking on in disappointment as his brother, Librado Andrade, was knocked out by a left uppercut to the solar plexus from Lucian Bute in the fourth round of Andrade's failed bid to claim Bute's IBF super middleweight championship.

"It kind of hurt me to see that," said Ornelas, although it might be presumed that the pain felt by Andrade, who was counted out by referee Benjy Esteves Jr. while on the canvas and gasping for air, was less figurative and more literal.

As fate would have it, Ornelas won't have to wait long for the opportunity to redeem family pride. Ornelas (29-5, 19 KOs) will try to spoil the professional homecoming of Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins (49-5-1, 32 KOs) in the Versus-televised 12-round main event tomorrow evening at the Liacouras Center. Maybe if Ornelas lands the same sort of perfect body punch that Bute connected with against Andrade - and, Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard Schaefer noted, that Hopkins landed in KO'ing Oscar De La Hoya - he can make history if he becomes the first man to stop the nearly 45-year-old icon inside the distance.

This time, Andrade, 31, will be at ringside and cheering on his 29-year-old brother.

"We pull for each other," said Ornelas, who will be fighting at light-heavyweight for the first time after fighting as a pro for 10 years as a middleweight and super middleweight. "I know Librado will be happy for me if I beat Bernard Hopkins. I never imagined Bernard would give me the blessing of this fight."

How much of a blessing it turns out to be depends on one's perspective. The prevailing opinion of the so-called experts is that Ornelas, a come-forward slugger who seemingly lacks the skills, experience and polish to imperil a world-class fighter like Hopkins, is in for a serious beatdown. But then opinions count for little when the bell rings, and even defensive geniuses like B-Hop can be toppled if nailed just so. The fact it hasn't happened yet doesn't mean someone, maybe even Ornelas, won't turn in a winning lottery ticket.

"I know exactly who I'm fighting," said Ornelas, who was born in Mexico and lives in La Habra, Calif. "I'm going to catch Bernard Hopkins at his best, because he's always at his best. I know he's not going to overlook me or take me lightly. That's not who Bernard Hopkins is.

"But I came here to win this fight, and I'm ready to win this fight."

Ornelas drifted onto Hopkins' radar when Roy Jones Jr. decided the time was right for him and Hopkins to reprise their 1993 showdown, which Jones won by unanimous decision. Jones already had signed for a cruiserweight bout in Australia for Dec. 2, against Danny Green, and Team Hopkins decided that an interim bout was needed, seeing as how their guy hadn't been in a scrap that counted since he schooled Kelly Pavlik on Oct. 18, 2008.

But the selection of Ornelas did not meet with unanimous approval.

"I didn't pick this fight," said Naazim Richardson, Hopkins' trainer. "When they said Enrique Ornelas, I said no. I didn't want this fight, because I know Enrique, and I know how tough he is."

But Ornelas' track record for giving as good and frequently better than he gets probably is why Hopkins, who never seems to chart the safest course when making career decisions, agreed to give him a whirl. You don't prepare for Roy Jones Jr. by cuffing around some designated victim who offers little or no resistance.

"My path to [Felix] Trinidad started with Keith Holmes," Hopkins noted of the less-celebrated middleweight champion he fought en route to his toppling of the favored Puerto Rican in the final of a 2001 unification tournament to establish the true king of the 160-pounders.

Making Haye

Manny Pacquiao's winning of world titles in an unprecedented seven weight classes should serve as proof that anything can and often does happen in the ring.

Hopkins' goal of following up hoped-for victories over Ornelas and Jones with a dethronement of WBA heavyweight champion David Haye sometime in 2010 is his way of saying that bigger isn't always better.

"People are going to say I'm crazy, but that's why I want to do it," Hopkins said of a possible confrontation with the 6-3, 217-pound Haye. "I know the risks. I will be the underdog, and I need to be. Mentally, I make myself the underdog in every fight."

If a matchup with Haye does take place, Hopkins said he again will enlist the services of nutritionist and physical conditioning guru Mackie Shilstone, who helped him put on pounds the proper way for his step up from middleweight to light-heavy and subsequent victory over Antonio Tarver.

A date to remember

Add Hopkins-Ornelas to the list of Dec. 2 events in Philadelphia boxing history. On that day in 1997, North Philly's Charles Brewer retained his IBF super middleweight title by outpointing Joey DeGrandis at the Blue Horizon. It's also the day that, in 1961, women's champion Jacqui Frazier-Lyde, the daughter of former heavyweight king Joe Frazier, was born. *

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