Jermain Taylor (above, right) has done fine work this week in taunting Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (left) in advance of tomorrow’s middleweight title rematch , but MaxBoxing’s Jason Probst takes an analytical view amidst the hype.

Hopkins has the chance to regain his crown, and give himself an impressive send-off into supposed retirement. The champ, who turns 41 in January, swore to his late mother that he wouldn™t fight past the age of 40, and if he does pull the trick it™ll be the kind of accomplishment that™s gauged as much on what Taylor does in the future as for the performance itself.

Because for better or for worse, Hopkins and Taylor™s styles seemed to cancel each other out in their first tangle, which was more of a calculated fencing match with limited action until the late rounds. And even the high points “ Hopkins busting Taylor with some good shots down the stretch “ were only relatively exciting, occurring between lengthy stretches of fire-and-miss by Taylor, and Hopkins showing airtight defense without much return fire.

As a round-by-round scorer, it™s a rare kind of assignment that I dread in advance. I™ll be the first to admit I™ve had a bad night scoring, and when you do, it engenders expectable criticism. And when you have one chance to score a round before making it fodder for public consumption and can™t go back and change it, a perplexing style match up like Hopkins-Taylor can really invite all sorts of problematic pondering.

To be honest, many pay-per-view fights are sold more as spectacle and a chance to view history than on the merits of likely fireworks. Certainly, the first match was history of sorts, watching a future Hall of Famer take on a young buck who was his toughest challenge since Felix Trinidad in 2001. But action-wise, it wasn™t much. That™s why I™ll consider it a victory for boxing if either guy can make the other guy fight back more, instead of having two largely one-sided fights wrapped into a 12-round match.

Ricky Hatton, victorious and bloodied after last Saturday’s WBA light welterweight title victory over Carlos Maussar, compared his training regiment to that of soccer’s starlets in yesterday’s Sun.

Hatton, 27, is an avid Manchester City supporter.

But after making huge sacrifices to get fit for his title fights, the Hitman has no time for footballers moaning about playing too many matches. Hatton gives up booze for weeks and sticks to strict diets as he pounds the pavements to make the weight for bouts.

And he insists no professional footballer would have the discipline to become a world-class fighter.

But Hatton thinks footballers are soft. He said: œThere are times now when I shake my head in disbelief. Obviously, great players like Zinedine Zidane and David Beckham work incredibly hard.

œBut when a manager says he™s resting one of his ordinary players because they are exhausted after appearing in two games in six days, I laugh my c**k off.