Trinidad is back!

05.10.04 - By Ben Cohen: Felix Trinidad is back. After pulverising Ricardo Mayorga in eight of the most dramatic rounds in recent boxing history, he is now looking to revenge the sole blemish on his spectacular career by fighting Middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins gave Trinidad a sound boxing lesson in September 2001, knocking him out in the 12th round of their middleweight clash. The fight was one sided by all accounts with Hopkins winning virtually every single round.

Tito looked fantastic against Mayorga, despite a two-year lay off, showing signs that he actually may be an improved fighter. Does he have enough to pose a threat to the awesome Hopkins?

Scaling 157lbs for the fight, Trinidad had clearly prepared, coming in well under the limit. On fight night, he had gained another 10lbs but seemed to carry it well, suggesting that he was fighting in his optimum weight category. The first round was a shaky one for Trinidad. He reeled off some decent jabs, but Mayorga rocked him with a series of jabs, right hands and hooks.

Trinidad seemed unstable on his feet, almost tripping over them at times. Towards the end of the round, Tito caught ‘El Matador’ flush with his favourite left hook. Amazingly, Mayorga stuck his chin out and invited him to hit him again, which Trinidad promptly did with three more power shots. The hooks seemed not to move Mayorga.

Up to that point it would seem that Trinidad was a shell of his former-self. If he could not hurt a blown up Welterweight, then his future in the sport would certainly be short lived. Trinidad, however, quickly put a rest to the doubts by smashing Mayorga with a series of right hands that almost put the Nicaraguan down at the end of the first. From the second round onwards, Trinidad began to regain form and started to box intelligently. He displayed a more thoughtful approach to his fighting, showing more sophisticated movement, side stepping, circling and jabbing and moving.

Mayorga, whose power had evidently not come up with him from Welterweight flailed at Trinidad, occasionally catching him, but receiving short and hurtful counters on the inside. Mayorga scored a flash knock down in the third, but had not seriously hurt Trinidad. By the fifth, Trinidad was landing a frightening amount of his power shots.

Mayorga continued to attack with Trinidad hitting him on the counter with beautiful combinations. Mayorga’s head was twisted by some hooks thrown with pinpoint accuracy, and only just survived the round.

In the 6th, Trinidad pressed forward, continuing to punish Mayorga. He smashed him with a punch to the hip, Mayorga called foul and was allowed 90 seconds rest. He actually managed to regain some ground and attacked bravely. However, he was still being hit with crisp, vintage Trinidad shots, and did not look dangerous.

He took a barrage of shots at the end of the 7th and was looking positively beaten up, complaining in vain to the referee about a vicious Trinidad shot to the body. The 8th saw Mayorga floored three times, twice with cracking body shots, and finally with a flush left hook to the chin. Referee Steve Smoger had seen enough and called the fight off. Trinidad, in short, was back to his brilliant best.

As his he and his father mentioned in training, Trinidad had kept himself healthy during his lay off, and was even working on new things in the gym. The power was certainly there, and it even looked as if he had become a more complex, nuanced fighter. He displayed intelligence, clever movement and excellent ring general ship in his fight with Mayorga. Given these factors, does he have enough then, to compete effectively with Hopkins?

Let us recall how Trinidad and Hopkins measured up in their first fight. Trinidad was fairly new to the middleweight limit, having had only one previous fight at the 160 lb limit. However, the way in which he battered William Joppy inside of five rounds seemed to have cleared up any doubts as to whether he had carried his power up from the Junior middleweight division.

Hopkins has been a Middleweight for virtually his entire career (actually moving down from Light Heavyweight). He is notoriously strong at 160, and has rarely been troubled by even the heaviest of punchers. In their fight, Trinidad came in as the favourite, with most believing he had too much punch power for an aging Hopkins. However, it quickly became apparent that Hopkins was not bothered by Trinidad’s much-vaunted firepower.

The fight was fought at a measured pace for the first couple of rounds. Trinidad would press the action, coming forward while Bernard would jab and move circling to his left to avoid Trinidad’s left hook. As the fight wore on, Bernard began to continuously beat Tito to the punch, scoring regularly with jabs and powerful, commanding right hands. He also began to take Trinidad apart on the inside, roughing him up and imposing his physical strength. Tito could not find a way to land effective punches, but never gave up trying.

Trinidad did not vary his game plan, while Hopkins continued to neutralise everything he did. In the final four rounds of the fight, Hopkins began to punish Trinidad, countering masterfully and completely having his way. The knock down in the 12th, after a particularly savage 11th caused Trinidad’s father (and trainer) to throw the towel in, not wishing him to take further punishment.

Trinidad fought once more after his humiliating loss, outclassing and stopping Hacine Cherifi in four rounds. He then retired, apparently in good health at the age of 29. Coming back after a two and a half year lay off to fight the dangerous former Welterweight champion Ricardo Mayorga fuelled a great deal of speculation as to whether Trinidad could compete again at world class level. Their fight at Madison Square Gardens on the 2nd of October answered many questions, but has sparked off new debate with regards to the outcome of a second Trinidad-Hopkins fight.

The answer, unfortunately for Trinidad, has to be no. Hopkins has been active since he beat Trinidad, and despite his age shows no signs of slipping. In his most recent outing against Oscar De La Hoya, Bernard looked every bit as dominating at 39 as he did at 29 (probably even more so).

Although De La Hoya outfoxed Hopkins for the first three rounds or so in their fight, Bernard began to figure Oscar out and proceeded to dominate thereafter. His reflexes were there, and so were all the other assets that have made him unbeaten in 10 years. Hopkins simply has too much for Trinidad. Although it is possible that Trinidad would provide a better fight than the first, Bernard has Tito’s number. He is just too intelligent to allow Trinidad to do any of the things he does well, and a rematch would probably be similar to the first. It is also possible that Hopkins would take Tito out earlier, as Bernard has performed particularly well in rematches. Once Hopkins has figured someone out, he has a remarkable ability to take an opponent apart based on the flaws
he sees.

Trinidad would be better off fighting De La Hoya again for considerably more money. At middleweight, Trinidad would probably be too much for the Golden Boy, who has not carried his power up from the lower weights. Trinidad is a great fighter and a huge boost for the sport, but pound for pound, Bernard Hopkins is still King.

Article posted on 05.10.2004

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