Hopkins vs. Trinidad II: Re-match Or Re-peat

10.07.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - Felix Trinidad is without a doubt one of the greatest fighter's of his era. His willingness to fight the other top fighter's of his generation says something about his character. After being out of the ring for almost thirty months, he chose one of the roughest and toughest punchers in Boxing weighing between 154-160 to take on in his first fight back, Ricardo Mayorga. Not only could Mayorga punch, he's also very awkward. Most conventional fighters have to be forced to fight an unorthodox fighter who can hit. Not Felix Trinidad, he does it in his first fight coming off the longest inactive period of his career. Trinidad picked up right where he left off, fighting the best fighters available and emerging victorious.

In his fight with Ricardo Mayorga this past October 2nd, Trinidad made it clear for all to see that the two fighters are not in the same league. Trinidad was dominant from no later than the second round on, administering Mayorga a one sided beating. In the eighth round Trinidad hurt Mayorga, knocking him down three times leading to the fight being stopped. Three days after enduring the worst beating of his career, Ricardo Mayorga retired from the ring.

In what was his fourth official fight at 160, Trinidad never looked more like a full fledged Middleweight. Trinidad left the Madison Square Garden ring after defeating Mayorga as a crowd favorite and to a rousing applause. With a dominant performance over a feared world class fighter under his belt, Trinidad officially injected himself into the Middleweight title picture.

Ironically, it was in that same Madison Square Garden ring almost three years ago to the day, where Trinidad suffered the only defeat of his career. On September 29th 2001, Trinidad challenged undisputed Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins hadn't lost a fight in over eight years and was the reigning Middleweight Champ for last six at that time.

The night of the fight, Hopkins out fought and out thought the 5-2 favored Trinidad for 11 rounds, exposing him as one dimensional fighter. In the 12th round Hopkins dropped a very hurt and tired Trinidad leading his corner to throw in the towel ending the fight. At the time of the stoppage, Hopkins was leading on all three of the judges scorecards, 109-100, 107-102, 107-102. For Hopkins, the win was the biggest of his career at the time, for Trinidad it was the first time he tasted defeat as a pro.

Two weeks prior to Trinidad stopping Mayorga, Bernard Hopkins stopped Oscar De La Hoya in the ninth round to make the 19th consecutive defense of his Middleweight title. The following week Roy Jones, who was rumored to be Hopkins next opponent, was stopped in the ninth round by Glencoffee Johnson. Heading into his fight with Jones, Johnson was 2-2-2 in his last six fights. With the future of Roy Jones uncertain, Felix Trinidad has emerged as a potential Hopkins opponent.

A rematch between Hopkins and Trinidad is one of the biggest fights in Boxing that could be made at this time. Trinidad would no doubt love to avenge his only loss as a pro. Something many of his loyal fans still haven't come to grips with, accepting that Hopkins convincingly beat Tito. For Hopkins, a Trinidad rematch represents another multi million dollar payday, and another chance to silence those who still may believe Trinidad is the better fighter, that he's not. But would the outcome be any different this time?

In the first fight the counter-punching Hopkins reduced Trinidad to an attacking swarmer looking to end the fight with his big left-hook, and not having a plan-B to fall back on. Hopkins beat Trinidad inside and outside nailing him with two and three punch combinations as Trinidad tried to get close, hoping to land his powerful hooks and crosses. The bottom line was Trinidad had no answers for anything Hopkins did strategically, resulting in an overwhelming Hopkins victory.

Was their first fight really a true indicator as to how they match up, or can Trinidad do anything different this time to change the outcome? I believe the first fight between them is pretty much how it would play out again. And no, I don't think there is much Trinidad can do to change the outcome. He is what he is, a pressure fighter who can only fight effectively moving forward and attacking.

I see a potential Hopkins-Trinidad rematch sharing some parallels with the Holyfield-Tyson rematch. Trinidad and Tyson are alike in that they are swarmers who can only fight moving forward, seeking to win by knockout. Only Trinidad can jab and throw straight punches, and he doesn't tend to fade like Tyson as the fight progresses. Hopkins and Holyfield are alike in that they are excellent counter punchers who are at their best when their opponents come to them. However, they can and will be the aggressor if they feel it's to their advantage. And last but certainly not least, both Hopkins and Holyfield have a cast iron chin. Which is partly what makes them a nightmare for Trinidad and Tyson.

Pressure fighters like Trinidad and Tyson pretty much know going in that the odds of winning by decision over Hopkins and Holyfield are not in their favor. When the fighter who feels he must win by knockout, doesn't do significant damage within the first half of the fight, the momentum shifts to their opponent psychologically. The fighter who is dependent on his power knows he isn't going to get stronger during the fight, and now must find another way to win. Which works to the counter punchers advantage since his opponents power was the biggest obstacle he had to overcome.

In a rematch with Hopkins, Trinidad will have the same burden on him as Tyson did facing Holyfield in their rematch. That is relying solely on their punching power to win. In their fight back in September of 2001, Trinidad was slowly and methodically broken down by Hopkins. By Tito forcing the fight, he played to Hopkins strength. Hopkins ripped him with three and four punch combinations and counters as he was coming in.

Hopkins is a surgeon when his opponent comes to him, and he knows Trinidad cannot fight or punch effectively any other way. From a style vantage point, Trinidad is in a catch-22 versus Hopkins. By going after him he puts himself directly in line to be hit hard while moving in, before he even gets a chance to land his own power punches. And If Tito tries to fight at a measured pace, Hopkins will pick him apart and win every round.

To compound things for Trinidad, Hopkins is as mentally tough as any fighter you'll ever see. On top of that, he has a cast iron chin. So the odds of Trinidad ending the fight with one big shot isn't likely, and it's something he certainly can't count on. What happens if Trinidad explodes one of his big left hooks on Hopkins chin, and he answers him back with a two or three punch counter? Will he start thinking inside, this is how it went last time? If he doesn't get Hopkins out or really put a hurt on him before the seventh or eighth round, how does he pull the fight out?

The worst scenario for Trinidad is him trailing late in the fight and needing to score a knockout to win. This will most likely lead him to take chances that he normally never has to. Which ultimately leaves him open to be stopped if he's too reckless.

Lastly, Hopkins has a huge psychological advantage over Trinidad as a result of their last fight. Hopkins approaches a Trinidad rematch even more sure of himself then he was the first time, and he was without doubt the first time. Whereas Trinidad will come to the ring hoping that it will be different this time. And if Trinidad doesn't realize much success in the early going, there's a good chance he may start second guessing himself and thinking of how it ended last time.

As great a fighter as Felix Trinidad is, Bernard Hopkins is a very tough match up for him. When sizing them up, Trinidad only holds two advantages. He's younger and he's a better puncher. But against Hopkins, having the bigger punch isn't nearly enough. Hopkins is a better boxer with better stamina and is just as strong or stronger physically. On top of that Hopkins has a significantly better chin, and in my opinion he's a little tougher mentally. To win, Trinidad probably has to knock Hopkins out. To do that he has to get close. To get close he's going get hit on the way in, which is a high price to pay over the course of a 12 round fight. I just think because of his style, Trinidad is too reliant on his punch to beat Hopkins. It will take more than just a big punch to make Hopkins an ex-champ.

There is one other thing Trinidad has in his favor this time. Hopkins isn't quite as good as he was when they last fought. And Trinidad may be more comfortable at 160 now. And of course Hopkins would be 40 by the time they fought. Sooner or later Mother-nature and Father-time are going to realize they forgot Bernard Hopkins. Something that can't happen soon enough for the other top Middleweights in the World.

Hopkins-Trinidad II is a Re-peat, Hopkins Wins again.

Article posted on 08.10.2004

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