03.10.04 – By Wray Edwards: As the flurry of pre-fight articles peppered the internet, the newspapers and boxing publications, speculation, as usual, was the order of the day. The hard living, two-fisted, street-fighting brawler Ricardo Mayorga was contrasted with the classical boxing, “clean-living”, family oriented, back from vacation Felix Trinidad. Comments were rife with accusations that Tito had a “glass jaw”, probably from people who may have seen Felix bested by Hopkins. Others, who clearly remembered Trinidad’s meeting with Joppy, wherein he took many hits which were authentic, chin-testing cracks, scoffed…and rightly so.
On the other hand, many who remembered Ricardo’s wars with Vernon Forrest wherein he dropped his hands and invited the other guy’s best shots, naively believed these demonstrations proved his chin.
Actually there is something to be said for being able to take a punch better when you know it’s coming; just ask Roy Jones about that…twice! Reminiscent of Byrd’s denials when tagged by Golota, Ricardo began, around the third round, to shake his head that Tito’s shots were nothing to worry about. Nothing could have been farther from the truth.
In the very first round we began to see evidence of the title of this article. Mayorga’s ragged style was set in stark contrast to the carefully paced style of Trinidad which emphasized the economics of accuracy. While Mayorga, perhaps believing his own hype, wailed away with his usual array of undisciplined, marginally effective wingers and overhands, with an occasional uppercut and hook, Felix moved, circled and waited patiently for clear opportunities to use his power effectively.
Tito won the first two rounds with connects in the sixty per cent range while Ricardo languished in the twenties. Mayorga managed to get in one or two of his patented overhands, and at one point, in round three, caught Tito with a pretty right hook to the head which caused Felix to stumble to his right and briefly touch his right glove to regain balance. The ref ruled a knockdown and Mayorga scored a ten/eight for the third round. Any hint of truth in statements regarding Trinidad’s so-called weak chin, was erased by enough of Mayorga’s best shots to surprise the most cynical fan who predicted doom in Tito’s jaw. Conversely, the vaunted ability of Ricardo to take a punch was not demonstrated as he had predicted. He certainly did not leave himself as completely open to a free shot as he had done with Forrest. He had already had enough samples of Tito’s power by the fourth round to convince him that would be suicide.
As the fifth round opened, it began to be obvious that Trinidad was saving his energy, taking advantage of his superior conditioning, and really starting to stun and dismay Mayorga. They fought a fairly even round until, with around twelve seconds to go, Tito caught Mayorga in a
corner and gave him a merciless pounding which resulted in an ugly cut under Mayorga’s left eye, and started a significant swelling around that peeper.
With heart and determination Ricardo worked his way through the sixth round. At one point Tito threw a low blow which entitled Mayorga to a five minute rest. Ricardo took a couple and rejoined the fray. As the sixth was ending Mayorga got in a body shot amidst a flurry which was a small measure of pay-back for the way Tito had finished the fifth. Mayorga was now showing signs of extreme fatigue only being effective in short, desperate spurts which Tito weathered with remarkable poise and toughness.
Round seven saw dark clouds gathering over Mayorga’s effort. At thirty-eight seconds to go Tito delivered a pin-point left uppercut which had Ricardo hanging on for dear life. As the round ended, both fighters got toe-to-toe and exchanged savage blows until and after the bell. Tito’s accuracy was nothing short of science, and it was sweet. Tito took shots with incredible ease and renewed focus which few would have predicted.
In the Chaldean system of numerology, the number eight is one of great power for good and evil, and so it was in this epic battle to prove valid for both fighters. At 1:24 to go, Trinidad delivered that which he had left out of his arsenal for much of the fight: his first really good body shot to Mayorga’s mid-section. Ricardo went down for the first time in his professional career drooling in pain on his hands and knees while he listened to the eight-count. Thirty-one seconds later Felix delivered a withering right which doubled Ricardo’s career trips to the textile.
The partisan crowd made a cheer which surely equaled any decibel level ever recorded at a sporting event. Mayorga rose again, and with a heart as “big as Mexico” (Jones) just managed to convince the ref. to let him continue. Finally, with twenty-six (two and six are eight) Mayorga’s limbs hit the canvass after being hit by a full-bore, professional boxing right cross which felled him like a bag of rocks. Incredibly, he was attempting to rise as the ref. waved the fight over.
For sheer excitement, what was at stake, the contrast in styles and personalities, this boxing match was an A+, number one rip-snorter. Mayorga, for whom I have had little affection, earned my respect and admiration for guts and determination. Felix Trinidad served notice that he is a consummate warrior who, after more than two years hiatus in his boxing career, has come back perhaps better than ever. In contrast to the hard-bitten look in Mayorga’s eyes, Tito has that misty, boyish glint which reminds one of a young Sugar Ray Leonard. It is a sort of innocent clarity mixed with the eye of the tiger.
Tito’s decision to come back to a world-class challenge and make it look like a warm-up fight will electrify the boxing world. He will be an even larger than life hero to his fellow Puerto Ricans and fans around the world. The Trinidad we saw tonight, it would appear, would destroy Oscar and probably send Hopkins into retirement. Anyone with even the most passing interest in the sportwould surely recognize greatness in the power, accuracy and determination of this man. He is everything boxing craves in its ideal participants.
With the mis-matches, controversy and apparent corruption surrounding so many bouts this year, the clarity and finality resulting from this match will invigorate the boxing world. Such events continue to elevate the lower weight classes over what used to be the flagship of the sport: the heavyweights. In a recent replay of some of last year’s fights, George Foreman, whom we all miss, is heard to say, “The last thing on your mind when you sign those big money contracts, is what you’re going to have to do to earn it.” Felix and Ricardo earned every penny and more tonight. Thanks guys.