07.07.06 – By Javier N. Perez: Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad are two of today’s boxing legends. Both fighters have had equally impressive careers, both are multi-division champions, both are entertaining, both will undoubtedly be inducted into the hall of fame as soon as they become eligible and both will forever be linked to each other in the boxing world..
The roads of these two boxing legends crossed on one fateful night on September 18th, 1999 and would never again split. The argument over how their fight unfolded continues to this day as though both fighters were forever locked in combat. Ever since that night both fighters are compared to the other relentlessly by boxing fans and analyst alike. What was supposed to be a career defining night for both fighters, one which would provide the boxing world with the clear king of the Welterweight division, instead sparked a controversy that is the focus of much heated debate even to this day.
The boxing world is split equally over the respective performances of each fighter during the fight and over the controversial outcome of such. The fact that two fighters could spark such a controversy and the fact the the boxing world is so equally split over this matter is a testament to their respective greatness.
As long as boxing has been around, there has been and unbreakable link between certain fighters. Some fighters are linked together by controversy, such as Tyson-Holyfield; others by epic battles such as Ali-Frasier, Castillo-Morales, Leonard-Hearns; others by tragedy such as Mancini-Kim. In the case Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad, both fighters are linked by the events that unfolded on the night of their bout. Events which may have forever divided the boxing world over the outcome of their fight.
Although both fighters have been in memorable bouts against top contenders both before and after facing each other. It was the manner in which the bout unfolded that has made them nemesis of one another and it is the fact that their bout ended in such controversy and without a clear resolution as to who was the best of the two fighters that have sparked the much heated debates that prevail 7 years later.
Oscar de la Hoya and Felix Trinidad were warriors that had traveled down similar paths. Both fighters started boxing at a very early age. Trinidad distinguished himself in the amateur ranks while De la Hoya captured Olympic gold at the 1992 Olympic games in Barcelona. Both fighters became overnight sensations and multiple division champions. Both were dreaded power punchers and top pay-per-view draws. Both had deeply loyal fan followings. Both walked over their opponents and by the time their match up was made, both Felix Trinidad with his dreaded punching power and Oscar de la Hoya with his deadly left hook and versatility were seemingly invincible.
There was a great deal of hype surrounding the fight. Even to this day, their bout remains the biggest non-heavy weight bout in the history of boxing. Both fighters had built the reputation for being warriors in the ring. Oscar de la Hoya was the man who chose to stand toe to toe with Mexican legend, Julio Cesar Chavez and Ike Quartey and demolished Rafael Ruelas among others. Felix Trinidad was the fighter who would not back down from anyone and could knock an opponet out with either hand. Both had an impressive and intimidating knockout record. Boxing analyst around the world predicted how this two warriors would fight a battle of epic proportions.
On fight night, the arena at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas was filled with celebrities that had attended to witness history unfold. Both fighters looked in great shape as they entered the ring and both had a look of intense determination in their faces. The hype kept on building right up to an unusually vigorous touching of gloves after the referee’s instructions.
As the fight unfolded there was a feeling that an epic battle would erupt at any moment in the middle of the ring. Unfortunately, the bout never came close to achieving that climatic peak that fans were so anxiously anticipating.
De la Hoya dominated the first 8 rounds of the fight with superior footwork and beautiful combinations and counter punching as Trinidad stalked him around the ring looking to turn the boxing match into the brawl that would give him the advantage.
For De la Hoya, it was not the aggressive, warrior-like performance that his fans had come to expect and had anticipated for this seemingly epic bout, but for all intends and purposes, he seemed to be coasting comfortably to an unanimous decision.
In between rounds, De la Hoya’s trainers, Gil Clancy and Robert Alcazar, annoyingly kept demanding for De la Hoya to “box, box, box”. Even appearing to become upset at their fighter when he did decide to stop and briefly mix it up with his dangerous rival.
In Trinidad’s corner, his father kept urging him to press the action.
In the opening moments of the 9th round, De la Hoya, landed a lighting fast seven punch combination, that brought cheers out of his fans and then, inexplicably at the time, began dancing around the ring, never to attempt an offensive again.
This gave the opportunity that Trinidad needed to mount a rally and sweep the last four rounds. Catching his opponent with more accurate punches than he had during the previous eight rounds. Trinidad didn’t hit De la Hoya with a barrage of punches, nor where they concussive punches, but his noticeable sense of urgency and the fact that the only thing that De la Hoya was doing was dancing around the ring, created an impression in the judge’s minds. The closing bell rang as Trinidad caught De la Hoya with a right cross to the head.
Oscar looked confident of his victory as he waited for the official judge’s score. Trinidad though confident did not appear as confident as his adversary. Although Trinidad had swept rounds 9, 10, 11 and 12 it did not seem enough to get a decision over De la Hoya’s huge lead in the beginning of the fight.
Certainty would quickly turn into surprise as Felix Trinidad was announced the winner by majority decision and the new unified Welterweight champion of world.
The decision sparked one of the biggest controversies in boxing history. As I have stated before, the boxing world is equally divided over who was the victor that night.
De la Hoya fans argue that Don King paid off the judges, and that De la Hoya exposed Trinidad as one-dimensional and provided the blue print that Bernard Hopkins and Winky Wright would utilize to upset him in future bouts.
The Trinidad contingency replies that if Oscar hadn’t been dancing around the ring Trinidad would have knocked him out, that De la Hoya felt Trinidad’s power and was clearly concerned with being knocked out by his very worthy adversary and that it was this that the judges saw and what ultimately prompted them to give the nod to the Puerto Rican legend.
Others ague that it was the ill-advise of De la Hoya’s corner that drained this fight of it’s drama and that the later rounds is not a reflection of De la Hoya as a fighter, but of the poor advice that he received from his trainers.
In the eyes of their respective fans, their aura of greatness would not be diminished, but enhanced because of their performances. Both fighters would continue their stellar careers with highs and lows.
Trinidad moved up in weight to unify the World Jr. Middleweight championship by defeating David Reid via unanimous decision and knocking out the always dangerous Fernando Vargas. Trinidad moved up in weight again to become the Middleweight champion by knocking out Williams Joppy, before being subsequently knocked out by Bernard Hopkins in an unification title bout. Shortly after, Trinidad announced his retirement only to come back more than two years later and impressively knock out the dangerous Ricardo Mayorga in 8 rounds. Trinidad was upset by Ronald Winky Wright on his next fight after which he announced his retirement for good from the sport of boxing.
Oscar de la Hoya on his part suffered his second loss to Sugar Shane Mosley, after which he took time off from boxing to pursue his dream of singing. De la Hoya came back to defeat Arturo Gatti and later becoming WBC super Welterweight champion by scoring an easy unanimous decision over Javier Castillejo. He then knocked out his long time nemesis Ferocious Fernando Vargas in a fierce battle to become the unified Junior Middleweight champion of the world. De la Hoya proceeded by knocking out boxing legend, Yori Boy Campas, before suffering another disputed loss to Shane Mosley. He then became the WBO Middleweight champion via a controversial decision over Felix Sturm to become the first boxer is history to win world titles in 6 different weight divisions. De la Hoya then suffered his first ever knock out loss at the hands of Bernard The Executioner Hopkins, but returned almost 2 years later to score a destructive 6 round knockout victory over the Ricardo Mayorga, in order to become the WBC Junior middleweight champion.
An overdue rematch
Perhaps the only fight that could top the hype caused by their 1999 bout besides a fight between De la Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. would be a rematch between De la Hoya and Trinidad.
After their bout there were talks of a rematch, but the negotiations fell through between both fighters because of contractual disagreements between both parties.
To this day, Oscar De la Hoya is still hunted by the way he dropped the biggest fight of his career to his adversary.
The boxing world still hungers for a rematch between these two legends. Both fighters would have a lot more to prove to each other, to the boxing world and to themselves. Maybe the, we the fans may be treated to the epic clash that we expected to see that september night of 1999. Maybe we can look back and feel a sense of pride in having witnessed such a fight. Until then we can only dream and hope.
Only a rematch can put the controversy to rest, the again, maybe it wont.
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