A Tribute to Tito Trinidad By Ozzy Alvarez for Boxingbb.com
Today, we gather here on the boxingbb.com in honor and celebration of one of the most amazing, greatest, most magnificent fighting machines that we as boxing fans have ever been blessed to watch in the ring. A fistic phenom of pure pugilistic excellence. A soon to be Hall of Famer (counting the days to HOF 2014) and All Time Great. Arguably, Puerto Rico’s greatest gift to the boxing world and to world in general, now and forever. The greatest fighter ever from Puerto Rico, one of the greatest the world has ever seen, Felix “Tito” Trinidad!!!!
Today, January 10, 2013, as Tito celebrates his 40th birthday (and the rest of the boxing world as well & rightfully so), let us look back at this magnificent example of a true Boxing World Champion and true punching power greatness.
It all started on June 19, 1993, when a young 20 year old Tito(19-0-16KO) stepped in the ring, and scored a 2nd round KO over then Champion Maurice Blocker to win the IBF Welterweight Championship. Very few, in any, except Dr Ferdie Pacheco for some reason, knew we were baring witness to the birth of one of the Greatest World Champions in boxing of All time. The people of Puerto Rico could sense it, they knew they had something special there and began worshipping Tito in the same manner that was reserved for someone like Duran in Panama or JC Chavez in Mexico.
Tito would become unstoppable. Taking on fighter after fighter, never ducking anyone. Even fighting opponents others would avoid. His reign started with a 1 round KO over Luis Garcia, who had given tough fights to Meldrick Taylor and Maurice Blocker in previous title tries. Then, came a surprising war with the gamed Anthony Stephens, where we began to learn that scoring a knockdown on Tito was the worst thing you could do to him. Tito eventually got a 10th round KO over Stephens.
1994 was the year that the boxing world began to see that Tito was not only for real, he was the star the boxing world was looking if they weren’t enamored for some other guy called Oscar DeLaHoya. In 1994, Tito would defeat Hector Camacho, Yori Boy Campas, and Oba Carr and cement his place as one of the best young P4P fighters in boxing and as the greatest rivals for then WBC Welter champ Pernell Whitaker.
Of course, the network rivalry would rear its ugly head in preventing a fight between Whitaker and Trinidad. Since Tito was with Don King and King was contracted to Showtime and Whitaker was with Main Events on HBO, it became near impossible to see the match. In 1995, after one defense in his 2nd round KO win over Roger Turner on the undercard of the Oliver McCall-Larry Holmes PPV, Tito tried to jump ship so he could fight Whitaker. He next fought and scored a 4th round KO over Larry Barnes on HBO, on the undercard of a Whitaker fight, in hopes of promoting a future Tito-Whitaker fight on HBO.
Unfortunately. Tito could not legally escape Don King’s grasp and found himself back with King on Showtime in early 1996. King did, ahem, promise Tito bigger fights. First promised was Frankie Randall. Unfortunately, Randall suffered a DQ loss in one of the most brilliant acting performances by a boxer in his fight on January 1996 against Juan Coggi. One month later, Tito won a fourth round KO over Rodney Moore. In May 1996, Tito got a decent opponent in former IBF Lightweight Champion Freddie Pendleton, one good body shot in the fifth round from Tito and it was all she wrote for Freddie.
With Randall still trying to win back his title from Coggi, King looked at another possibility for a big fight with Tito. A battle between the biggest stars from PR and Mexico. Tito against Julio Cesar Chavez. Tito faced and annihilated a fighter named Ray Lovato on the undercard of Chavez’s fight with an opponent named David Kamau. Yet afterwards, the only big money fight Chavez was eyeing was a fight with Oscar DeLahoya and quickly jumped ship to Arum’s promotion to make that fight happen. Note-This would not be the only time DeLahoya reared his ugly head to deny Tito a big fight. More on that later.
With Chavez gone as an option, King had two possibilities for Tito going into 1997. The first was still Randall who had won back his title from Coggi. The second and more attractive option had Tito moving to Junior Middleweight to take on then top fight and champion, Terry Norris. Well, on January 11,1997, King made one of his multi fight cards where the three fighters(Norris, Tito, Randall) fought on separate in hopes of hyping them in a fight together. Norris and Tito took care of business. Norris KOing Nick Rupa and Tito KOing Kevin Lueshing. Randall did not take care of business, losing to some French fighter named Khalid Rahilou.
That paved the way for Norris-Trinidad, set for June 21 1997 at Madison Square Garden. King was obviously banking on Trinidad winning as he conveniently scheduled the fight during the weekend of NY’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. Unfortunately, bad luck would strike again & again for Tito. First, King’s May 3 1997 PPV card of Holyfield-Tyson II got postponed due to a Tyson cut, and rescheduled for June 28, which conflicted with the Norris-Trinidad card, which was pushed back to August 19 to accommodate the Tyson-Holyfield rescheduling.
During that two month gap, Norris grew angry over contractual disputes with King and his manager Joe Sayatovich practically killing the fight with Trinidad. King then made a fight with then WBA JMW champion Laurent Bouduani for Tito on August 19. But, Bouduani would get injured prior to that fight and Tito was forced to KO replacement opponent Troy Waters in one round in a WBC JMW title eliminator which was made to force Norris back into a fight with Trinidad. But, by that time, Norris had signed with Arum with the promise of getting a big money fight with DeLaHoya in 1998. Yep, Arum and DLH reared their ugly heads again. Unfortunately for Norris, he would get KOed in his next fight with Keith Mullings which killed any chance he ever had of facing DLH.
Anyway, 1998 would start with Tito back at welter defending his IBF title in Puerto Rico against some fighter named Mahenge Zulu and winning by 4th round KO. By the point, Tito and his fans like me, even Dave, were truly frustrated by King’s failure to deliver the big fight. Tito once again tried to jump ship and signed with Main Events. He was immediately rewarded with a big welterweight unification match with fellow undefeated champion Ike Quartey on November 14, 1998.
Unfortunately, King would not let Tito go and fought to legally void Tito’s contract with ME and get him back under his promotional banner. Not only that, but, guess who would rear their ugly heads yet again to finally kill the Trinidad-Quartey fight? Yep, Arum and DeLahoya would show up again, promising Quartey a DLH fight and ending the hopes of seeing Tito and Ike battle each other.
Then, when Tito lost his legal battle to escape King and was back in King’s promotional stable, many of us feared all was lost for Tito. He would never get the big payday he deserved or the big fight he earned. But, something miraculous happened on that Christmas of 1998. King, like the Grinch, had his heart grown three times larger or it could be his wallet growing three times smaller since he had lost his meal tickets in Tyson and Chavez. King had no choice but to finally make Tito the boxing superstar he was meant to be.
With King playing nice with HBO to make Holyfield-Lewis, he continued to play nice with HBO to make a lucrative fight for Tito. 1999, the year things began to finally happen for Tito. Tito would finally get those lucrative big money fights he deserved. Long overdue, and apparently well worth the wait. First up was the long awaited match between him and Pernell Whitaker on February 20, 1999. Trinidad settled the rivalry by dominating Whitaker in a way no other has ever done before or afterwards. He followed that up with a HBO televised title defense against Hugo Pineda which he KOed in four.
This would all lead to the big one, a match with Oscar DeLahoya. Now, say what you will about this match, but, given how Tito kept getting fights taken away cause his opponent chose to rather fight DLH, Tito deserved this win. In the first 8 rounds, it was tough, Tito was behind 6-2 or 5-3 to DLH. But, come round nine, the entire fight changed. DLH showed he was a runner that Jesse Owens and Carl Lewis had nothing on. I mean DLH did not want to be in the same time zone with Trinidad in that ring. DLH looked like he was auditioning for Dancing with the stars, as Tito attacked him. In the end, Trinidad won the decision, but it’s hard to look good when your opponent is in a track meet.
Of course, 2000 would be Tito’s shining moment. He moved back to 154 and defeated undefeated WBA Champ David Reid. He followed that with a defense against Mamadou Thiam. With DLH losing to Mosley around the same time, Trinidad became the dominant Latino fighter in boxing. There was one other opponent he needed to take on to cement that claim, fellow 154lb. Champion and IBF champ, Fernando Vargas. Tito and Nando battle in one the best match-ups of the year and in the end Tito would KO Vargas in the 12th round. Tito cemented his place and won the Ring’s Fighter of the Year award for 2000.
2001, Tito would move up in weight again and participate in King’s Middleweight tournament. He defeated WBA champion William Joppy by 5th round KO and would go on to face IBF/WBC Champion Bernard Hopkins on September 15, 2001. The week of that fight, the tragedy of 9-11 happened and that fight got pushed two weeks to the 29th, which IMO, didn’t help Tito. When the fight finally occurred, Hopkins, like he would with other fighters later on, boxed a clinic and defeated Tito.
Tito would fight one more time in 2002 against Haccine Cherifi, Koing him in four before surprising everyone with an announced retirement. That retirement would not last. In 2004, Tito returned and faced Ricardo Mayorga on October 2. Tito looked like he stil had it as he destroyed Mayorga in 8 rounds. Of course, looking back at it now, Tito should’ve faced a few tune-ups before stepping back into the ring with his next opponent, Winky Wright. Tito lost a lopsided decision and retired again, returning one more time to take on a long mentioned opponent in Roy Jones, Tito would lose to Jones and retire again.
Tito is eligible to enter the Hall of Fame next year, and I suspect he’ll get in on the first try without any problem. In his prime, Trinidad was one of the most amazing fighters ever. If you scored a knockdown on him, he would just get up and be more destructive than before. He was one of the most poised, patient, methodical boxer-punchers the sport has ever seen. With an endless amount of stamina. The man just seemed to get stronger round after round. He would look more energized in round 12 than round 1. He could do it all in the ring. He could be both fleet footed and flat footed almost simultaneously. Be an accurate boxer, puncher, counter-puncher at a whim. His defense was subtle.
Some argued he was one dimensional. I assure you he was not. He could move, box, punch, counterpunch, etc. IMO, he was effective when being a counter-puncher, but, he showed he could be an effective seek and destroy type. It was also argued, that he had a weak chin. Yes, he did get dropped a lot, but, he never was Koed by one shot nor did he ever look hurt when he was dropped. In fact, he always looked stronger after the KD. Why he got dropped so often remains a mystery. I had argued that it could be balancing issue more so than a weak chin as Tito did look steadier on his legs in later rounds than he did in the earlier rounds.
He would also be showed such passion for the sport. Someone who was willing to face anyone, anytime, anywhere. Few 147/154 lb. fighters would talk about going to 170 to face Roy Jones, but, he eventually did it. Tito was a once in a lifetime fighter. A fighter that loved the sport of boxing and his fans and would do anything for it and practically did. When look at these fighters at 147 & 154 that have come after him, guys like Margarito, Canelo, Trout, Kirkland, Angulo, Pacquaio, Thurman, Spinks, Judah, Bailey, Alexander, Hatton, K9, Cotto, Paul Williams, Sergio Martinez, Bradley, Lara(Yes MH even Lara), Berto, Malignaggi, and the all others, I can say one thing. They are all lucky they never faced a prime Trinidad. They would have all been crushed and destroyed by the powerful force of destruction that was Felix Trinidad. Ask Vargas or Reid. Their careers were never the same after Tito. Ask Campas and Carr on what Tito did to them.
So, with that all said. I like to say one last thing. Happy Birthday to- El Gran Campeon de Puerto Rico!! Felix “Tito” Trinidad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!