WAIL! The CyberBoxingZone Journal
October 2000 issue

Felix Trinidad

By Alex Hall

    The dangers of boxing are well documented. However, until recently, it was believed that it was only the fighters who suffered from such afflictions.  This is not so.  Many of today's hard-core fans and prominent writers suffer from severe amnesia.  Clearly all those years of watching such violence has taken its toll.  What makes this problem even stranger is that this amnesia affects the people's memory of only one fighter: Felix Trinidad.

    The talk of the common boxing fan (to whom I am known as Dutch Sam) of late seems to have revolved around the forthcoming Felix-Trinidad-Fernando Vargas contest.  Certainly it is a mouth-watering prospect, and one I will look forward to with relish.  What disturbs me is that people talk of this as if it were a clash of boxing's most formidable Titans.  What this is, is simply further evidence of how overrated Felix Trinidad has become.  Not that I do not think him special, let me put aside that notion aside before 100,000 angry Puerto Ricans turn up at my front door.  I currently rank him fourth pound-for-pound, first at junior middleweight, and as a leading contender for 'fighter of the year'.  But however good he may be, he is unworthy of the attention bestowed upon him of late.  People speak of Trinidad's stay at welterweight as if he made Joe Louis's reign look like Luis Santana's.  They talk of how he thoroughly dismantled that legendary Pernell Whitaker and bowled over Oscar De La Hoya and half killed David Reid.  Let's take this one step at a time and begin at the beginning.  First stop: Trinidad's welterweight reign!

    Webster's and Oxford have work to do, as the definition of 'champion' has changed since Sulaiman, Lee et al have cheapened the meaning of the word.  Trinidad was not the world welterweight champion, but rather the holder of the IBF welterweight belt.  The Cyber Boxing Zone pays little (if any attention) to those unpopular organizations and rightly so.

    In order for a 'champion's' reign to be taken seriously, he must fight good fighters.  Certainly Trinidad did beat such worthy names as Oba Carr, Yori Boy Campas and Hector Camacho.  All good fighters, but hardly the quality of competition that would guarantee one a place in Canastota.  I have however met one boxing fan who believes that Trinidad's welterweight accomplishments alone will get him there (I should point out that he is Puerto Rican).  The mega fight with Terry Norris never materialized, nor did one with Ike Quartey.  During the mid-nineties, the fighter he needed was Pernell Whitaker.  I think it is fair to say that Whitaker is more to blame for that fight not coming off until much later, but by the time the fight did come off, it was too late (more below).  All three of Trinidad's 'big names' during the early days of his reign came before 1995.  Between January 1995 and February 1999 he fought: Roger Turner, Larry Barnes, Rodney Moore, Freddie Pendelton, Ray Lovato, Kevin Lueshing, Troy Waters and Mahenge Zulu.   Hardly impressive.  Pendelton was Trinidad's only saving grace in four years.  Again this is not all his fault; his feuding with Don King cannot have helped, especially since King pushed Trinidad aside to tend to the spoiled thug Mike Tyson.  And if memory serves, at least one of those men
was a late substitute.  But those are the men he fought, and they just do not measure up.  Ah, say Trinidad's supporters, but even Joe Louis fought poor opposition, in fact, it was for his reign that the phrase 'bum of the month' was coined.  This is true, but Louis found time in between to tackle John Henry Louis, Billy Conn, Abe Simon, Tony Galento, Buddy Baer, and Max Schmelling.  However, Trinidad (with the exception of Pendelton) fought exclusively second, third and I dare say even fourth tier opponents for a large part of his reign.

    Three down and many more potentials to go.  That is the argument of the pro-Trinidads.  In under two years he has beaten three Olympic gold medallists.  First Pernell Whitaker, then Oscar De La Hoya and finally David Reid.  First came the old dog, ready to be put down, then came the one who struck and ran, and then came a child, too young to be good sport.  But first things first, let us begin with Whitaker.

    Pernell Whitaker was undoubtedly the greatest of Trinidad's opponents, but not the most threatening.  In his prime, Pernell Whitaker humiliated all that dared challenge him.  Azumah Nelson was made to look like Peter McNeeley (an exaggeration of course) and a thousand Richard Steeles would have been unable to save Chavez from the boxing lesson Whitaker gave him.  By the time Whitaker fought Trinidad, he was 35 years old, hadn't fought in over a year and had spent time in rehab for cocaine addiction.  The counter-argument of the pro-Trinidads runs something like this: Whitaker looked very good against De La Hoya, at which time he had not been through rehab for his cocaine problem.  By the time he fought Trinidad, he was clean.  But while coke-addict Whitaker gave De La Hoya an unpleasant welcome to the welterweight division, clean Whitaker was no match for Trinidad.  What the pro-Trinidads have failed to notice is that powerful and illegal drugs like cocaine have devastating effects on the body in the long run.  Vince Philips himself was a cocaine-addict and said that he had seen Whitaker 'absolutely wasted' on alcohol for years (KO Magazine August 1998, page 29).  In between the fight with Oscar De La Hoya in April 1997 and the one with Pestriaev in October of the same year, Whitaker was on cocaine, as a urine test revealed the ex-champion had been on the drug.  Years of alcohol abuse and months of cocaine abuse take their toll, but just the
years themselves do damage.  Whitaker was 35 years old by fight time.  For a
hard hitting heavyweight, 35 years old is not a death sentence, but for a welterweight and former lightweight who relies so heavily on mobility and agility, 35 is the age when the fighters enter the ring and start talking about how they remember when the whole area was grass.  Whitaker was old and it showed.  When before, he could screw-drive his way into the canvas to avoid an attack, this time his legs betrayed him.  Out of the ring for more than a year, 'old-age', years of drug and alcohol abuse took Whitaker away from his prime.

    What makes the bias of the pro-Trinidads evident is that people are quick to point out that when Holyfield 'drew with' Lewis, he was shot at 36, but seem to dismiss Pernell Whitaker's 35 years when they fought.  The counter argument of the pro-Trinidads?  'Many experts picked Whitaker to win'.  Who cares?  Many picked Leonard to beat Camacho.  Experts get it wrong ad nauseum.  These experts ignored the facts and bet with their hearts rather than their heads.  Heck, some American experts actually thought Bruno had a chance against Tyson in their rematch.  You want final proof that Whitaker was nowhere near his prime for the Trinidad fight?  How about the fact that one of the sports most defensive fighters took the fight to a younger, stronger and naturally bigger opponent?

    Now comes my favorite part of the argument.  This next section concerns Trinidad's ahem, splutter, gasp, choke 'victory' over De La Hoya.  What surprises me is that people use this fight to show how good Trinidad is.  What happened was that Trinidad was extremely lucky to have three judges who had very unpopular scorecards.  Trinidad failed to work the body, in fact, it was Oscar who landed the hard body shots.  Trinidad failed to jab as he moved in, allowing De La Hoya to jab away freely.  And judging by the way Trinidad looked, there clearly is no Spanish word for 'combination'.  'Tito' failed to cut off the ring or effectively corner De La Hoya.  The pro-Trinidads claim that De La Hoya 'ran like a bitch'.  I advise any fans with that attitude to watch the fight again and see that on the few occasions when De La Hoya did actually stand his ground, he easily beat Trinidad to the punch.

    There are rounds that are supposedly in doubt.  How in doubt are they in reality?  Many of these so-called 'in doubt' rounds are caused by Muhammad Ali's most fiendish trick. As the self-proclaimed 'Greatest' grew older and fights became closer he did most of his work at the end of the round.  Since we have short memories we would remember only the great work at the end of the round.  The trick is fine if a round is too close to call and you merely ensure that the judges score it for you.  But in the case of De La Hoya-Trinidad, it was a case of transparently clear De La Hoya rounds going to Trinidad.  The fourth round has been brought to attention.  De La Hoya took all of the round save the last ten seconds in which Trinidad landed three good rights.  Now do three right hands make up for or beat a round's worth of jabs and counters.  Said right hands would have to three or four times as powerful as said jabs and counters to give the round to Felix Trinidad.  Clearly, since Hollywood can create men as strong as that (see Rocky IV), the fourth must go to De La Hoya as must the ninth.  Roughly half of the ninth was an overtly clear De La Hoya round.  But alas!  It was the start of the round.  The end of the round could have swung either way.  That means that half of the round is clearly De La Hoya's, and half might just about go to Trinidad by a whisker!  Now who won that round?  The first has also been used to boost Trinidad's score.  However, that round was a rarity.   It was a decidedly even round.  It was not a case of both men doing equal amounts of strenuous work, but rather both men doing equal amounts of
nothing.  I think an even round is the only fair score.  Once those rounds are cleared up, we have only De La Hoya's rounds 2 and 5 which some people,
somehow scored for Trinidad.  The rest of rounds were quite clear.  On my
card that makes 117-112 for De La Hoya.  However, even for those who ended up with cards for Trinidad, one thing is certain: It was De La Hoya who
changed and not Trinidad.  Oscar stopped fighting and started running.  And
even with De La Hoya throwing next to nothing, Trinidad still failed to impress.  And since many people had Trinidad taking the early rounds, I feel the need to point out that De La Hoya was too cautious at first.  Thus Trinidad was only effective when De La Hoya did little or nothing.  Whether it was tiredness, fear or overconfidence, it was De La Hoya, and not Trinidad who ultimately decided the fate of the fight.

    By never once looking impressive, having only minimal success and only when his opponent failed to take the initiative, and failing to work the body, cut off the ring, score with powerful right hands and score with the jab, Trinidad exposed himself against De La Hoya.  What disturbs me is that people accepted the awful decision.  It grieves me to say that people are now calling Trinidad the best fighter in the world.  I urge them to watch the fight again and then tell me that that is the best fighter in the world.   No matter what the scorecards said, De La Hoya beat Felix 'Tito' Trinidad.   And to push aside those who call me biased, I should point out that I picked Trinidad to outbox De La Hoya.  Boy was I wrong!

    The last point of my argument will be short and to the point.  David Reid had laced 'em up a mere fourteen times prior to his clash with Trinidad.  And in how many of those fights did he really impress us?  While certainly being brave, Reid showed how important experience really is.  It has been noted by many writers that Reid picked the appropriate color shorts - green!  And to finally lower the boom, may I just point out that despite the fact that Trinidad pounded both Reid and Whitaker virtually at will, both men lasted the distance!

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