Tonight in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Felix Trinidad cleared one of the few remaining obstacles to a September mega-fight with Oscar DelaHoya. Defeating his overmatched opponent in less than four rounds, Trinidad and team are poised to accept an offer to meet Oscar DelaHoya in the ring for $10.5 million. If Trinidad and Don King can agree on how to divide that jackpot, boxing fans will be treated to a match-up that has been anticipated for years.

The hype surrounds more than their unbeaten records and their conflicting claims to the division's championship. Both men display excellent speed, often devastating power, and championship heart. But each has weaknesses too, with DelaHoya's one-handed offense and Trinidad's struggle with the 147 lb. being the most notable.

But if there is one lasting difference between the two fighters it's consistency. Simply put, Trinidad is and DelaHoya isn't. To see this, we need look no further than their contrasting performances in the last two weeks.

Felix Trinidad's patience and poise were featured in his fourth round knockout of late-sub Hugo Pineda. Pineda, a giant welterweight who gained 20 pounds between scaling and ring introduction, stuck out his long right jab often in the first round. The punch, designed to keep Tito at distance, only gave Trinidad a look at his opponent. Stalking him as he circled, Trinidad feinted, waited and watched. Closing the distance inch by inch, Trinidad used the first round to measure Pineda, the second round to warm up and the third round to begin the beating.

Showing razor sharp countering reflexes, Trinidad repeatedly made Pineda miss before popping him with stinging rights and lefts. Launching his short straight right, Trinidad found Pineda's chin nearly every time he threw it. Upstairs and down, Trinidad picked Pineda apart piece by piece. The effectiveness of the attack was accentuated by it's simplicity, and Tito again showed no signs of his own struggle to make weight.

In the fourth, Trinidad's attack stepped up with Pineda's retreat. Punishing Pineda with head snapping punches that drew roars from the crowd, Trinidad battered Pineda from corner to corner. Showing that his left hook is as devastating as his laser guided right hand, Tito cracked into Pineda repeatedly.

As the round neared it's conclusion, Trinidad softened Pineda up with a flush right to the body and a left hook that grazed the front of the challenger's face. And then, as Pineda bent over to slip a Trinidad feint, the champion launched a perfectly timed left uppercut into Pineda's belly. Pineda's legs collapsed and his mouthpiece fell out as he struggled to regain his breath. Gasping and wincing as he was counted out, Pineda's second loss was complete. Trinidad KO4.

Although Pineda was a suspect challenge to Trinidad's reign, Trinidad's victory was not only characterized by his dominance, but by his self assurance. Executing a well timed, if not conventional, attack on the southpaw Pineda, Trinidad (35-0/30) showed it all: Poise, power and technique. It was a performance that showcased the discipline and control that eluded Oscar DelaHoya's most recent outing.

Oba Carr was not supposed to even be in the ring with Oscar DelaHoya. The planned opponent for his May 22 title defense was supposed to be Frankie Randall. The older, smaller, past-his-prime Randall was to serve as DelaHoya's showcase tune-up. But when Carr defeated Randall in an elimination bout in February, he lined himself up for the opportunity to meet DelaHoya in a Las Vegas ring.

Despite his 53 bout record and top ten rating, Carr was still not given much chance against DelaHoya. Slower, more predictable and less powerful than the champion, Carr was expected to do his best while DelaHoya simply did better. In the first round, conventional wisdom was on it's way to becoming simple fact.

Opening the first with a hard jab and a nearly wild left hook, DelaHoya came out quickly against the Detroit contender. Stunning Carr with only a well placed stick, Oscar pounced and landed several short hooks that forced Oba to the canvas. Carr beat the count and survived the round, but gamblers who had bet the under were already heading to their celebration parties.

But then in the second and third, DelaHoya changed completely. Jabbing only occasionally, DelaHoya let Carr back in the fight with a strange passivity. Not moving, not jabbing, and in fact not even boxing, DelaHoya instead stood in front of Carr and looked for a knockout. Literally. Pleased with the temporary halt of offense, Carr began finding his own rhythm, which consisted of a range finding jab followed by his best right hand. This basic combination landed without retaliation and evened the fight for Carr after three rounds.

As he sat in his corner after this round, DelaHoya neglected to tell his corner of the pain he was already feeling in his left hand. Later diagnosed as a sprained tendon in his left wrist, Oscar's hand injury required a change in plans. But with novice Roberto Alcazar mumbling generic boxing advice, and Gil Clancy relegated to the ring apron, the DelaHoya corner was never given the chance to significantly alter Oscar's gameplan. If there was one. The talented DelaHoya seemed intent on improvising, and so he came out for the fourth to figure out Carr on his own.

DelaHoya picked up the pace in the next several rounds, offering more combinations and using his speed to beat Carr to the punch. When DelaHoya threw, he was effective, but he also tired. Fighting in spurts, DelaHoya's quest for the kayo had him waiting for an opening, and then flurrying in an often reckless fashion. Against Oba Carr, it was enough.

Carr took DelaHoya's best in the middle rounds, and was staying competitive into the second half of the fight. But in the seventh round, an accidental headbutt cut DelaHoya on the left cheek. Referee Richard Steele deducted a point for the cut and then a minute later deducted a second point from Carr for straying low. Although the close fight now had Carr trailing on all three cards, he fought on. Knowing ahead of time that a decision victory over DelaHoya in Vegas was a long shot proposition, Carr pressed ahead for the knockout.

Lacking the power to dent DelaHoya's chin, Carr nonetheless pursued. But taking a beating in the 10th softened the challenger up for the 11th, where DelaHoya ended the matter at hand. Catching Carr with an off balance counter-left hook, DelaHoya nonetheless delivered his power, and Carr fell face first to the canvas. On his feet by eight, but unresponsive to Steele, Carr was waved off in the 11th. DelaHoya, now 31-0/25 TKO11.

And so DelaHoya and Trinidad now prepare for each other. DelaHoya must ready himself for the fastest, most powerful fighter he's ever faced. Trinidad must ready himself for both DelaHoya the boxer and DelaHoya the slugger, since neither really knows which Golden Boy will show up. The winner will sit atop the division, control any rematch negotiations, and make a strong case to be called pound for pound best. I can hardly wait.

.....Chris Bushnell


© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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