Add Felix Trinidad's name to the growing list of fighters improving well into their careers. In the first defense of the 154 lb. belt he tore from David Reid's waist, Tito Trinidad wasted no time in demonstrating his growing skills to challenger Mamadou Thiam

After a few quick exchanges, Trinidad launched a left uppercut-left hook combination that rattled Thiam's brain. A half second later, the combination was thrown in reverse, left hook-left uppercut. The second hook missed, but the second uppercut made it three-for-four and had Thiam wobbling back to the ropes. It was no place to go and hide. Trinidad chased the retreating foe and battered him with a deadly assortment of punches from all angles. Thiam couldn't hang on, but managed to run away after the champion had landed eight blows. The round was only half over, and so Trinidad continued to dole out the punishment. Already Thiam's right eye had swollen shut, and he was forced to keep his guard especially tight. Seeing the downstairs opening, Trinidad sunk several thudding left hooks to the body. It was a miracle that Thiam made it out of the round.

Between rounds, a Miami doctor showed complete ineptitude. Stopping Thiam's corner from applying an En-swell, the doctor gently touched the swelling, and used his flashlight as a prop. Hemming and hawing, the doctor was unsure of what to do. Should he enforce the rule and suggest the fight be ended because Thiam had zero visibility from the eye? Should he back down because this was a championship fight in a town that doesn't get many? Should he give Thiam a quick test to determine if he can see? The doctor, mired in indecision, ended up doing nothing more than waste half a round in which Team Thiam could have been reducing the swelling with a cold press. If anything, the doctor ensured that Thiam would begin round two in the condition he ended round one: with a swollen right eye.

Trinidad showed Thiam a measure of respect by carefully picking him off in the second round, as opposed to resuming the attack. Indeed Thiam, a stocky and incredibly muscled athlete, was not going to resign just yet. After a minute of being touched by a gracefully circling Trinidad, Thiam decided to give it one last shot. Simply put, he just began wildly throwing punches. At first, Trinidad showed masterful defense. He slipped, ducked and blocked everything in Thiam's barrage. But when Thiam did not stop punching, eventually Trinidad was caught. Two solid right hands caught Tito on the jaw, as did a pair of left hooks a bit later. Injured but willing, Thiam began landing a few power shots and turning the tide. Trinidad's fleet footwork combined with Thiam's aggression had a large Miami crowd roaring approval, as they had in the first round when Trinidad had Thiam on the ropes.

Trinidad was not going to let the second round slip away. Firing to the body, Tito ravaged Thiam's ribs and again threw a left uppercut. The punch caught Mamadou on the bridge of the nose, and (deja vu) sent him back to the ropes. Trinidad followed with wide hooks that Thiam could not see, and more uppercuts before the bell sounded. Another 10 seconds, and it would have been over.

The doctor interfered less in between the second and third rounds, despite the fact that Thiam's eye was now looking much worse. Despite a full minute of En-swell, the eye was not improved, and again Thiam was sent out to begin another round. If Thiam wanted to fight, then perhaps he should be allowed to continue. But what does the rule say, and who was there to enforce it? It was as if the referee and the doctor could give two craps.

Trinidad was now in complete control. His circling on Thiam continued, but with a smaller radius. When Trinidad would move left, Thiam had no idea, because he was blind. The left hooks were thrown with a calm and deadly precision. It was target practice. Thiam's right eye was swelling to the point that it looked to be turned inside out. It was a shame that, doctor or no, the referee would not step in. Thiam threw a hail mary right hand, which Trinidad slipped. Tito fired back with a gigantic left hook that rattled Thiam, and worse, started a new swelling. This swelling was on the right forehead above Thiam's grotesque eye. It was a large bubble under the skin, making Thiam look like he had two swollen eyes, one on top of the other. Thiam's swelling was excessive, and his head was shaped like a pear tilted to one side. With twelve seconds left to go in the third round, Thiam turned his back on Trinidad and quit. And who can blame him? His face was absolutely mangled, and no one was doing a thing about it. The referee, the doctor, and Thiam's own corner did zero to protect their fighter. He had to protect himself.

And so Felix Trinidad improved his record to a dazzling 38-0/31. Looking fast, strong and powerful at 154 pounds, he's a completely different fighter than he was in his last few outings at the welterweight limit. It is fairly obvious now why Oscar DelaHoya didn't want Tito at a catchweight. Take away the starvation and dehydration, and this guy is a mauler.

The stage is nearly set for a huge December showdown with fellow undefeated 154 lb. titlist Fernando Vargas. Both men are making millions, and deserve all the credit in the world for both seeking a showdown. For years, boxing enthusiasts have pointed to the 1980's when Leonard, Duran, Hagler and Hearns took part in a round robin of mega fights. Finally... at long last... that era is repeating itself. DelaHoya, Mosley, Quartey, Trinidad, and Vargas have already staged some of the prelims for this era's tourney. But the best is yet to come.

.....Chris Bushnell
























© 2001 Chris Bushnell. All rights reserved.

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