Trinidad–Mayorga: Tito Crusades For The Class Of 1990s

29.09.04 - By Janne Romppainen: The decade of 1990 is now officially coming to its end also in professional boxing. Out of the last decade’s ture superstars only James Toney is still battling the time tables. During the last twelve months Marco Antonio Barrera, Evander Holyfield, Lennox Lewis and Shane Mosley as well as Mike Tyson all have either finished their careers or suffered a loss. The last seven days have seen another three past heroes falling out from the front line, as Oscar De La Hoya, Roy Jones and Mark Johnson all suffered heavy knockout losses. Disengaging from the past is always hard for the fans, but the law of the ring is merciless and it applies everybody. Time waits for nobody.

The next man who steps up to fight for the flow of years is Felix Tito Trinidad. The once-scary Puerto Rican, knockout artist of the 90s and early this decade, comes back from his two-year layoff to defend the reputation of the stars of the last generation. On Saturday 2nd of October in the Madison Square Garden of New York there will be a bout that has all the makings of a classic in it. But is there a way to return to the past or will we see another glorious memory being trashed to the dust of the canvas? That is what we will find out as Trinidad meets a former welterweight champion, the colourful Ricardo Mayorga in an electrified 12-rounder.

The memories of Trinidad are still so fresh in boxing fans’ minds that you couldn’t easily believe that Trinidad made his breakthrough already over a decade ago. In 1993 then little-known baby-faced Puerto Rican knocked out the veteran Maurice Blocker and captured his first world title, the IBF welterweight championship belt. That was the starting point of an impressive rise to the stars. Tito roared through the best men of his weight class, including Hector Camacho and Pernell Whitaker, and the sight of him doing it was at times frightening. In all Trinidad defended his title belt no less than fifteen times before he voluntarily dropped it. The last bout of his championship reign was “The Fight Of The Millennium” against Oscar De La Hoya in 1999. The bout that created huge interest and broke the TV-records of boxing outside heavyweight division between two unbeaten superstars ended in Trinidad’s close decision victory. The status as the best fighter in the world along with Roy Jones was his.

Trinidad then stepped up to light-middleweight and the march continued. Olympic champion David Reid suffered a terrible beating at the hands of him and never fought another serious contest. Another young top prospect, Fernando Vargas, was knocked out in the twelfth round of a furious thriller. Trinidad also jumped up to middleweight, where he shattered the WBA-champ William Joppy in five rounds. His winning streak came finally to an end as he in 2001 fought Bernard Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight title. As naturally the bigger man, Hopkins was able to hold off Trinidad’s aggression with his superb defence and in return he gave Trinidad a cruel pasting. After the bout, Trinidad was not the same anymore. He still showed up to knock out Hassine Cherifi and looked fine in there, but after that he retired from the ring, blaming problems with his motivation. For long he kept assuring that the decision was final, but the rumours about his comeback kept rolling and finally they turned out to be true.

Trinidad is remembered as an aggressive fighter who hardly ever was included in a boring match. With his punching skills Trinidad might be among the most talented fighters ever. Standing 5’10 ½ he was a rangy puncher who hit with his both gloves quickly, accurately and first and foremost with pulverizing effect. He had as much power both in his left and his right hook, and usually when he got his man into trouble he finished them off effectively with ripping combinations.

Another factor that always made Trinidad interesting was his own vulnerability. His narrow fighting stance that enabled him get his body force behind his shots also lead to that his own balance was rocked easily: Trinidad has been down in no less than eight of his fights. At times he also had trouble with his footwork: both De La Hoya and Hopkins were able to diminish his dangerousness a great deal with their movement. Trinidad’s ring record after the first part of his career was 41 wins with 34 knockouts against the lone loss to Hopkins.

Trinidad’s opponent, Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga, is known from a much shorter period of time. He launched his pro career already in 1993, but for the rest of that decade he fought only in his home land or Costa Rica. He fought the first fights of his career at super lightweight before moving to welterweight where he made his name. In his slow road to the top he suffered three losses and his only fight against a name opponent, Cuban Diosbelys Hurtado, ended in a two-round NC. Later on Mayorga’s action-packed style and knockout wins brought him enough note so that he got his name to the world rankings. In 2002 he knocked out Andrew Lewis, who was seen as a talented fighter back then, and took the WBA world title belt. As a champion he was however overshadowed by Vernon Forrest, the new star of the division who had just beaten Sugar Shane Mosley.

Mayorga’s real breakthrough became in January 2003 as he got to fight Forrest for the real world title of welterweight. Mayorga stunned nearly all experts by downing Forrest in the very first round and stopping him in the third after a wild bout. In the rematch in July of the same year he proved that it had been no fluke by besting Forrest again, that time by a close decision verdict. These victories catapulted Mayorga to the elite of the boxing world, but a setback came already in the same year as the technically skilled Cory Spinks surprised in turn Mayorga and took his titles with a close decision win. Mayorga then returned to the winning column in last April against Eric Mitchell.

Mayorga is both in- and outside the ring a very colourful personality and a madman in a good way. According to the technique books of boxing he would only be a very average fighter. His punches are wild and his defence is, to put it nicely, open. Mayorga often swings away like a bar-brawler and looks very vulnerable. But what he lacks in technical department Mayorga has made up with his aggressiveness, booming punching power and his seemingly inhuman ability to absorb punishment. With his unlimited self-confidence and reliable chin he is able to attack his foes without caring about their possible counter-punches, and thus he is able to make his unorthodoxy to work in his favour. Mayorga demonstrated his peculiar mentality and his trust to himself for example against Forrest in their second fight. Between punching, Mayorga spread his hands to his sides and invited Forrest to punch him freely. Forrest did just that and landed three right crosses, but Mayorga just laughed it off.

Outside the ring Mayorga has made a habit for himself from smoking cigarettes after his bouts. He has also appeared to a weigh-in eating a fatty piece of chicken and infuriated his opponents and sometimes the fans too with his vulgar talks. But even if he has lacked class at times, he has never lacked attention and it seems likely that the final press conferences and weigh-in of this bout will be some spectacles again when Mayorga gets going.

Predicting a fight in a case where an old star comes back from a long layoff is even more guessing game than it usually would be. There is plenty of film material of Trinidad, but will we see the same destroyer of those tapes in the ring anymore is a whole different thing. The years affect different fighters in different ways, and at the age of 31 Trinidad might still be as good as he was in his prime. Or he might not be.

If this was the same Trinidad whom we saw coldly and quickly disposing William Joppy or sending Fernando Vargas down five times, I would pick him. Trinidad was simply so perfect an aggressive fighter that it would be hard to believe that he could lose to Mayorga. It would be easy to imagine how Titos bombs thrown in his familiar manner; in compact space, accurately and with huge force, would destroy the openly-attacking Mayorga on his tracks. A single bomb by Mayorga at some point might make Trinidad to take a knee, but Trinidad always knew how to come back from the floor. As stated before, the fighters who gave prime Trinidad real problems were the fighters who were able to move and slip shots, and Mayorga usually hasn’t cared about doing either of them.

Clock does its own work however. Usually the ring rust caused by a layoff is seen first at fighter’s timing and accuracy, and those two things are also two main factors that once made Trinidad so dangerous. If his shots don’t find their target anymore, who knows how is he able to deal with Mayorga’s furious offensive output? It has to be remembered that Mayorga hasn’t been beaten in toe-to-toe exchanging either, it has taken movement and skill do get over him too. Trinidad does have the ability to box, but he is an attacker by his nature. Trinidad might also be in trouble if Mayorga’s punch resistance really is as huge as it is often said to be and Tito’s punches don’t have their usual effect on him. Changing tactics during the fight won’t be easy for Trinidad either.

The fight will be held at middleweight, which is a new experience for Mayorga, who stepped up to light-middle in his last fight. Thus it is questionable how his stamina will hold up with the added weight. Trinidad on the other hand does fit in the middleweight category well as he showed few years back, but his conditioning is unknown now for other reasons. It would seem likely though that the former pound-for-pound leader would not come back in anything other than top shape.

This equation has so many variables that making a well-reasoned pick to one side or another is impossible, but my instinct, which often is wrong, tells me to pick Mayorga, and so I will do. Whatever happens, one has to admire the courage of both men to take such fight. Two of the most dangerous KO artists of the game in collision is always a situation where you can lose it all in a blink of an eye. On the other hand there is a lot to be won too. If Mayorga wins, he has the luring options of fighting the winner of Winky Wright – Shane Mosley rematch and even a bout against Hopkins might be a possibility. If Trinidad pulls it off, his radar is certainly beeping at Oscar De La Hoya’s direction, and even a revenge against Hopkins might be on his mind. But is there returning for him to the fields of glory, or will another veteran be forced to leave the front humiliated, that will be seen on weekend.


Article posted on 28.09.2004

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