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Trinidad Sr.: "Cherifi’s In For A Surprise"

By Gabrielle Paese

May 10, 2002
Copyright © 2002 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

Angelo Medina productions expects a sold-out Roberto Clemente Coliseum for Saturday night when middleweight Félix "Tito" Trinidad returns to the ring versus Hacine Cherifi for the first time since his Sept. 29, 2001 loss to Bernard Hopkins.

Cherifi (32-5-1, 20 KOs) and his camp are banking on finding a "Tito" Trinidad who lacks confidence in the ring after his 12th round knockout loss to Hopkins. Trinidad (40-1, 33 KOs) suffered his first career loss (and KO) to Hopkins.

"It's going to be a good fight because Tito Trinidad is not invincible," Cherifi's trainer Miloud Djabouabdallah said earlier this week. "No boxer is the same after a knockout and if Tito's not in shape he could be in for a surprise."

To which Félix Trinidad Sr. had this to say:

"Tito is the same as he ever was. Tito isn't at Cherifi's level, he's way above it and they are the ones who are in for a surprise," the elder Trinidad said.

With 160 rounds of sparring under his belt, the only thing Trinidad has done differently to prepare for this fight is to spar with lighter boxers. Contrary to the heavyweights his father pit him against to prepare for Hopkins, Trinidad has spent more time pummeling junior middleweights and middleweights to get ready for Cherifi, 35.

Trinidad Sr. said the idea was to emphasize footwork, lateral movement and improved punching speed -- the old "fly like a butterfly, sting like a bee," adage that served Muhammad Ali so well.

Trinidad Sr. is already looking past this Cherifi fight toward a rematch with Bernard Hopkins. Hopkins KOed Trinidad in the 12th round with a technical knockout to take Trinidad's World Boxing Association 160-pound crown.

Cherifi, a former WBC middleweight champion, lost to Harry Simon in his last outing on July 21, 2001 held in Puerto Rico as part of the Daniel Santos-Antonio Margarito bout in Bayamón.

Trinidad is fighting on his home turf for the first time in five years.

Roberto Hernández, Edgar Martínez, Juan González healthy again

If you're a baseball fan, you can soon watch the boxscores for Kansas City closer Roberto Hernández, Seattle Mariners designated hitter Edgar Martínez and Texas Rangers slugger Juan "Igor" González.

The Royals activated Hernández five days ago and the right-hander shook out the cobwebs in his first two appearances, allowing two runs over an inning in his first time back and a single run in his second one-inning trial. Hernández had been on the DL since March 22 with a strained elbow, but said the injury is behind him.

"I'm happy with my fastball, my forkball and my arm hasn't bothered me either time I've been up to pitch, which is a good sign," said Hernández. "The problem is I haven't had a chance to save any games."

The ailing Royals are still searching for a manager and are currently 9-21.

Meanwhile, Texas outfielder González got the green light from hand specialist Dr. Bobby Wrotten to start swinging the bat again.

González's adviser, Luis Rodríguez Mayoral, said this week that it was too early to predict González's return to the Rangers' lineup.

"Dr. Wrotten gave Juan permission to start swinging the bat again, but he'll be starting slowly and working back up to speed," Rodríguez Mayoral said.

González went on the DL April 12 after injuring tendons in his right hand. He was hitting .250 through 24 games.

Finally, Seattle slugger Martínez could start a minor league rehab as early as next week.

Puerto Rico Superior Basketball League games to be webcast

Stateside fans of Puerto Rico's Superior Basketball League can watch the league's games over the internet whenever a TV game is scheduled on Puerto Rico's local Channel 24 (Telenet). By the current schedule, games are televised at the rate of about one per week. The 13-team league features Puerto Rico's two current NBA players, Carlos Arroyo (Denver Nuggets, Santurce Cangejeros) and Daniel Santiago (Phoenix Suns, Bayamón Vaqueros). For complete league info (and webcast schedule) check out their website at

Vassallo follows in Jordan's footsteps

With Michael Jordan rewriting the rules of retirement, it wasn't so shocking to see Jesse Vassallo back in the pool this past weekend, competing against kids his eldest son's age at the Puerto Rico Swimming Federation's long-distance meet in Caguas.

Vassallo, 40, smoked the youngsters, qualifying for the federation's Island Championships this July in four events, all on his first try.

At this pace, the former world champion might soon be Puerto Rico's best hope for a medal at the 2002 Central American-Caribbean Games in El Salvador.

Vassallo, who is active in the Puerto Rico Masters Swimmers Association, is back in the pool as part of an organized effort on the part of the Masters.

"The [Puerto Rico Swim] federation has been really supportive of the idea and has conceded to let us swim as a team at nationals," said P.R. Masters Swimming president Arnaldo Pérez. "They know it will be a big draw for the fans. When Vassallo competed in Caguas he drew applause every time he finished an event."

Pérez, 40, and Carlos Lomba, 37, and a former NCAA All-American at the University of California-Berkeley, both hope to join Vassallo on the blocks against the teens at the local championships July 11-15 in San Juan.

Pérez was a recent silver medalist at the World Masters Swimming Championships in the 200-meter butterfly.

Vassallo, father of three sons and married to Betsy López, sister of Atlanta Braves catcher Javier López, recently opened his own swimming school in his native Ponce.

The 1979 Pan Am Games gold and silver medalist for the United States was a world record holder in the 200-meter individual medley and the backstroke.

He won the Puerto Rico national championships 16 times, registered two world records and won two gold medals and one silver at the 1977 World Championships in Berlin.

He won the NCAA championships in the 400-meter individual medley in 1980 and earned a berth on the 1980 Olympic team for the United States but missed the Games due to the U.S. boycott.

From 1978 to 1982, he was the best individual medley swimmer in the world, losing only one race in four years. In 1997, he was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame.

Lomba, meanwhile, was an NCAA All-American at the University of California-Berkeley during his university years. He is currently Puerto Rico's best hope for a medal in the sport of triathlon at this fall's CAC Games in El Salvador.

Pérez, an executive for Frito Lay International, said he expects at least four others to join the Masters team for nationals, including former CAC Games medalists Iván "Pompi" Ortiz, now 35, and Carlos Nazario, 43. The youngsters in the Masters group are three 29-year-olds, Michelle Adorno, Rafael Gandarillas and Luis T. Díaz.


Gabrielle Paese is the Assistant Sports Editor at the San Juan Star. She is the most recent recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at

Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.

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