September 24, 2004
Copyright © 2004 PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.
Before Puerto Rico was pitched into darkness for four days, I spent the morning of Tropical Storm Jeanne last Wednesday reassuring my sons that despite all the hysterical talk in the neighborhood, we werent in the path of a hurricane.
Its only a tropical storm, I told them and we spent the morning before the electricity went out at the National Weather Services website, www.noaa.gov, learning the difference and reading about hurricanes. By mid-morning, my first-grader could tick off the names of the worst hurricanes to hit Puerto Rico and Florida in recent history.
Hugo was the big one before we were born. You were in mommys belly for George and I was just a baby, he told his little brother with matter-of-fact crispness. Ivan is the one thats up in Florida. But Jeanne isnt a hurricane, shes a tropical storm.
Me and my big mouth. At noon, the electricity went out. By 8 p.m., the wind had stopped blowing, a lot of trees were down and the back porch was ankle deep in water. We lit the candles and cooked dinner on a camp stove.
The why questions were inevitable, especially as we heard the news reports of no major damages, except for some flooding.
Mommy, if it was only a tropical storm, how come they dont turn the lights back on?
Good question, son. Over the next four days I heard all kinds of answers. With less than seven weeks to go before general elections, Ill probably hear even more.
If youre wondering what all this has to do with sports, bear with me. Im on the verge of making my point.
By Day Three of no electricity, everything in the refrigerator had rotted and I stood in line at the ice plant for an hour in the rain to get my maximum two bags of ice.
Back in 1992, shortly after the Barcelona Olympics, I had a formal interview with Banco Popular CEO Richard Carrion in his offices in Hato Rey. Carrion had taken issue with some columns I wrote opposing Puerto Ricos decision to bid for the 2004 Olympics. I argued that Puerto Rico lacked the infrastructure to host an event of such magnitude. Carrions position was that bringing the 2004 Games to Puerto Rico would be a catalyst for improvements.
Carrion argued that Puerto Rico already had the basic infrastructure in place. He said that Puerto Rico was not like other countries in the world. He said that here, when you turn the light switch on, the lights come on. He said that here, when you turn the spigot, water comes out.
In the 14 years since that conversation, Puerto Rico has had dozens of infrastructural meltdowns similar to the Jeanne debacle. We endured water shortages that have had nothing to do with droughts. Thanks to lack of urban planning, we face everyday traffic that is completely unnecessary. So accustomed are we to NOT having running water and electricity that most of us who can afford it have our own cisterns and generators.
In the wake of Jeanne, the poorest sectors of the island will receive federal funds to cover damages. The rest of us, including the small businesses, which saw production and sales come to a halt and lost thousands of dollars, will just suck it up. So will people like me, who went out to the grocery store when the lights went on and dropped a few hundred bucks to replace the contents of the refrigerator.
Now we know. Puerto Ricos infrastructure is so fragile, it takes a mere tropical storm to stop us in our tracks for nearly a week.
But I digress. My point was this: Without electricity for almost a week, Puerto Ricos sports calendar came to a complete halt. Only Felix Tito Trinidad continued unruffled, training during daylight hours because even one of the worlds best pound-for-pound boxers doesnt have a generator at his gym. Needless to say, the extra heat and humidity helped him lose the final pounds and his father/trainer reported this week that the former champ is already at fighting weight.
Trinidad heads to New York on Sunday in the final countdown toward his return to the squared circle with an Oct. 2 middleweight date versus former WBA and WBC welterweight champ Ricardo Mayorga, of Nicaragua.
If the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority could harness Ricardo Mayorgas mouth, wed have enough energy to run Palo Seco for a year. Mayorga held a media conference call this week from Miami to talk the kind of trash usually reserved for professional wrestling.
Titos time has passed. Hes never going to be the boxer he once was and he knows it because a boxer who retires from boxing does so because he no longer has it in his heart. He has a weak heart and a weak chin so its going to be easy to knock him out, Mayorga told reporters. Im prepared to go 12 rounds but I know Tito wont last that long. Hes going to have to be born again with a new jaw after the fight because hes not going to withstand my pressure.
He also predicted hell send Trinidad to the canvas.
Im going to knock him out between the third and fifth rounds. When he falls to the canvas I hope his father is there staying close to him and thinking of his family to stop the fight in time before he gets seriously injured.
Trinidad (41-1-0, 34 KO) retired from boxing after a fourth-round TKO over Frances Hacine Cherifi. The Cupey Alto native held titles in three weight classes during his outstanding career. His only loss was to undisputed middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins on Sept. 29, 2001, a TKO in the 12th round. The fight against Hopkins was Trinidads second at 160 of his career. He announced his comeback to the sport late in 2003.
Felix Trinidad Sr., meanwhile, said his son would shut Mayorga up on Oct. 2 in the ring.
With all due respect to Mayorga, he hasnt knocked anyone out in any of his recent fights whereas Tito knocked out 90 percent of his opponents.
Mayorga has struggled of late. His most recent knockout victory was January of 2003 over Vernon Forrest, who he said was his toughest opponent to date. The Nicaraguan lost his WBC and WBA welterweight belts to Cory Spinks in December of last year and failed to make weight to challenge Jose Antonio El Gallo Rivera in April 2004 on the Ruiz-Oquendo undercard. He won a unanimous decision over stand-in Eric Mitchell on that card after Rivera refused to put his title on the line.
Trinidad Sr. encouraged fans who doubt his sons dedication to the sport to watch the fight.
Tito has plenty of ambition left in boxing and were not going to let Mayorga rain on Titos parade, said Trinidad Sr. Thats why boxing fans will all want to watch this fight. Were going to see whether a boxer who has retired from the sport can once again put his heart into it. But while the fans will only be watching, the only person who is going to actually feel how much heart Tito still has will be Mayorga.