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Puerto Rico Profile: Felix "Tito" Trinidad

November 19, 1999
Copyright © 1999 THE PUERTO RICO HERALD. All Rights Reserved.

In a hurricane-swept corner on the edge of Old San Juan, a little man, with his fists raised and his face confident, stands on a crumbling pedestal. His features have been tarnished by the wind and the rain, and some of his metallic bones are exposed, but this statue of A. Sixto Escobar (1913-1979), the first Puerto Rican World Champion boxer, remains triumphant. He has a look of determination, of victory, that belies all the external erosion.

On September 18, Felix "Tito" Trinidad became the latest inheritor of Escobar's legacy. The 26 year old welterweight defeated Oscar De la Hoya by majority decision, improving his record to 35-0 with 30 KO's. After De la Hoya appeared to be winning in the first eight rounds of a twelve round bout in Las Vegas, Trinidad refused to give up. As De la Hoya eased off in the final rounds, the scrappy fighter from Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, swayed the judges with his determination and stamina.

To the boxing world, the fight was Tito Trinidad's chance to prove that he is a legitimate champion and a force to be reckoned with. He first made a name for himself by defeating Hector "Macho" Camacho in 1994, but many believed that Camacho was past his prime. Facing Oscar De la Hoya, also 26, was a new challenge for Trinidad. De la Hoya came to Vegas with a record of 31-0 with 25 KO's. An Olympic Champion, he held the WBC Welterweight belt. Now Trinidad, who already had the IBF title, can add the WBC belt to his collection.

To the people of his native island, Tito's victory marked his final ascendance to the pantheon of Puerto Rican heroes. Fans mobbed the airport when he returned home, chanting his name. Even Gov. Pedro Rossello was on hand to thank Trinidad for "glorifying the name of Puerto Rico."

Now Tito Trinidad ranks alongside the greatest boxers in Puerto Rican history. He has been compared to two other Puerto Rican welterweight champions, Wilfred Benitez and Wilfredo Gomez.

Wilfred Benitez is a Bronx-born Puerto Rican who became the youngest fighter to win a world title in 1976, when he was 17 years, 6 months old. He has called himself "The Bible of Boxing" because of his technical superiority in the ring. In 1981, he became only the seventh boxer to win titles in three separate weight classes ­ Junior Welterweight, Welterweight, and Super Welterweight.

Wilfredo Gomez won three world titles in the 1980's. The President of the World Boxing Organization, Francisco "Paco" Valcarel, considers him to be the best fighter ever.

Tito Trinidad has not yet received that high praise from all boxing fans. In fact, his victory in September aroused criticism from some quarters. Many fans and commentators ­ outside Puerto Rico, at least ­ say either that De la Hoya was the actual winner, or that Trinidad won only by default.

However, the people of Puerto Rico remain unfazed. Tito Trinidad remains a great champion, he is still undefeated, and he is a source of pride for all Puerto Ricans. Moreover, in a sport that has more than its share of convicted felons, he has avoided the pitfalls of drug abuse and uncontrolled violence. Like the statue of Sixto Escobar, rising out of an area battered by storm and time, Tito Trinidad ­ and the tough, determined world of Puerto Rican boxing ­ continues to stand tall.