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May 20, 2005
For anyone who was a fan of Felix "Tito" Trinidad, his loss last weekend to Ronald "Winky" Wright was painful to watch. From the opening round it was clear that Trinidad was not prepared to face a left-hander of Wright's caliber. Fans knew beforehand that Wright was a boxer with superb technique. As much as Trinidad tried to find an opening for his knockout punch, he was boxed out every time by a fighter who had obviously spent a lot of time analyzing Trinidad's moves.
Credit Trinidad's extreme fitness that he lasted the whole 12 rounds. If you watched the fighters' feet during the fight, you could see that Wright's movement was economy of motion. He planted his lead foot and pivoted around while destroying Trinidad with an annoyingly long right jab. Trinidad, meanwhile, moved constantly, his feet looking for a comfortable position but mostly stepping on Wright's toes. Trinidad's nonstop movement was the aerobic equivalent to jumping rope for 12 rounds and only a boxer of Trinidad's fitness level could have lasted through it.
During his career, Trinidad has not had to test the limits of that fitness very often. With 35 knockouts in 42 victories, he didn't have to. But the loss to Wright revealed holes in the armor of the fighter most had on their pound-for-pound lists.
Granted, it wasn't a knockout loss, but it was a shutout. Trinidad barely connected with a punch; Wright kept his gloves high, effectively warding off Trinidad's blows with his gloves or his arms. In Compubox numbers, Trinidad landed just 58 punches in the entire fight, compared to Wright's 262. He landed just 15 jabs to Wright's 158 and 40 power punches to Wright's 77. Trinidad's not a quitter, though.
He didn't give up at any time, his expression remained determined throughout, but the frustration and confusion was also clear on his face, as if he were trying to solve a particularly difficult puzzle. The judges saw it 119-108 (Jerry Roth), 119-108 (Dave Moretti) and 120-107 (Duane Ford) all as a unanimous decision in favor of Wright, who will likely get a shot at middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins, the same matchup Trinidad's fans had been so eagerly awaiting for the 32-year-old Puerto Rican.
Immediately following the fight, Trinidad indicated he would consider a rematch, and said he had no plans to retire.
The fighter who beats me in the ring has to be one of the best in the world and Wright is one of the best. He has an uncomfortable style and a stiff jab. I came in at the best condition ever and I couldnt land any power punches because I was being cautious in not losing any points," said Trinidad. "I am not thinking about retirement. I will have a rematch, but I have to speak with my father and manager, my wife and family about my future in boxing. I will accept any challenge in the future against Winky or any other champion.
Following the fight, Wright was extremely gracious, offering Trinidad the rematch ultimately doomed by Trinidad's lackluster performance.
"He is a great fighter and hes strong. I hit him with some great shots. He has a great hook. I kept moving to avoid the hook," said Wright of his first venture at middleweight. "I take my hat off to him. He has a heart of a champion. Ill exercise the rematch clause. That was tonight. Next time may be different."
Trinidad himself cleared up any discussion of a next time. Once back in San Juan and with his father by his side, the Cupey Alto native announced his retirement for the second time in his career.
"I've been a boxer for 15 years because I started in 1990. It's been a long career filled with fights both great and difficult, but I feel as good physically as when I started," Trinidad said during a press conference upon his return home. "My father told me at the airport that he was planning to retire and I reminded him that I had always said, ever since I was a kid, that the day my dad could not be by my side I would not throw another punch."
Trinidad's first retirement came in July of 2002, one victory after his first career defeat, a knockout loss to Hopkins. Trinidad fans (and promoter Don King) had hoped for a victory over Wright to set up a rematch versus Hopkins.
"When I retired in 2002, I did it with all sincerity and I was not thinking about returning. I came back for two fights, one won and lost the other," said Trinidad. "Now we are saying again that we are retiring. Everything that I have done in boxing I owe to him [Felix Trinidad Sr.]. If he's not there, I won't do anything more in this lifetime."
Will Trinidad's retirement stick? Athletes (and boxers are no exception) are competitive by nature so it's not easy for them to throw in the towel. And Trinidad brought such great glory to Puerto Rican boxing to go out on such a low note.
The Trinidads, both father and son, are men of principle. Trinidad Sr. is roundly criticized for being stubborn, but he's stubborn because he makes good on his word and that's a virtue so rare in boxing it sparks suspicion and disbelief. When Trinidad came out of retirement in 2004 to fight Ricardo Mayorga, Trinidad Sr. made it clear he was stepping back into the corner out of devotion to his son. After Saturday's loss it's clear his heart wasn't in it.
Trinidad Sr. said he expected to take the brunt of the media and fan criticism for his son's retirement, just as he shouldered most of the blame for Trinidad's slow-footed show versus Wright.
"It's nothing new, no one has ever said anything good about me," said Trinidad Sr. "I've worked in 44 fights with Tito and even during the 42 he won, no one has ever had anything good to say about me."
Islanders notch first two victories of season
The Puerto Rico Islanders pulled off spectacular back-to-back wins this past weekend over the Rochester Raging Rhinos in the A-League of the United Soccer League, their first victories of the season.
The Islanders improved their record to 2-2-1, winning their first match at Bayamon's Juan Ramon Loubriel Stadium versus Rochester by a score of 1-0 on a goal from Johanes Maliza at the 19th minute. The follow-up win came two days later with a 2-1 win, again over visiting team Rochester. Puerto Rico's Mauricio Salles scored on a penalty kick at minute 10 while teammate Corey Woolfolk added another goal at the 22nd minute. Rochester scored one goal late in the game in the 65th minute by Lennin Steenkamp. The Islanders have a 12-day rest before heading to Canada to take on the Toronto Lynx May 27.
Gabrielle Paese is a sports reporter in San Juan. She was the 2000 recipient of the Overseas Press Club's Rafael Pont Flores Award for excellence in sports reporting. Comments or suggestions? Contact Gabrielle at email@example.com.
Her Column, Puerto Rico Sports Beat, appears weekly in the Puerto Rico Herald.