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Hopkins, Tyson, Trinidad and More
By Jim Cawkwell (July 8, 2004) 
A dead man lays in a designer suit, expensive carrion, but carrion nonetheless. Teeth and claws are sharpened for a feeding frenzy this September and Oscar De La Hoya is expected to provide the main course. De La Hoya’s anatomy and his chances of victory are things that he is attempting to re-shape daily, but the slimming of his body does not necessarily pile weight upon his prospects of defeating the finest middleweight specimen in the world.

Hopkins-De La Hoya is historic if only for the fact that Bernard Hopkins is finally going to be paid for being the model by which all middleweights aspire to emulate. Hopkins’ promotional appearances are marked by macabre quotes and warnings of his intent towards De La Hoya; ironically, Hopkins would be the first to champion De La Hoya’s preservation until unleashing himself on the Latin legend and claiming his ultimate prize. Boxing is a serious business, but if we took it too seriously, allowing the religious and political climates of the day to trouble us too much, a Muslim man in the guise of an executioner would be silenced faster than you could say censorship.

However, boxing is a unique world among many others and it has enough turmoil to keep it going without the addition of religion and politics. Good and bad are concepts in boxing that have been muddied considerably over the years. Boxing shows have previously benefited from promotional gimmickry portraying a battle between good and evil characters in a style straight out of a comic book, but this is a real fight and both fighters are aware of its importance.

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Muhammad Ali was the black superman who departed Zaire thirty years ago, leaving history in his wake. De La Hoya faces a proportionately similar struggle with Hopkins, his own 'rumble in the jungle' if you will. Perhaps the days of heroes and villains are over, but a De La Hoya victory would transform cynics into believers and remind us that dreams can be fulfilled if only you would dare to realize them. Legendary trainer Cus D’Amato gave us many words of his own unique wisdom but most appropriate in this case might be: 'anything is possible, unlikely, but possible'.

D’Amato’s parting gift to boxing returns to the fold at the end of this month. Sadly, I suppose we need Mike Tyson as much as he needs us; or rather, he needs our money and we’ve always been happy enough to part with it in support of him, so a happy coincidence is enjoyed by all. While Oscar De La Hoya has until September to realize a dream, England’s Danny Williams has three weeks left before he tries his hand at writing fairy tales. Williams meets the majority criteria of a potential Tyson opponent: he lost his last fight, all three of his losses have been against fighters below world class and he has the obligatory suspect chin of virtually all British heavyweights.

However, Williams’ special talent, the one that likely secured his position against Tyson, is his startling lack of confidence. By his own past admission Williams has frozen in fights of far lesser significance than the one in which he is about to engage. Meanwhile, Tyson’s press appearances aren’t littered with the street thug mentality, all the intimidation he needs is in his fists, and when they start talking, Williams won’t have the voice to offer a satisfactory answer.

Responsible as he is for his own downfall, there is something about Tyson the cultural icon sleeping in a homeless shelter that does not sit right. Maybe it is too early for sympathy, but Tyson is a prism through which we see the depravity of the streets; we can turn away from it, Tyson cannot. In a way, we have all been responsible for what has happened to Mike Tyson; social consciences seem to thrive on conspiracy, turmoil and the ability to look down on the less fortunate. Tabloid papers and other mainstream media seek money by reflecting what the paying public wants to see and hear, and for too long there has been no money in true redemption.

Redemption, now there is a concept to occupy the thoughts of Ricardo Mayorga, but perhaps one that disinterests him. Mayorga defied the logic of his downfall for as long as he could, but when it came to it, a smart southpaw diffused him. Mayorga did not fit the role of modern boxing hero but it was a position many hoped he would assume nonetheless, especially after his signature victories in which he reduced a Forrest into a withering tree. However, in what form do we expect the savior of boxing to arrive? Mayorga won his first world title and still rove the expensive watch from the hand of he whom had promised it to him; I had hoped such hunger would endure, but it was hunger literally born out of poverty and perhaps it has already been quenched.

Before succumbing to the Spinks jinx, Mayorga the warrior stated that he had killed generals, why was there doubt that he could kill a private? Faced by even greater odds, Mayorga is on the trail of a legend. But, there are several reasons why Trinidad-Mayorga might be a more competitive affair than I first thought.
Mayorga’s advantages begin with the fact that he fought a large portion of his career as a light middleweight before receiving his title chance against Andrew Lewis as a welterweight; suddenly his meeting Trinidad at middleweight does not seem so foolish. It is long enough until October for Mayorga to elaborate on the mind games he has already begun and Trinidad has proven that he is not impervious to such tactics. Finally, Trinidad’s motives for returning to boxing serve as a plus for Mayorga. Don King has obviously coerced Trinidad out of retirement to satisfy his own needs.

Trinidad was a true warrior whose premature departure from boxing was almost incomprehensible, but I learn much from a fighters own dialogue and took Trinidad’s vow never to return as absolute. Examining his current scenario and choice of words, I can foresee two possible outcomes: Trinidad’s body may be willing but his mind is trading on the experience of a career that is legendary but belongs now to history; Mayorga is the wrong man against whom to risk such a gamble. Or perhaps Trinidad’s fire will return because of Mayorga’s taunts and stay with us if he experiences the thrill of condemning him to the canvas.

Finally, I am sure I speak on behalf of my Doghouse colleagues and the many readers of this site when I extend my prayers and best wishes to Al Gavin and his family during his time of need. Corner-men are too often the unsung heroes of the boxing world and for forty years now, Al Gavin has been one of boxing’s premier sixty-second-surgeons and greatly influential in the outcome of many world title fights.

Al, our thoughts are with you, God bless.
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