Trinidad-Mayorga: A Preview
By Jim Cawkwell (September 30, 2004) 
Photo © HBOPPV
In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks, Felix 'Tito' Trinidad was one of the many people serving food and offering support and consolation as New York City struggled to harness its courage and strength in the face of devastating adversity. The world became engrossed with the horrific drama of that fateful day while Trinidad went on to seek out his own destiny. His journey brought him to consumption at the hands of Bernard Hopkins via a twelfth round knockout and after two years of self-imposed exile, it brings him once more to Madison Square Garden, his own personal ground zero to salvage the wreckage of his career.

In many ways, Trinidad was the embodiment of the dream fighter. Only linguistic limitation prevented him from attaining the complete mainstream appeal to the English-speaking boxing sector thoroughly enjoyed by Oscar De La Hoya. Otherwise, Trinidad looked and acted like the superstar of boxing he truly was. A fighter known as the greatest finisher in the sport due to his ruthless efficiency and a seemingly unparalleled power that traveled with him through every weight class he entered. When he walked away from boxing, it hurt. However, the show must always go on, as it did in his stead. Perhaps, as is inevitably for true fighters of legendary achievements such as he, the ache to be the central character in that show once again becomes too great. Therefore, Trinidad returns, not inconspicuously in preparation for future dangers, but to erase two years of dormancy in a single thrilling encounter with Nicaraguan wild man Ricardo Mayorga.

Firepower generates buyer-power and this fight represents as explosive an encounter as you are likely to see anywhere in the world this year. Another fundamental aspect of Trinidad’s appeal, his Achilles heel as it were and that which makes this fight so compelling, is his innate vulnerability. Despite his domineering prowess, his susceptibility to one equalizing response from his opponent always threatened to send him momentarily spiraling out of control and the search for redemption he always managed to grasp, eventually. If you remember anything of Vernon Forrest by now it is likely to be the straight missiles he launched to separate the welterweight championship from Shane Mosley. The second and perhaps last thing you might recall of Forrest was the way in which he was invited to throw those same missiles at Mayorga, and in doing so, he was met with a mocking smile from Mayorga who, upon absorbing their full weight, was distinctly unimpressed.

That moment in the Mayorga-Forrest rematch was one of my favorite in recent years and the one that leads me to believe that Trinidad will have to reveal his exceptional best to overcome Mayorga’s maniacal marauding. If any fighter can redeem himself in such oppressive circumstances it might be Trinidad and with the recent trend of weekly dismissals of boxing’s flag-bearers, hope is high that Trinidad can restore order to the chaos in which Mayorga revels. However, as much as we romanticize Trinidad’s return as the hero attempting to reclaim his lost glory, a dash of realism prevents me from a wholehearted explanation of why he is certain to do so. That inescapable reality is born out of Trinidad’s true motives for returning.

Unless your name is Oscar De La Hoya, you are a fighter that cannot afford to agree to any fight unless the monetary incentive is suitable and I am sure that Trinidad stalls on ensuring us of a permanent return to boxing because the financial landscape of the sport grows increasingly unstable. De La Hoya may retire and Roy Jones Jr. certainly should retire, considerably decreasing Trinidad’s motivation to fight beyond Mayorga. Bernard Hopkins’ celebrated his historic win over Trinidad with two years of passive aggressive career management and lawsuits, the effect of which on his marketability cannot be fully masked by his sudden arrival as the best fighter in the business. If Trinidad escapes Mayorga, perhaps we could only hope that Trinidad’s vengeful side would supersede his common sense in the event of a rematch with Hopkins becoming a reality.

I have not been able to select the manner in which my brain receives the information projected to it in the form of Trinidad’s interviews. Don King has been a predictably common reference during Trinidad’s dialogue but I feel that a good deal of King’s irrepressible coercion has contributed to Trinidad’s second coming and that it will be a fleeting luxury at best. Trinidad was a legend in the ring, but legend is a term that is quickly consigned to the past. If Trinidad is coming back without his heart and mind fully focused, meaning that he cannot replicate enough of his former ability, he could be hurt; in Mayorga, he is facing a man who can cause him serious physical harm and is literally aching to do so.

Ricardo Mayorga is one of those fighters that emerges into prominence and reminds us that boxing is something that thrives because of the struggle of the working classes and the kids from the gutter whose only chance at a better life for themselves and their families is through their fists. Determination in the sanitized world of a finely trained athlete is quite different to the sheer desperation of a street kid with no college degree as insurance in the event of failure. Before Cory Spinks slipped and squirmed his way towards the undisputed welterweight championship at Mayorga’s expense, Mayorga epitomized the struggle I described with an incessant brutality.

Abrasive, unrefined and generally tactless he may be, but Mayorga is without the preciousness of a marquee fighter and the monumental payday he so thirstily seeks. A win for Mayorga would edge him ever closer to that day if Oscar De La Hoya is curious enough to remain in the fight game; a win for Trinidad would seal his reinstatement into the order of great fighters and on the path to his own redemption. Whoever wins, it is a fight in which the fans cannot lose.
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