|Trinidad vs. Jones: Tale of the Intangible
By Gabriel Montoya (Jan 18, 2008) Doghouse Boxing (Photo © Will Hart/ HBO-PPV)
When the possibility of Felix "Tito" Trinidad vs. Roy Jones Jr fight was talked about back in 2000, my first thought was "You have to give Tito credit for taking on any one at any weight. But damn, that's suicidal." Eight years later, and with the fight now a reality, I still have to give credit to Tito for taking on a tough challenge. However, the fight seems much less like suicide than a calculated risk.
What makes this fight intriguing is a laundry list of intangibles. How will Trinidad perform at 170 lbs? How will Jones?
What does Tito have left? What does Jones? Will Tito carry any semblance of his punch up to 170? Can Jones take a punch from a world class fighter anymore? Will this end in a blowout from Jones or will Tito surprise us all and take it to decision? How is it that both men have similar measurements yet Jones is considered the bigger man? There are a myriad of questions and despite the fight looking like a mismatch on paper, looking at the fighters in the here and now of 2008, nothing is certain coming into this showdown.
When we last saw Felix Trinidad, he was losing every round of a 12 round bout against Winky Wright. Looking very much the "shot" fighter, Trinidad had seemingly lost that fire that had endeared him to fight fans of all nationalities. A second retirement would follow in what was a surprising whimper of an end from a man who had brought so much bang to the sport. Coming into Saturday's fight , Trinidad is 2-2 in his last four bouts with two knockout wins over fighters either out of their weight class (Ricardo Mayorga) or past their prime (Hacine Cherifi). Trinidad has never fought above the middleweight limit.
Following his back to back knockout losses, Roy Jones went from Superman to afterthought. Jones would return to form slowly in a losing effort to Antonio Tarver in their rubber match and subsequent wins over Prince Abadi Ajamu and Anthony Hanshaw. In both of those fights, Jones Jr would go the distance and look far more ordinary than he had in his
career. While the hand and foot speed are still a notch above the second tier, the killer instinct and ability to finish has waned. Jones hasn't scored a knockout victory since 2002 and hasn't been near 170 since 1999 when he weighed 171 for a light heavyweight defense.
Conventional boxing wisdom is that a good big man always beats a good little man. But taking a closer look at the tale of the tape, size is a bit overrated in this fight. Yes, Jones began his career at the weight Trinidad last retired at. But a comparison of both men from their two peak fights shows a negligible size difference. These measurements are taken from Jones vs. John Ruiz (a heavyweight bout) and Trinidad vs. Hopkins (a middleweight bout).
169.5 Weight 170
5'11" Height 5'11"
73 1/2" Reach 74
13 1/4" Biceps 13"
11" Forearm 11"
31" Waist 28"
15 1/2" Neck 16"
6 1/2" Wrist 7"
12" Fist 10"
With the physical tape that close the intangibles come into play. It's hard to measure from his performances against the pedestrian Ajamu and Hanshaw what Jones has left at a world class level. After nearly three years away from the ring, it's impossible to measure Trinidad before Saturday night. The only thing concrete that is left to look at is the personality or style of the fighters.
At his peak, Jones was virtuoso. Fighting in a style all his own, Jones made the impossible seem easy win after win. Until late in his career against Tarver, you could count on one hand the rounds he lost and would still have a finger or two left. Jones' greatest strength in the ring goes beyond speed, power and agility. It's his endless creativity. His innate ability to think outside the box and come with an attack perfectly suited to the moment.
At his best, Trinidad was an power punching, pressure fighting assassin. A gifted distance fighter who rarely needed the time due to the dynamite he possessed in both hands. Often thought of as one dimensional, Trinidad's greatest strength, single minded focus, also turned out to be his greatest flaw. His belief that his pressure power style would ultimately break his opponents will led to his two defeats. His unwillingness to change strategy made him one dimensional.
What the fight comes down to is simple. Fighters, no matter how they physically diminish, rarely if ever change their natures. On Saturday night, Roy Jones will still be a creative fighter at heart, adapting to the moment for better or worse. Trinidad will be looking to take Jones out from bell one with a single minded focus designed to break Jones' will. He will not fight out of the box.
Does this add up to good chemistry? Impossible to tell. But if past examples of great fighters getting it on are any indication, this should be a good one. And despite the insistence of some mainstream outlets, this fight is not meaningless. No it isn't for a title, but the winner will certainly go on to fight another big name fighter. Possibly the winner of Calzaghe/Hopkins or Pavlik/Taylor. Nothing insignificant about either of those possibilities.
An Official Pick
Every time I think of the fight in an "on paper" sense, I have to go with Jones. He has proven himself at a higher weight in a decisive fashion. Trinidad, is 3-2 at his top weight of 160 with losses to elite fighters. But if there is ever a time for a gut or a "for old times sake" pick, it's now. My gut keeps telling me that Jones is winning on all cards (though Tito has a few moments here and there keeping the action tense) when in the 11th round, Tito drops him out of nowhere ala Jorge Castro vs. John David Jackson. Jones gets up but on shaky legs. Trinidad, who is possibly the best finisher in the last 15 years, seizes his opportunity and puts enough leather on Jones to force the ref to step in. It ain't pretty but Tito gets an 11th round TKO.
e-mail Gabriel at: Coyotefeather@gmail.com
© Copyright / All Rights reserved: Doghouse Boxing 1998-2007