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Felix Trinidad: Fools Rush In
(May 21, 2004) 
Felix Tito Trinidad
A former superstar making a comeback can sometimes be a good thing for the sport of boxing. Many times it is not. In George Foreman’s case, it was originally thought to be the latter rather than the former, but in hindsight it was unquestionably a very good thing for boxing. Felix Trinidad, the latest superstar to announce his retirement and subsequent “unretirement,” has had overwhelming if not unanimous approval from the fans and experts of his desire to get back into the ring. Gone for only two years, and even after taking a systematic beating from Bernard Hopkins, Tito’s return is prospectively considered good for boxing. Why? Because he draws a crowd, he is a power punching assassin, and he gives us the possibility of a multitude of desirable superfights.

Many fans have written to me asking my opinion on one of those superfights, Trinidad’s proposed October 2 battle with Ricardo Mayorga. Assuming it comes off, a hunch (although my hunches and a nickel might get a you a stick of gum) and a modicum of knowledge about the two fighters’ respective styles tells me that Trinidad could not have picked an opponent worse for him than Mayorga (and okay, maybe Bernard Hopkins). Sure, Mayorga may not have been Trinidad’s first choice, but after Oscar De La Hoya and Hopkins signed to fight one another and “Sugar” Shane officially went sour against Winky Wright, Trinidad was left with few remaining options for a big return. Now, instead of testing the waters, he will be figuratively jumping into a shark’s den with a gaping wound, the sea around him rapidly turning a shade of crimson.

Why are so many dismissing Mayorga’s chances on the basis that Cory Spinks allegedly exposed him? Spinks may have beaten Mayorga, but he most certainly did not expose El Matador. Mayorga’s flaws were exposed for all of the world to see long before Spinks ever took advantage of them, and it has always been a matter of whether one can box effectively while steering clear of Mayorga’s wild bombs for the course of a fight. Spinks did a decent impression of boxing effectively, and his chin was strong enough to withstand Mayorga’s power on the few occasions that a punch actually landed. Trinidad, however, could not be further away on the spectrum of boxing styles than he is from Spinks, and that will be his downfall.

A boxer needs finesse to defeat Mayorga. Trinidad will never draw comparisons with Spinks, Pernell Whitaker, or Willie Pep in this regard, as he has always relied on relentless pressure and devastating power. Sound familiar? Ricardo Mayorga employs a similar style, only he takes pressure and aggression to the max, times ten. So unless one of these fighters suddenly learns to outbox their opponent, what we are looking at is a potential fight of the year candidate. The question that remains is who can take whose power shots better? The answer to that has to be Mayorga.

Mayorga has proven his beard by inviting and then taking without so much as a blink the best Vernon Forrest had to offer. Forrest may not be the puncher that Trinidad is, but he did score the only two knockdowns of Shane Mosley’s career. Although Trinidad packs a very potent punch, it may not be enough to dent the steel that Mayorga carries in his jaw. Trinidad, on the other hand, has hit the deck on many occasions, usually early in fights against the likes of Oba Carr, Anthony Stephens, and David Reid, just to name a few. He has made quite a habit of it, and if he leaves himself open early against Mayorga, his amazing recuperative powers might not help him if a punch lands flush.

Another factor working against Trinidad is the long layoff. Wouldn’t it have made a little more sense for Tito to take on a second or even third tier fighter before going straight to a big fight? With Trinidad’s pride and his way of thinking, he may consider Mayorga the tuneup. This is a similar situation, and comparisons are probably already being made, to Ray Leonard’s comeback fight against Marvin Hagler. Mayorga is nowhere near the talent that Hagler was, and Trinidad is not as far removed from his prime as Leonard was perceived to be at the time, so this is not an unwinnable fight for Tito. There are ways to make it an easier night for himself, such as using the jab as a weapon and making good use of bodypunches. He will also need to stay on the outside in order to see Mayorga’s looping punches coming and take the snap off before any of them get through. It will be difficult for Trinidad to turn boxer, rather than stalker, because it’s just not his way. For this fight, though, it is a necessity.

In the end, the trick for Trinidad will be to last the full twelve rounds without getting hit cleanly. I don’t think he can. Both Trinidad and Mayorga are very marketable, so Don King will win either way. In a sense, boxing will win too, but it will also lose out on big fights like Trinidad-De La Hoya II, Trinidad-Hopkins II, and Trinidad-Wright. For boxing, that would be a bad thing.

Floyd Mayweather will likely be seen by more fans than usual this weekend when he takes on DeMarcus “Chop Chop” Corley and he can give credit to HBO for its delayed broadcast of the Roy Jones-Antonio Tarver fight. Of course, if Corley doesn’t put forth more of an effort than he did against Zab Judah, Mayweather might be better off without the extra viewers.....Speaking of Tarver, Friday night should be interesting as he will be making his second appearance as a guest host on ESPN2’s Friday Night Fights. Tarver performed well the first time around and will have plenty to say about the fight that turned boxing on its ear....Finally, is anyone else thinking that 43 year old Ray Mercer is going to ice DaVarryl Williamson when they fight in June? Williamson’s a nice guy, but this one could turn ugly for him.
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