By Mike Samuels
There are two ways to look at Saturday’s drubbing that Felix Trinidad suffered at the fists at Winky Wright. Those who have been skeptical of Trinidad’s incredible run in boxing are having a field day right now, saying things like, “I told you Trinidad was a one-dimensional fighter!” or the always-popular, “De la Hoya was robbed against Tito but Hopkins and Winky followed his game plan!" Or you can look at the fight for what it really was, a masterful display of the sweet science by Winky Wright, against, yes, a one-dimensional Trinidad. There has never been any question about the style Trinidad employs in the ring. He's a puncher. But being one-dimensional and being garbage are two very different things that often get mixed up.
Wright-Trinidad wasn’t quite Corrales-Castillo (then again what was?). But there was plenty to cheer for. Avid boxing aficionados should be happy to see Wright capture the biggest win of his no-longer underrated career. After watching his two fights with Shane Mosley and the way in which he systematically dominated Trinidad, it’s no wonder Wright has had trouble finding a formidable dance partner all these years.
There’s no question that all of Puerto Rico is feeling a bit blue after watching their country’s pride and joy get his head snapped back over and over for the twelve most one-sided rounds of his entire career. But perhaps the news that Boxingtalk first reported of Trinidad's second retirement is the most saddening aspect of the fight. If, indeed, Trinidad doesn’t pull a John Ruiz by changing his mind shortly, then I have a feeling there will be more than just the great people of Puerto Rico feeling the sting in their stomachs. All true boxing fans will miss the excitement that Trinidad always brought with him.
You can say what you want about Felix Trinidad. The fact remains that he is probably the single greatest fighter to ever come out Puerto Rico, with the possibole exception of Wilfred Benitez. And that’s a distinction that Tito has earned over his entire career. Sure, there will be plenty of nit-wits that look at Trinidad’s resume and won't get past the controversial win over Oscar de la Hoya or the loss to Bernard Hopkins, the only time besides last week that Trinidad was beaten decisively. But let’s not forget such classics as Tito’s war with Fernando Vargas or his knock out of William Joppy.
Getting by the foul smell of those who hate on Trinidad is a tough task. But once you’re over it you can begin to realize what Trinidad has done for boxing and even appreciate it. You will see that Trinidad has done some remarkable things like winning his first title at only 20 years of age and defending it 15 times before moving up to win titles in the junior middleweight and middleweight divisions. But in the case of all great fighters it comes down to more than just who you have on your resume or whether or not your opponent was at the top of his game at fight time. Instead we should measure a fighter by his heart and soul and what he brings to the ring each and every night. The character of a fighter is the lasting impression he should be left with. It’s the only thing a fighter can hold on to no matter how many L’s stain his record or how many bruises and stitches his face is left with. And Trinidad, who was knocked down quite a few times in his career, showed he had the heart of a champion.
When speaking of Felix Trinidad there isn’t a ruler big enough to measure the heart and soul or pride he has displayed over his career. You can’t count the number of exciting fights he has been involved in, or the number of dramatic finishes he’s ended fights with on a single hand. Those achievements in themselves make Trinidad a champion for life whether or not he ever fights again: there is the second-round destruction of Maurice Blocker to get his first world title, the welterweight title defenses against Anthony Stephens, Yori Boy Campas and Oba Carr where Trinidad rose off the canvas to win by stoppage; the first man to clearly defeat Pernell Whitaker; the move up to 154 where he warred with reigning champions David Reid and Fernando Vargas, and of course, the move up to middleweight where he destroyed William Joppy in front of a hysterical, sold-out Madison Square Garden.
Everyone in Puerto Rico gets it. You don’t have to tell them that Trinidad is a great fighter or remind them what he’s accomplished. His body of work over the last decade is still intact, win, lose or draw. That’s the way it should be. And I’m not just talking about inside a ring. I’m talking everything that comes along in life. Trinidad wasn’t just boxing to Puerto Rico. He was a statement of courage. A reason to wake up in the morning and believe in dreams no matter how down and out you may seem. Some of us are too spoiled to understand that boxing is about more than x’s and o’s.
Yes, Trinidad was out-classed, out-hustled and even embarrassed by the most important fundamental element a boxer can have - an accurate jab. So what if he doesn’t have any new title belts to parade around the streets of Puerto Rico with. Words like pride, determination, dignity and loyalty are just some of the ways to describe Trinidad and what he has meant not just to Puerto Rico but to the entire sport of boxing. Those elements can’t be measured in wins or losses. Anyone who tries to tell you that doesn’t understand the sweet science. Plain and simple.
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