Throughout most of the 1990s Felix Trinidad was perhaps the most underrated professional boxer in the world. In a sport where the heavyweights get most of the publicity, recognition of Trinidad was hampered further by the more glamorous of the smaller champions. By the end of the decade, however, Trinidad proved he was a fighter to be reckoned with.
Felix "Tito" Trinidad Jr. was born January 10, 1973, in Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico. His father, who was the younger Trinidad's manager and trainer, was Puerto
Rican featherweight champion in the 1970s. Trinidad's boxing career began not too many years after his father's ended. He was twelve years old when he first started fighting and over the next five years he captured five Puerto Rican National Championships in five different weight classes: 100, 112, 119, 126, and 132 pounds). His overall amateur record was fifty-one wins against six losses. However Trinidad never fought in the Olympics and this may have been a contributing factor for his low profile among boxing fans.
A Power Puncher
Trinidad's first professional bout came on March 10, 1990, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. He defeated Angel Romero by a technical knockout (TKO) in the second round. It was a harbinger of a new style in which Trinidad, known for his speed, would now become a power puncher as well. Of the fifty-one victories in his amateur career, only twelve had come by knockout; nine of his first ten professional victories would come that route. During this time Trinidad stayed close to home, venturing outside Puerto Rico only twice—to Italy and to Miami—winning both fights by TKO. In fact, Trinidad fought fourteen of his first twenty fights in his native Puerto Rico, another factor that contributed to his being overlooked by the public in his early years. However, on the island Trinidad was a hero.
Trinidad's twentieth fight, on June 19, 1993, against Maurice Blocker in San Diego, California, proved to be a milestone in his career. He knocked out Blocker in the second round and won the International Boxing Federation (IBF) welterweight title. It was Trinidad's twentieth consecutive victory as a professional, eighteen by knockouts. Trinidad returned to Puerto Rico a champion and seven weeks later made his first title defense; he knocked out Luis Garcia in the first round in a bout on Bayamon, Puerto Rico. Trinidad had a tougher time against his next opponent, Anthony Stephens, but still managed to score a knockout in the tenth round of a fight staged in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on October 23, 1993. Soon after, Trinidad began preparing for the man who, up to that time, would be his toughest opponent, former lightweight champion Hector "Macho" Camacho.
Trinidad fought Camacho, who had moved up in weight class, on January 29, 1994, in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bout went the distance, twelve rounds, ending Trinidad's streak of nine consecutive knockouts, but in the end he triumphed with a unanimous decision. In September 1994 began his next knockout streak with a fourth-round TKO over Luis Ramon Campas in Las Vegas. Over the next five years Trinidad would run his knockout string to ten in a row.
|1973||Born January 10 in Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico|
|1993||Wins IBF welterweight title with 2nd-round knockout of Maurice Blocker|
|1994||Unanimous decision over Hector "Macho" Camacho|
|1999||Defeats Pernell "Sweat Pea" Whitaker|
|1999||Decision over Oscar De La Hoya captures WBA welterweight title|
|2000||Defeats David Reid to capture WBA super welterweight title|
|2000||TKO of Fernando Vargas, wins IBF super welterweight title|
|2001||Knocks out WBA middleweight champion William Joppy|
|2001||Loses to Bernard Hopkins by a TKO in fight to determine undisputed middleweight champion|
|2002||Wins by TKO over Hasine Cherifi in 4th round|
|2002||Announces his retirement in July|
On February 20, 1999, Trinidad took on Pernell "Sweat Pea" Whitaker in New York City. Whitaker was also one of the most dominating boxers of the 1990s, first winning the World Boxing Council (WBC) lightweight crown in 1989. He unified the title in 1990 and held it until 1992 when he moved up in weight class to the welterweight division. He was WBC welterweight champion from 1993 to 1997. Now against Trinidad, Whitaker was attempting a comeback, of sorts, and hoping to capture the IBF welterweight title. But once again Trinidad was not to be denied. The fight lasted the full twelve rounds, with Trinidad winning by a unanimous decision. After a May tuneup bout against Hugo Pineda, Trinidad signed to fight boxing's "Golden Boy" of the 1990s—Oscar De La Hoya .
De La Hoya was another dominating boxer in the 1990s. A 1992 Olympic gold medallist, De La Hoya had defeated Whitaker for the WBC welterweight title in 1997; at the time of his fight with Trinidad, De La Hoya was undefeated in thirty-one bouts. The fight's victor would take the other's crown.
It was a classic fight between a power puncher (Trinidad) and a boxer (De La Hoya) when the two met on September 19, 1999 in Las Vegas. The fight was scheduled for twelve rounds. De La Hoya won most of the early rounds as he seemingly befuddled Trinidad. But Trinidad never lost heart. He won the final three rounds on stamina and power and took a majority decision—two judges voted for Tinidad and the third scored the fight even—to claim De La Hoya's WBC title as well as retain his own IBF title.
In his next victory, on March 3, 2000, against David Reid in Las Vegas, Trinidad won the WBA super welter-weight title. By the end of the year Trinidad had unified the super welterweight title with a TKO in the twelfth round over Fernando Vargas.
Don King's Middleweight Tournament
In 2001, fight promoter Don King put together a tournament that would unify the middleweight division. He invited the three champions at that time—Bernard Hopkins (IBF), Keith Holmes (WBC), and William Joppy (WBA)—as well as Trinidad (who had moved up to the higher weight class) to participate. The winner would not only be the undisputed middleweight champion but the first recipient of the Sugar Ray Robinson trophy, named for the great boxer of the 1940s and 1950s. Trinidad and Joppy fought in New York City's famed Madison Square Garden (known as the Mecca of boxing) on May 12, 2001, with Trinidad winning by a fifth-round knockout. Technically he was now WBA middleweight champion but that was merely a step for the final prize.
On September 29, 2001 he fought Hopkins (who had beaten Holmes) in Madison Square Garden. Hopkins knocked down Trinidad in the twelfth (and final) round, and the fight was stopped midway through the round. Trinidad not only lost the middleweight crown, he had suffered his first defeat.
Trinidad's next fight was against former WBC middleweight champ Hasine Cherifi on May 11, 2002 in San Juan. He scored a TKO over Cherifi in the fourth round. But the loss to Hopkins had seemingly taken the desire to box out of Trinidad. He announced his retirement through his lawyer on July 2, 2002. In September, 2002 there was speculation that Trinidad might come out of retirement to fight the winner of the bout between two of his old foes—De La Hoya and Vargas (which De La Hoya won). But Trinidad reiterated his plans to remain retired.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1993||IBF welterweight title|
|1999||WBA welterweight title|
|2000||WBA super welterweight title|
|2000||IBF super welterweight title|
|2001||WBA middleweight title|
Felix Trinidad had a professional record of forty-one wins and one loss. Of those forty-one victories, thirty-four came by knockout. Combined with his amateur record he fought ninety-nine times between 1990 and 2002, winning ninety-two and losing seven. As a professional, Trinidad held the IBF and WBA welterweight titles, the IBF and WBA super welterweight titles, and the WBA middleweight title. His record in championship bouts was twenty-one wins and one loss.
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Sketch by F. Caso