Felix Trinidad – 1990-2008, 42-3 (35)
During the era in which either three or four fighters were enshrined in the Modern category (1994 to present), only twice have opponents been inducted together – Michael Carbajal and Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez in 2006 and Julio Cesar Chavez and Kostya Tszyu in 2011. If all goes as expected, the Class of 2014 will feature the third such pairing in De La Hoya and Trinidad, whose 1999 showdown resulted in a highly criticized majority decision for “Tito.”
Universally recognized as one of the greatest fighters ever produced by talent-rich Puerto Rico, Trinidad is also among its most beloved champions. His “happy warrior” persona charmed the masses while his pile-driving hooks thrilled them for more than a decade at the elite level. His underrated boxing skills smoothly set up the hair-trigger howitzers that followed but more than a few times he had to first climb off the floor. But like Aaron Pryor and Danny Lopez before him, Trinidad might go down for a count of one, two or three while his opponents ended up going down for a count of eight, nine or ten. If overcoming early adversity is a skill, then Trinidad was one of its masters.
Credentials for Elevation: In terms of time, Trinidad’s reign of six years and nine months is the longest in welterweight history and his 15 defenses rank second only to Henry Armstrong’s 19. By virtue of his controversial win over De La Hoya he united, however briefly, the IBF and WBC belts. For all his success at welterweight his prime poundage might have been 154, where a far more comfortable “Tito” scored four knockdowns in winning the WBA belt from David Reid, blasted out the 33-1 Mamadou Thiam in three rounds and added the IBF strap following his classic 12th-round TKO over Fernando Vargas.
Trinidad looked even more potent, if that were possible, when he crushed WBA middleweight king William Joppy in five to win his third divisional crown. That performance vaulted him into the finals of the middleweight unification tournament against longtime IBF middleweight titlist Bernard Hopkins, who seized the WBC belt in commanding fashion against Keith Holmes in the other semifinal.
In all, Trinidad was a scintillating 20-1 (16) in major title fights, including 16-0 (13) where a piece of the welterweight title was at stake. Included in that stretch was nine consecutive knockouts, the longest such streak in division history (Armstrong and Pipino Cuevas are second with eight straight). Also, Trinidad defeated 11 men who held titles at some point in their careers: Jake Rodriguez (W 10), Maurice Blocker (KO 2), Hector Camacho (W 12), Luis Ramon “Yory Boy” Campas (KO 4), Freddie Pendleton (KO 5), Pernell Whitaker (W 12), De la Hoya (W 12), Reid (W 12), Joppy (KO 5), Hacine Cherifi (KO 4) and Ricardo Mayorga (KO 8).
What Critics Will Seize Upon: If Trinidad is to be denied – an insane notion given his credentials – it will be blamed on his performances in two fights. The first is the drubbing he suffered at the hands of Hopkins in the finals of the four-man middleweight title unification tournament. Based on his demolition of Joppy, Trinidad was installed as such a prohibitive favorite that “Tito’s” name was already inscribed on the Marvin Hagler Trophy that was to be presented after the bout. Hopkins, stung by the disrespect experts showed despite his lengthy 12-defense reign, methodically dissected Trinidad before stopping the exhausted Puerto Rican in the 12th.
The other fight critics will point to is his whitewash decision loss to 2-to-1 underdog Ronald “Winky” Wright, who used his spearing southpaw jab to neutralize the vicious attack that so impressively disposed of Mayorga six months earlier. Trinidad never got untracked and the CompuBox numbers illustrated just how decisively he was beaten: Wright out-landed “Tito” 262-58 overall, 185-15 in jabs and 77-43 in power punches. Wright landed 46 percent of his power punches while Trinidad, who landed only 10 percent of his total punches, connected on 19 percent.
Fortunately for Trinidad and his fans, these stumbles occurred long after the Puerto Rican solidified his place in history. Because of that, he should be a lock for Canastota.
(Next page: Joe Calzaghe)