“YOU watch Felix Trinidad throw these kind of punches” purred HBO’s Larry Merchant “and you start thinking what God had in mind there was a fighter” as Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad ripped in hooks and uppercuts in a brutal beating of tough Frenchman Mamadou Thiam in 2000.
Puerto Rico’s Trinidad was one of the most exiting and biggest punching stars of recents years. His wars with Yori Boy Campas (w rsf 4) and Fernando Vargas (w rsf 12) are the stuff of legend.
The epitome of a ‘chinny banger’ he often found himself on the canvas early in his fights to rise and dish out a painful lesson.
His first title came in 1993 at welterweight, when the fresh-faced mustachioed 21-year-old demolished Maurice Blocker in two rounds. The most potent weapon in his arsenal – his dynamite left hook – unsurprisingly did the damage. It was only Tito’s 20th paid bout.
He terrorised the 147b division for nearly six years and 15 defences, a string of stoppage victories in up-and-down wars over the likes of Oba Carr, Campas and Britain’s Kevin Lueshing were the norm with just two men – tough and skilled southpaw greats Hector Camacho and Pernell Whitaker – extending him. Whitaker suffered a fractured jaw for his troubles.
His final appearance at the weight – a unification megafight against superstar Oscar De La Hoya – ended in a controversial decision for Trinidad, as De La Hoya, clearly ahead, appeared to coast the final rounds and lose a majority verdict and his WBC title.
Trinidad then headed north to super-welterweight where his destruction of David Reid for the WBA crown marked his third US Olympic gold medallist scalp after the Whitaker and De La Hoya decisions.
After unifying at 154lbs, he entered HBO’s middleweight championship series in 2001. He walked through defending WBA champion William Joppy in five rounds [pictured below] to earn his place in the final against legendary champion Bernard Hopkins who outpointed Keith Holmes in the other semi.
Masterful Hopkins proved a leap too far as Trinidad (the betting favourite) was dissected by the Philly technician in 12 rounds for the unified 160lbs crown.
Trinidad would only fight four more times in the next seven years: back-to-back stoppage wins over Hacine Cherifi and Ricardo Mayorga before one-sided decision loses, first to crafty southpaw Winky Wright in 2004 (which prompted a retirement), then at 35 in 2008 against Roy Jones at a 170b catchweight contest.
An idol in his native Puerto Rico, his entire career was guided by his father Don Felix. The power punching Cupey Alto native was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014, ironically alongside his biggest rival, Oscar De La Hoya. He is considered one of his nations finest ever fighting sons.