1. BOTH Felix Trinidad and Pernell Whitaker were coming back after lengthy lay-offs in this February 20, 1999 Madison Square Garden clash for Trinidad’s IBF welterweight title before 13,822 fans.
2. TRINIDAD, 33-0-0 (28), had been out of the ring for 10 months due to a lengthy battle in the courts to free himself from Don King – a battle he lost. King promptly presented Tito with a new long-term contract which included this fight with Whitaker.
3. ‘SWEET PEA’, 41-2-1 (17), had not fought for 16 months due to drug problems. After first testing positive for cocaine following his win over Andrei Pestriaev in October 1997, he vehemently denied taking the drug. However, a trip to rehab was soon on the cards after a second positive test scuppered a bid for Ike Quartey’s WBA strap. “It cost me a year of my career. It was something that happened and is over,” he said.
4. ‘IT IS a fascinating blend of styles, with Felix Trinidad’s upright stance and powerful punching matched against the southpaw, crouching, weaving, and elusive technique of Pernell Whitaker,’ noted Boxing News.
5. PRIOR to his ring absence, Trinidad had been at the top of the welterweight scene alongside Oscar De La Hoya and Quartey. With the match between those two out of the way, Trinidad could now force King and Bob Arum to negotiate a deal for one of the richest fights in the sport’s history with the Golden Boy.
6. HEADING into this bout, Tito had only gone the 12-round distance once, when beating Hector Camacho in Las Vegas in January 1994. He had not been extended beyond six since December of that year when Oba Carr took him eight rounds.
7. WHITAKER had won the 1984 Olympic lightweight gold medal when he was 20, and was entering into his 23rd world title fight, putting him alongside legends such as Manuel Ortiz and Wilfredo Gomez and ahead of even greater names like Sugar Ray Robinson and Emile Griffith.
8. FELIX staked his claim as the best welterweight in the world after becoming the first man in Whitaker’s 45-fight career to beat him convincingly, flooring Pernell in the second round with a straight right and even breaking his jaw in the sixth. Trinidad was a judged a deserved 117-111 and 118-109 (twice) unanimous winner after 12 rounds.
9. WHITAKER, a champion at four weights and one of the greatest southpaws in the sport’s history, was dropped on to the seat of his trunks in the second for the only official knockdown, even though in eight of the 12 rounds either he or the champion was on the floor.
10. PERNELL slipped to the canvas in the second and fourth, dropped to a knee to avoid a right in the fifth, touched down from a low blow in the sixth, was pulled to the floor in the eighth, went down again in the 10th and, when trapped with no obvious route of escape in the last, squatted so low his shorts were almost touching the floor. Trinidad, when off balance, was sent to the floor in the seventh after a punch struck his arm.