20 Years Later: The Peak of Tito Mania – Felix Trinidad vs. William Joppy

Posted on 05/12/2021

By: Hector Franco

“Tito Trinidad often is the deadliest puncher in these divisions since Ray Robinson.” – Larry Service provider

20 years in the past, on Might 12, 2001, at Madison Sq. Backyard, the second half of Don King’s middleweight world championship match came about when Puerto Rico’s Felix “Tito” Trinidad (42-3, 35 KOs) confronted off towards William Joppy (40-7-2, 30 KOs) for his WBA middleweight title.

Trinidad, 28, entered the battle with a file of 39-0 with 30 knockouts, and Joppy, 30, got here in with a file 32-1-1 with 24 knockouts.

The match would crown boxing’s first undisputed middleweight champion since Marvin Hagler.

Longtime reigning IBF middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins had taken care of enterprise within the first bout of the match, successful a large unanimous determination over Keith Holmes to unify the WBC and IBF titles.

Trinidad was coming off of essentially the most outstanding yr of his profession in 2000, the place he moved up from welterweight to junior middleweight and unified the WBA and IBF titles scoring vital victories over David Reid and Fernando Vargas.

The bout with Vargas is considered among the finest within the historical past of the junior middleweight division and led to Trinidad being awarded Fighter of the 12 months honors for the yr 2000. Trinidad’s father, Felix Trinidad Sr., additionally earned the Coach of the 12 months award to place a cap on a spectacular yr.

Trinidad’s transfer up in weight was an try and make historical past to turn into one in every of only a handful of fighters to carry titles within the welterweight and middleweight divisions.

Among the biggest fighters within the sport’s historical past had held titles at welterweight and middleweight, together with Ray Robinson, Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, and Emile Griffith.

By defeating Joppy, Trinidad would turn into the primary fighter since Ray Leonard to win a middleweight title in his first battle on the weight class.

“My objective is to win the 160-pound middleweight crown on Might 12 towards William Joppy after which go on to unify the title by beating Bernard Hopkins,” Trinidad said by means of a translator for an HBO preview present selling the bout with Joppy. “I do know that I’m combating towards boxers who’re maybe extra highly effective who might hit more durable, however I’d like to inform all of them, Joppy after which Hopkins, to be careful for me as a result of I actually wish to win.

“I actually wish to knock them out, and I’m sure that after they really feel my punch, they may know who Tito Trinidad is. They’re going to search out out the place my middleweight punch is, I assure it.”

Throughout this time, Trinidad was the preferred boxer out of the island of Puerto Rico. Just like fighters like Manny Pacquiao or Ricky Hatton, he fought with the burden of a rustic behind him that introduced extra that means each time he stepped contained in the squared circle.

Within the early 2000s, the pound-for-pound record was a round-robin between Trinidad, Shane Mosley, and Roy Jones Jr.

Because the longest-reigning champion in welterweight historical past, having made 15 title defenses holding victories over Oscar De La Hoya, Pernel Whitaker, Oba Carr, Yory Boy Campas amongst others, after which transferring as much as unify at junior middleweight, Trinidad had as a superb a case as anybody for the pound-for-pound crown.

“Felix has the qualities of an idol and celeb, but additionally and most significantly the qualities of a hero that deserves an instance to the younger and all of the folks,” said Trinidad’s then-attorney Jose Nicolas Medina. “ We’ve got nice champions which have been champions in a single class. He’s the primary primary pound-for-pound in the entire sport.”

Trinidad’s opponent, Joppy, was the last word underdog heading into the battle. His profession trajectory mirrored a few of immediately’s fighters, corresponding to Demetrius Andrade, as a world champion who was searching for his alternative to show himself towards the most effective.

Joppy began boxing on the age of 20, the identical age that Trinidad gained his first world title at welterweight. He would get his first title alternative by touring to Japan and stopping Shinji Takehara through a ninth-round stoppage to win the WBA middleweight title.

Joppy would make two defenses earlier than shedding the title by controversial determination to the Dominican Republic’s Julio Cesar Inexperienced in August 1997. The Virginia native would get his revenge on Inexperienced a number of months later in January 1998, successful a dominant unanimous determination in a rematch.

In January 1999, tragedy struck Joppy when an auto accident broke c7 vertebrae in his neck, leaving him out of the ring for many of the yr.

Miraculously, Joppy would return in the summertime of 1999 and would go on to make 5 defenses in his second reign, even scoring a seventh-round stoppage over Inexperienced in a rubber match.

For Joppy, the battle with Trinidad was his alternative to turn into a family title and earn greater paydays. Extra importantly, the Trinidad battle represented an opportunity at recognition and notoriety.

“That is my nice battle,” Joppy said throughout an HBO interview selling the battle. “That is going to get me over that hump. That is going to place me on that pound-for-pound record. That is my dream come true. I do know that Trinidad is the home fighter, however I’m going to shock the world.”

Having been a career-long middleweight, Joppy felt that he would be capable of deal with Trinidad, who spent most of his profession at welterweight.

“Trinidad cannot cope with me,” Joppy stated throughout one of many ultimate press conferences. “Him beating Vargas and David Reid, they had been nonetheless infants. He’s coping with a veteran now. Welcome to the middleweights, Trinidad.

“I’m going to indicate him issues he’s by no means seen earlier than.”

Heading into the battle with an impressive file of 19-0 with 15 knockouts in world title fights, Trinidad didn’t lack confidence in dealing with Joppy.

“Nicely, he ought to go forward and attempt to again me up,” stated Trinidad. “After which do no matter he’s been saying he’s going to do. As soon as we’re within the ring, I’ll present him. He would possibly wish to do what he stated, however whether or not I let him do it or not is one other matter.

“Let’s see on Might 12 if he can do a fraction of what he stated he’s going to do.”

The stage was set in entrance of the pro-Puerto Rican crowd at Madison Sq. Backyard in one of many biggest atmospheres boxing has seen.

Ring Journal’s Editor-in-Chief Doug Fischer and former ESPN Senior Author Dan Rafael described the environment as electrical and among the finest crowds for a battle that they’ve attended.

When Trinidad made his entrance, the gang went right into a frenzy, with loud chants of Tito reverberating all through the world. Trinidad basked within the roar of the gang as a fighter who liked the adulation he obtained from his followers.

The battle started with Joppy taking the initiative heading straight out to Trinidad. Nevertheless, this proved to be an important mistake, as Joppy’s lack of deal with protection would show to be his downfall.

With 48 seconds remaining within the first spherical, Joppy left his palms down by his waist, and Trinidad took quick benefit by touchdown a fast left hook that shocked the Virginia fighter.

One other left hook and proper hand adopted, placing Joppy down laborious on the canvas. He was capable of rise up to wobbly legs with the bell saving him from additional punishment.

Joppy’s nook was in a panic, leaving him standing in his nook whereas yelling directions. However, the middleweight champion’s resolve and excessive exercise degree saved him within the battle.

The second spherical was a showcase for Trinidad’s accuracy as he landed 29 out of 49 punches at a 59 p.c join charge. However Joppy saved throwing punches in an try and overwhelm the Puerto Rican.

Joppy’s simplest spherical got here within the third when he threw a file 116 punches, essentially the most ever thrown towards Trinidad in a battle tracked by CompuBox.

Trinidad’s energy was on full show towards Joppy. However, the battle highlighted a few of his often-overlooked attributes to find and profiting from openings and his total accuracy.

Within the first minute of the fourth spherical, Trinidad caught Joppy with a left hook whereas his palms had been down, inflicting him to roll over on the canvas from one other knockdown.

Joppy in some way managed to outlive the spherical, however the finish appeared imminent.

Within the fifth spherical, Trinidad landed a pair of proper palms on the within after creating area. The primary proper landed, and as Joppy was swaying down, Trinidad landed one other brutal proper hand. Joppy tried to rise up on wobbly legs forcing referee Arthur Mercante Jr. to cease the battle on the 2:25 mark.

The Puerto Rican landed an unbelievable 108 out of 191 complete punches at a 57 p.c charge, with 80 of these punches being energy photographs.

Trinidad, now holding the WBA middleweight title as a three-division champion, stood tall as arguably the most effective on this planet. One can argue if Trinidad was certainly the best fighter to come back out of Puerto Rico, however his recognition couldn’t be questioned.

Whereas fighters like Carlos Ortiz, Wilfredo Gomez, Wilfred Benitez might have fought in additional revered eras, they by no means peaked on the zenith that Trinidad reached.

Trinidad’s run from 1999 to 2001 was a brief one, however the significance of that interval can be what different Puerto Rican fighters can be measured by from that time ahead.

In September 2001, the run would come to an finish by the hands of Bernard Hopkins within the finals of the middleweight match.

The stress through which Trinidad placed on his opponents might solely be in comparison with the stress he felt having to battle with the burden and feelings of a complete nation.

For the evening of Might 12, 2001, on the world’s most well-known enviornment, Felix Trinidad and Puerto Rico had been on the prime of the boxing world.

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