Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A DAY LATE AND A DOLLAR SHORT


From left: Felix "Tito" Trinidad, the unmistakable Don King and Roy Jones, Jr.

Don King was giddy with glee Monday at his offices in Deerfield Beach, Florida.

At his side were legendary fighters Felix “Tito” Trinidad and Roy Jones, Jr. who were in attendance to announce that they are hoping to face-off against one another in January 2008.

“My Tito has returned!” bellowed King, “My Tito Trinidad is returning to his throne!” declared the magnanimous 75 year-old promoter in unrestrained, wide-mouthed happiness.

Even by Don King’s standards he seemed beyond delighted with himself.

It’s a match that many see as at least half a decade too late as both men are well past their best days. Trinidad has been retired for two years since he lost his last fight to Winky Wright in May 2005 and Jones has looked less than impressive since being knocked out in fights versus Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson.

Should the fight actually happen it will take place on a date to be determined in January and at a catch weight of 170 pounds.

Jones, who is a fussbudget for money and is persnickety with the fine details of fight contracts hasn't actually signed on the dotted line for the bout, but said yesterday that he's leaning toward signing after he reviews the paperwork.

For Jones, it may be a wise choice. Many would see it as a poor decision if he turns away the significant revenue and even more significant attention that a match against Trinidad would garner at this late stage of his waning career.

Jones, who is 38 years old, decisioned Anthony Hanshaw on July 14th in a fight at Biloxi, Mississippi. However, he looked his age and the fight was a pay-per view television bust attracting only somewhere in the anemic neighborhood of 25,000 buys. Jones has fought sporadically over the past few years and hasn’t looked like the great fighter that he once was since March 2003, when he won the WBA heavyweight title belt from Johnny Ruiz.

Jones seemed to realize his predicament as a relevant force in the sport and as a box office draw yesterday. “It's a unique, special event that this sport needs,” admitted Jones, who was realistic, if only for a brief moment. “If you can't put it on the line for this, then you can't put it on the line for anything. This is the type of thing you put it on the line for. The sport needs another megafight and that's what this is.”

Despite the fact that Jones has yet to sign a contract, Don King, ever the maverick, was forging on ahead with plans to match the two and he promised that, “The deal is real!”

The promoter, who is close to Madison Square Garden owner James Dolan, said that the fight is a possibility to land at “the world’s most famous arena” but he wasn’t ruling out any locale or television broadcast partner in his efforts to bring the fight to fruition.

“We don't have no TV,” said a worry-free King. “We don't have a dime nowhere committed to nobody. What we've got is a fight and that means an attraction first. Now we have to go out and find the money for this attraction and make this attraction come off, because these two guys are fighting for pride and glory - as well as money.”

King, ever the huckster, will need to go out and find the money - and a lot of it.

Trinidad’s contract with King stipulates that he be paid a guaranteed minimum of $10 million. Jones, as always, will seek as much as the monetary pie as he can help himself to. Jones’ often outrageous financial demands have scuttled other fights in the past and this one could fall victim to the same muck and mire should the mercurial Jones decide to hold King hostage to his monetary requests.

The fight would seem a natural draw for Madison Square Garden. New York has a very supportive Puerto Rican boxing community that recently showed up in such overwhelming droves to see Puerto Rican Miguel Cotto fight Zab Judah that the arena was sold out for the first time since Trinidad fought there in 2001 in a losing effort against Bernard Hopkins. Jones is no stranger to New York City having fought there several times during his career.

King, no longer the same promotional power-broker that virtually controlled boxing for over two decades, has been relegated to somewhat of a bit player in the United States over the past few years. Yesterday, however, the old master was at his bombastic best and he seemed positively jubilant to be back on center stage

“This is what the public has waited for, for a long time and now they're going to have it!” King happily testified as Trinidad and Jones posed in a mock stare down. “It's the people's championship!”

Trinidad, who will be 35 by the time the proposed fight takes place, was back to his old form as well. He turned toward Jones at one point in the press conference yesterday and said, “I'm waiting to knock you out! O.K. baby!” And then he erupted into a stint of smiles and laughter still showing the bright grin and boyish charm that helped make him a boxing sensation.

Trinidad, who is a national icon in Puerto Rico also claimed that only one foe could lure him from his peaceful island retirement in the Caribbean - and that was Roy Jones, Jr. “Roy Jones is one of the biggest and greatest champions ever in the sport of boxing,” claimed Trinidad. “But he’s never faced a puncher like me.”

Many are surprised that Trinidad would end a 30-month retirement and go directly into such a high profile fight with a Jones who still shows flashes of his old self in brief spurts. However, both King and Trinidad’s father and trainer, Felix, Sr. downplayed that risky aspect of this potential match-up.

King, hyping Trinidad’s ring prowess said, “Most fighters of Tito Trinidad’s stature would want a warm-up fight after being off for this long, but not Tito Trinidad!”

The authoritarian Felix Trinidad, Sr. who serves the triple role of father, manager and trainer said he’s not worried either about sending his son from the retirement village straight to the ring. “I can be proud to bring my son into battle with a giant such as Roy Jones,” he boldly said. “My son is a legend, but so is Roy Jones. And Roy Jones has been there forever. He's made an indelible mark on people around the world.”

Trinidad, who has 35 knockouts in 42 wins said that he should have no problem getting into fighting shape since he has nearly six months to prepare. He’s chomping at the bit to get back in the ring.

“It’s going to be a very big fight, a huge fight,” said Tito. “I hear from Roy that somebody has to go down in this fight. I have to tell Roy that it’s going to be him. I always come to win.”

Not to be outdone, Jones then went on a rant of his own. “They got somebody they think can beat Roy Jones, Jr. who stands in my way and I’ll show you what I’ll do wit’ him! Yeah, I’m ready whoever want to bring it! Whenever, whoever, however you want it! Daaaammmmn right, I want it!”

And then it was back to King who would have the final word. “Tito, Tito, Tito! My shining star! Only in America! Hah! Hah! Hah!” he loudly cackled.

“It will be demonstrated with two titans, two legendary fighters coming together to fight. This is what the public has awaited for, for a long time and now they’re going to have it, you know what I mean?” said the fast-talking King, a former numbers runner from the Cleveland streets.

Unstoppable, King continued, his voice drowning out all those around him. “What Tito is saying in the words of the indomitable and incomparable Cyrano de Bergerac; ‘Don’t bring be no mortal men. Bring me giants.’ And giants is coming! And Roy Jones, Jr. one of the legends of our time, one of the greatest fighters in the world! And so you got two of the greatest fighters in the world meeting each other. I’m so excited I can hardly wait! Viva Puerto Rico! Viva America!” and then his voice trailed off, if only for a moment.

One thing about their reunion on Monday is that Trinidad, Jones and even King to some extent, seemed to know this fight is likely one of their last flashes in the old spotlight.

And it was nice to see the old crew back together again just the same. Yet somehow time has passed them all by and they seemed a day late and a dollar short to the old grind.

August 2007