Saturday, January 12, 2008

Turn Off These Titans

Felix "Tito" Trinidad and Roy Jones, Jr. will meet at the Mecca of Boxing, New York's Madison Square Garden, on January 19th.

You can spend your fifty bucks on Saturday night to watch a diminished Roy Jones, Jr. take on an equally spent Felix Trinidad, who must have received a day pass from his Puerto Rican retirement home to be in New York, but you can count me out. It’s debatable, but I think you just might get more entertainment by throwing fifty bucks in your fireplace or off the back of a train.

I won’t be on the scene nor will I be watching it on the screen.

Don King is calling his latest dog and pony show “Bring on the Titans” but he should’ve called it “Send in the Clowns” because this fight is nothing more than a sad joke that is being perpetrated on boxing fans.

Forget about the ludicrous pay-per view asking price of $49.95 - that’s small potatoes. The real laugh is the price of a ringside seat at Madison Square Garden, in the VIP seats, which has a cool asking price of $15,000.

Somebody should contact the Better Business Bureau.

The last time Felix “Tito” Trinidad was seen in a boxing ring he was embarrassed in a whitewash and was totally shut out by Winky Wright. A passive and puffy version of his former welterweight self, the 160-pound Trinidad was befuddled and confused by Wright’s southpaw jab and he lost the fight by unanimous decision with barely a whimper in protest. He and his father, Don Felix, then counted up their millions and hopped on the first flight back to San Juan to enjoy the rest of their life in retirement.

That was two and a half years ago.

And then something happened that usually does to boxers with too much time on their hands and not enough youth left in their bones. Trinidad decided he wanted to fight again. "Tito" and his father/manager/trainer, obviously got bored while lounging around in sunny Puerto Rico. Then they got to thinking that a comeback was necessary and that Roy Jones, Jr. would be the perfect foil.

But the big question is why?

"There were a couple of decisions I had to make,” explained the affable 35 year-old Trinidad last week. “First of all, I had to think about my family. The fans have driven me to be back into boxing because they are always telling me to fight. Everywhere I went people were screaming for me to come back. And then you have my promoter, Don King, who has been pursuing me to come back and box. And finally myself. After the reaction of everyone and my promoter, I felt the passion to come back and I am back. At the end, I made the decision because I wanted to come back.”

The fight is taking place at a “catch-weight” of 170 pounds and there will be no recognized word title at stake. It’s a far cry, at least for Trinidad, from his glory days as a 147-pound welterweight great who began boxing at age 17 and defended the IBF welterweight title 15 times.

The match against Jones will be the first time that Trinidad has fought above 160 pounds and he will be coming off a retirement that has lasted 32 months. Never a speedster on his feet, it’s difficult to see how Trinidad will catch Jones, who still maintains some of his amazing speed and quick reflexes - even at his diminished age of 39.

But that hasn’t stopped Trinidad, who still has the bright smile and quick wit of his youth, from confidently declaring that he’s not only going to be victorious on Saturday night in the Garden, but that he could win by knockout.

In spite of all that he has accomplished, Roy Jones, Jr. is not yet ready to wave goodbye to his career in boxing.

“It all began at a press conference when he told me he was going to knock me out in four rounds,” said the excitable Trinidad. “I told Roy Jones then that he wouldn’t be able to do that because he won’t last two rounds with me. Since then, everyone has been talking about knockouts, but I’m ready to fight twelve rounds. I can beat him under two, under four or the full twelve, it really doesn't matter. It’s going to be a great fight and I don't think anyone should miss it.”

As for Jones, his recent past is as checkered as Trinidad’s. He’s lost three of his last five fights and was knocked out twice. Jones hasn’t won a fight by knockout since 2002. He has managed a couple of lowly decision wins against somebody who calls himself “Prince” Badi Ajamu and over the unknown Anthony Hanshaw.

If anything, Jones is probably further removed from his heyday than Trinidad. For a number of years, Jones was considered the best boxer on the entire planet and he is likely the best fighter that ever fought at 168 pounds. He used to refer to himself in the third person, fight exclusively on HBO, and he made millions by fighting sub-par opposition - including a New York City cop and an Australian garbage collector. Jones even went so far as to win a heavyweight title belt. Since 2003, however, he has lost much of his luster and many also wonder why he has continued with his boxing career.

Jones, who sometimes refers to himself as “Superman” claims the reasons for his losses were his weight gain to go up and fight as a heavyweight and then having to lose 25 pounds of muscle to return to the light heavyweight division. Jones says that the weight fluctuations played havoc with his body and mind, and he offers that as part of the answer as to why he is still around.

“I want to go out the way I want to go,” he says. “If they beat me being myself, then that's it. Right now, I am back to being me. I am back - one hundred percent.”

Trinidad, the unmistakable promoter Don King and Roy Jones, Jr. pictured at the final pre-fight press conference, are ready for a big fight.

But we’ve all heard this same schtick before from Trinidad and Jones. They’ve spent a lifetime in the company of boisterous promoters and they’ve learned very well from them the right things to say in order to sell a fight. Both men were great fighters in the 1990’s, but this is 2008. Both are likeable and have engaging personalities. But none of that means they should be fighting each other.

And it’s a fight that you should just tune out.

January 2008

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