Several questions mark Hopkins-Trinidad bout

Fighter with answers to unify 160-pound title


September 29, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Throughout most of his professional boxing career, Bernard "The Executioner" Hopkins has had a reputation for his vocal and mental intimidation of opponents. Felix "Tito" Trinidad, his rival in tonight's middleweight unification bout at Madison Square Garden, has a reputation for maintaining a quiet poise and silencing talkative rivals with his two-fisted punching prowess.

Has Hopkins, considered an old war horse at 36, run out of tricks, or will his durability and resourcefulness be enough to make boxing history? Will Trinidad, 28, the young lion approaching legendary status in his native Puerto Rico, short-circuit against the wiliest veteran he has faced or simply blast him into unconsciousness with power that rivals that of the sports' greatest pugilists?

Those questions should be answered when boxing's two longest reigning champions meet to unify the 160-pound title for the first time since Sugar Ray Leonard dethroned Marvelous Marvin Hagler in April 1987. Trinidad is the World Boxing Association champion with a 40-0 record that includes 33 knockouts; Hopkins, of Philadelphia, has both the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council titles along with a 39-2-1 record and 28 knockouts.

The younger fighter will earn between $8 million and $10 million depending on pay-per-view sales, and the older will earn $2.85 million in a bout that is being televised on TVKO - HBO's pay-per-view arm. The victor will receive a trophy named for Sugar Ray Robinson, deemed boxing's best fighter in history, pound-for-pound.

Trinidad, who is favored, has ruled for eight years, two months. His knockout percentage (82.5) ranks with the best in boxing history, and he has knocked out 17 of his past 21 rivals since winning the IBF welterweight crown. Hopkins' 13 title defenses - one shy of tying Carlos Monzon's middleweight record - spans six years and five months.

Referring to Trinidad's controversial 12-round decision over Oscar De La Hoya in 1999, Hopkins called Trinidad a "herky-jerky fighter" whose ears were "boxed off that night." Tonight, Hopkins will try to duplicate De La Hoya's effort when necessary but also will wage battle at close quarters and even get dirty, if necessary.

"There's no such thing as a clean fight. That's why it's called fighting. You won't hear me complaining about what he does in the ring, but I guarantee you'll hear it from him," Hopkins said. "If he tries to learn how to box, I'll walk him down like a Bengal tiger and eat him up. But I hope he don't try to run. That's like Joe Frazier trying to box like Muhammad Ali. Let him try to come and knock me out. Whatever he brings to the table, I'm ready for it."

Said Trinidad: "I'm prepared for dirty tactics. I'm prepared for everything. But if I can end it early, I'll end it early. My hands are strong, I'm a big puncher, and I just feel that I can knock him out. Yes, it's going to be a war, Bernard Hopkins and myself. And I assure you, there is only going to be one winner, and that's me."

Hopkins normally weighs 165 or 170, which he calls an advantage because he doesn't have to shed too many pounds before a fight. Trinidad, a marathon runner, usually weighs around 180 and says he's strongest as a middleweight.

"As a welterweight, I had 15 title defenses, [and] as a super welterweight, I had two," said Trinidad, who considers William Joppy a better fighter than Hopkins. "This is my first defense at this weight, but I have brought my power with me at each weight."

"People have built [Trinidad] up to be a god, and he's not. I'm going to expose that," Hopkins said.

Fight facts

Who: Bernard Hopkins (39-2-1, 28 KOs) vs. Felix Trinidad (40-0, 33 KOs).

What: Middleweight fight for Hopkins' WBC, IBF titles and Trinidad's WBA title.

When: Tonight, approx. 11:30

Where: Madison Square Garden, New York

TV: TVKO pay-per-view

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