Hopkins stops Trinidad in 12th round

Middleweight division is unified as Puerto Rican tastes defeat for first time


September 30, 2001|By Lem Satterfield | Lem Satterfield,SUN STAFF

NEW YORK - Bernard Hopkins said he would break the back of the boxing industry with a victory over Felix Trinidad last night at Madison Square Garden, promising to "seek and destroy" the unbeaten Puerto Rican fighter who stood between him and boxing history.

And when it was over, Hopkins was true to his word.

The end came in the 12th and final round when Hopkins, 36, landed a tremendous right to the head that sent Trinidad reeling backward and to the canvas.

The 28-year-old fighter struggled up at about 9, and referee Steve Smoger looked at him. Trinidad's father, who is also his trainer, then climbed into the ring to signal that his son was beaten at the 1:22 mark.

When he realized he won, Hopkins, now the undisputed middleweight champion, leaped onto the ring ropes and started to chant, "U-S-A! U-S-A!"

"That's all I wanted since I was 15 years old," said Hopkins, who dominated the final six rounds. "God bless America. I want to go to Puerto Rico and apologize to the Puerto Rican people. They're great people, they're my people.

"I'll do the same thing to Roy Jones. I just needed the opportunity, and nobody can stand my power."

Said Trinidad: "I always said Bernard was a good fighter. I was knocked down, but it didn't affect me. I didn't think he was dominating the fight. I went down, I wasn't hurt, and I still knew what was going on around me. [But] I respect the fact that the referee stopped the fight."

Hopkins fought a brilliant fight. He gave Trinidad lots of movement, stiff jabs and, when Trinidad tried to attack, Hopkins simply outgunned him with both hands to the body and head.

The victory, considered an upset, was Hopkins' 14th title defense, tying the mark held by Carlos Monzon of Argentina.

Hopkins (40-2-1, 29 knockouts) also ended a 20-bout, 17-knockout streak for Trinidad (40-1, 33 KOs) in title bouts.

Hopkins unified the 160-pound division, adding the World Boxing Association belt to his own World Boxing Council and International Boxing Federation titles.

"I took away his best weapon, the left hook, by smothering his shots," Hopkins said. "Once he knew he couldn't hurt me, the fight was over. I knew when he said, uh, in the fourth round, that he was hurt."

For winning promoter Don King's middleweight championship series, Hopkins also earned a trophy named for Sugar Ray Robinson, deemed the best pound-for-pound fighter in boxing history.

In the sixth round, Trinidad, a former welterweight and super-welterweight champion, landed several shots in what was the best round of the fight. The two men went toe-to-toe on several occasions, with Trinidad having the best of it most often.

He ended the round with three or four shots to the head.

It was Trinidad's last hurrah.

Hopkins' strength began to come to the fore in the second half of the fight. He landed several good head shots in the seventh, eighth and ninth rounds, and had Trinidad wobbly on occasion.

Then in the 10th, Hopkins drove Trinidad around the ring, and just before the bell he landed a tremendous right to the head that had Trinidad tottering. At the bell, Trinidad wobbled back to his corner.

Hopkins earned $2.5 million with a victory that will earn him much more down the road, while Trinidad earned $9 million.

The fight originally was scheduled for Sept. 15, but it was postponed for two weeks after the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"I break the camel's back with this fight. What is the camel? The business industry that kept its foot in my butt for so long," said Hopkins, whose squabbles with promoters often kept him frozen out of big-pay fights. "Any loss I would have had in the past would have buried me. The stakes are higher. I did it the Sinatra way: my way."

Hopkins was confident before the fight, even to the point of placing a $100,000 bet on himself. He said he won the pre-fight battle, mentally, "by KO," questioning Trinidad's American patriotism, bringing to light the Puerto Rican fighter's marital problems and questioning the legitimacy of his claims to greatness by down-playing Trinidad's competition.

Hopkins was further incensed by Trinidad's reluctance to participate in conference calls promoting the fight.

Still, Hopkins has a six-fight, three-year deal with King worth a minimum of $1 million per fight. "I don't want anybody to dictate to me who I fight," said Hopkins.

"I'm already financially secure. I've done right. I'm one of the unique stories in that I understand that if you rub two nickels together, you have a dime. I've spent my money like a blue-collar worker."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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