Commentary

Jones-Trinidad doesn't have the oomph it once did

It's hard to tell whether a Roy Jones-Felix Trinidad fight makes sense or, with both fighters past their primes, if it's just about the "cents," writes Dan Rafael.

Originally Published: January 16, 2008
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

As future Hall of Famers Roy Jones and Felix Trinidad limp through the twilight of their careers, both talk as if it were yesteryear.

Jones, the former pound-for-pound king and four-division champion, still refers to himself in the third person, calls himself "Superman" and predicts he will knock out Trinidad in the fourth round.

"I'm going to take Tito down in four. He must go in fo'," Jones said.

Former three-division champion Trinidad, the Puerto Rican icon coming out of his second retirement and a two-and-a-half year layoff, says Jones will fall in two.

"One of his weaknesses is that everyone he has boxed that punches well has knocked him out," Trinidad said. "And I punch well. So let's see if he can stand in there with me."

Yes, they are in fine promotional form as they wind down to their 12-round light heavyweight battle Saturday night (HBO PPV, 9 ET) at New York's Madison Square Garden.

The problem, however, is that while the fight between the faded greats, billed "Bring on the Titans," certainly has the ingredients for it to be an entertaining affair, the matchup just doesn't have the oomph it once did.

Promoter Don King, beating the drums for a fight that is so far a box-office dud, most likely because of exorbitant ticket prices, takes exception to that description of the fight.

Bring on the Titans
TV lineup for Saturday night's (9 ET) HBO PPV card from New York's Madison Square Garden:

• Light heavyweights: Roy Jones Jr. (51-4, 38 KOs) vs. Felix Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs), 12 rounds

• Heavyweights: Andrew Golota (40-6-1, 33 KOs) vs. Mike Mollo (19-1, 12 KOs), 12 rounds

• Junior middleweights: Roman Karmazin (36-2-1, 23 KOs) vs. Alex Bunema (26-9-2, 14 KOs), 12 rounds

• Junior welterweights: Devon Alexander (13-0, 9 KOs) vs. DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley (31-7-1, 17 KOs), 12 rounds

-- Dan Rafael

"What they're saying is that these two guys are old," King said at Tuesday's final news conference. "They're saying these two guys are not at the height of their careers. They are dreaming, because they are naysayers, doomsayers, illsayers. The fight was made because of pride."

There was a time when it wouldn't have been made because of pride. It would have been made because it was one of the most exciting matches in the sport.

There was a time when the thought of Jones-Trinidad would have made fight fans drool compared to the somewhat tepid anticipation surrounding Saturday's fight, which will be contested at 170 pounds with Jones coming down from 175 and Trinidad fighting above 160 for the first time.

In 2001, when they were both in their prime, it was a dream fight that was seriously discussed.

Jones, then the undisputed light heavyweight champion, ruled the pound-for-pound perch with an iron grip. Trinidad was the undefeated unified junior middleweight champion preparing to go to middleweight as the star attraction of King's middleweight championship series, which was designed to crown the first undisputed 160-pound champion since Marvelous Marvin Hagler in the late 1980s.

If everything had worked out the way it was supposed to, Trinidad would have rolled through his two fights, claimed the undisputed title and moved up to challenge Jones in what surely would have been one of the biggest fights in modern boxing history.

Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs) demolished William Joppy in five rounds to win one of the middleweight belts on an unforgettable night at the Garden in the semifinals. But four months later, back at the Garden, underdog Bernard Hopkins, who had unified two belts with a lopsided decision against Keith Holmes in their half of the bracket, crushed Trinidad. Hopkins won virtually every round and before knocking him out in the 12th.

Jones (51-4, 38 KOs) could only sit by helplessly and watch his huge money fight with Trinidad go down the drain.

In fact, Jones, who had beaten Hopkins years earlier, had told King not to match Trinidad with Hopkins for fear of exactly what wound up happening.

"What I told Don was that Hopkins had everything to gain and nothing to lose," Jones said. "Hopkins is really nothing without a guy like Tito. Now Tito has everything to lose and nothing to gain. Hopkins was going for broke. He was going to do everything he had to do to win the fight. I knew he was a hungry fighter."

Jones would continue winning and eventually capture a heavyweight title against John Ruiz in 2003 before returning to light heavyweight to win a controversial decision against Antonio Tarver. Then Jones lost three fights in row, including vicious knockouts to Tarver and Glen Johnson and a clear decision to Tarver in their rubber match. Jones, who turns 39 today, has rebounded to win two in a row but he is clearly not the fighter he once was.

Trinidad, who turned 35 last week, came back from his loss to Hopkins to easily dispose of Hacine Cherifi in May 2002 before retiring for the first time. But King lured him out of retirement in late 2004 and Trinidad knocked out Ricardo Mayorga on another electric night at the Garden. But in his next fight in May 2005, Trinidad was manhandled over 12 one-sided rounds by Winky Wright, whose punishing jab sent Tito back into retirement.

Now, seven years after their showdown was derailed, Trinidad has come out of retirement again with Jones as his main target.

"Jones and I were supposed to fight during the peaks of our careers," Trinidad said. "I believed back then that I could beat him and the same holds true today.

"I respect Jones and the great career that he has had. I know he thinks he can beat me, but that's not going to happen. This will be one of the biggest victories of my career. Even though I've been out of boxing for two years, I still feel great. Anyone who knows me knows that I always stay in great shape regardless if I have a fight on the horizon or not."

Said Felix "Papa" Trinidad Sr., his son's trainer and manager: "A long time ago, we had been thinking that this would be a good fight for Tito. And now that Tito had a willingness to return, and Tito could make the weight, we saw that it was convenient to do a fight against Jones."

papa trinidad-jones
David Martin Warr/DKPPapa Trinidad had some stern words for Jones.
Jones, who had been searching for a high-profile opponent, was all too happy to grant Trinidad his wish.

"Tito is a great champion and I know he leaves a great legacy behind him," Jones said. "If someone like that challenges you, how are you going to turn that down?"

The fight seems to have rejuvenated Jones, who sounds more enthusiastic about this fight than any in ages.

"I haven't felt this excited about a fight in a very long time," Jones said. "You haven't seen me this pumped up in a long while. I have my fire and energy back. I don't know how I lost it, but I know I got it back. I'm revved up for this fight. How can I not be excited? I'm fighting Tito Trinidad."

King seems genuinely happy that he was finally able to put this fight together.

"I've been trying to put these two superstars in a match for a long time and to get this done just leaves me breathless," King said. "This will be a fight for the ages and will be remembered among the greatest events I have ever staged. Tito and Roy, it doesn't get any better than that."

They are a few years older and a few steps slower now.

There is no championship at stake. No pound-for-pound implications to their fight.

But they need each other to keep their careers going.

"A lot of them think I ain't got it anymore," Jones said. "This is a chance to show them I still got it."

"I always want to fight great fighters and I have always wanted to fight Roy Jones Jr., one of the greatest fighters of the era," Trinidad said. "I have too much boxing left inside of me and I want to show that I am still one of the best fighters in the world."

Jones to cross the pond?

Jones, a heavy favorite against Trinidad, views a victory as the launching pad he needs for an even bigger fight. Long reluctant to fight overseas, Jones has apparently had a change of heart and said he would be happy to fight super middleweight champ Joe Calzaghe on his turf in the United Kingdom, assuming Calzaghe beats Hopkins in a fight that is close to being signed for April.

"On Jan. 20, after I get out of the ring against Trinidad, I will go straight to the U.K. for sure," Jones said. "I love Calzaghe, don't get me wrong. I think he is one of the best super middleweights to come along. The way I look at things, I try to be as fair as I possibly can. I look at the way the world goes and I want to be fair. Now [Ricky] Hatton came over here to fight Floyd Mayweather, now maybe it is our turn to go over there. So if I need to go, I'll go."

Jones said he would even suck all the way down to 168 to challenge for Calzaghe's championship.

"I am fighting Trinidad at 170," he said. "So what's two more pounds?"

Jones said he wasn't interested in Hopkins if he beats Calzaghe. Of his old rival, whom he defeated in 1993, Jones said, "He doesn't want me. I'm not going to waste my time if he doesn't want me."

Jones also mentioned a rematch with Johnson, a fourth fight with Tarver or even a fight with young titleholder Chad Dawson.

"Line them up and I'll go to them," Jones said. "I don't care where he's at. If we have to go to London to fight Joe, if we have to go to Tampa to fight Tarver, or if we have to go to Miami to fight Glen. I don't care. My name is Roy Jones Jr. I am Superman and I don't care about anybody else."

Next for Trinidad?

While Trinidad has also mentioned Calzaghe as a possible opponent if he beats Jones, he said he'd also like another crack at Hopkins and Wright.

"Those fights have always been in the back of my mind," he said. "But we won't decide on who it would be until after I win this fight."

Undercard notes

Hot junior welterweight prospect Devon Alexander, 20, will fight on television for only the second time in his career when he takes on former titleholder DeMarcus "Chop Chop" Corley. Alexander was originally supposed to face former lightweight title challenger Miguel Callist but Callist suffered an injury and withdrew. That was fine with Alexander, who, along with his manager and trainer Kevin Cunningham, had been calling out Corley for the past few months.

"This is a big opportunity and I am only 20 years old," Alexander said. "We have been training for two months and the fact that my fight is on television is an extra bonus. Come Saturday night, 'The Great' is on."

Said Cunningham, "I feel like Devon is prepared to put on a spectacular performance. He's ready to make a huge statement. Don King needs a new star and on Saturday night he'll have one."

• Russia's Roman Karmazin, a former junior middleweight titleholder who faces journeyman Alex Bunema, said he is dedicating his fight to slain New York City police officers and fellow Russian immigrants Eugene Marshalik and Russell Timoshenko, who were killed in the line of duty last year.

"These guys, Russell, Yevgeniy, they were immigrants like me," Karmazin said. "Their families came here to realize happiness, to stand on their own two feet and to be proud of what they accomplished in life. That is why I am dedicating this fight in their memory to make sure they and their bravery are not forgotten."

• Also on the card, but not part of the HBO PPV telecast, former welterweight titleholder Luis Collazo will fight for the first time in 11 months. He lost a lost a decision to former champion Shane Mosley last February and then had surgery on his left hand, which he injured in the fight. Collazo, a New Yorker, will face Edvan Dos Santos in a 10-rounder.

• In a heavyweight fight, Emmanuel Nwodo faces Ezra Sellers in a battle of blown up cruiserweights. It will be Nwodo's first fight since June 29, when he suffered a brutal 11th-round knockout to Darnell "Ding-A-Ling Man" Wilson in the knockout of the year.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.