Early sparring between Tito, Mayorga

Updated: October 1, 2004, 2:06 PM ET
By Michael J. Woods | MaxBoxing.com

NEW YORK -- There were several moments during the Felix Trinidad/Ricardo Mayorga press conference at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday that it seemed possible there would be a deterioration from a war of words, to a literal war of bare fists, clashing entourages and hangers-on.

But it was promoter Don King who emerged as the shining beacon of reason when one flare-up was averted and he said, with atypical brevity: "We may have gotten a fight here for free and we aren't a free business."

The first hairy moment came as the press briefing convened, and the combustible Mayorga and Trinidad, the standard of mellow machismo, were seated four feet apart. They began to jaw at each other, and quickly, aides from each camp were placed into the fighters' seats to prevent a pre pay-per-view tussle.

Trinidad, with his easy smile and twinkling eyes, looked relaxed and ready for his return to the fight game on Saturday night at the Garden. Mayorga looked tense, ready to uncoil at the drop of a hat, or a particularly devastating diss.

King called Mayorga to the microphone, and with a translator strategically placed between the unpredictable Nicaraguan and Trinidad, hailed the human hurricane.

"In Nicaragua they say that women give birth in the fields and the women give birth to men," King said.

Mayorga started by reminding listeners that Trinidad (41-1, 34 knockouts) has tasted the agony of defeat and that he perceives the Puerto Rican legend to be damaged goods.

"Once a car wrecks it doesn't have the same value," Mayorga said.

He then unfurled a poster of Trinidad, and predicted that he would knock out the poster boy in the ninth round: "Oscar, Roy Jones, you're next going down (in the ninth round)." For emphasis, he threw the poster on the floor and stomped on it for 30 seconds.

"You're dead," he barked.

King brought Trinidad to the microphone for a rebuttal and again, a translator served as a human shield for the principals.

"I am back," said Trinidad, in English. "I am back," he repeated.

After branding Mayorga (27-4-1, 23 knockouts) a "big mouth," Trinidad reopened a continuing theme to this promotion, the side bet.

"If you are a man of your word, you will accept it," Trinidad said as he held up a contract for a $100,000 side wager to the winner. "This is real. From the purse, $100,000 when I beat you."

The fighters had previously gone back and forth and escalated the hypothetical stakes from $100,000, to $1 million, to $5 million, to winner-take-all. But sanity prevailed, and the lowest figure was agreed upon. The whole exercise was proven to be good theater, and nothing more, however, as New York State Athletic Commission chairman Ron Scott Stevens told MaxBoxing after the event that such wagers are not legal in the state, and that the $100,000 wager would not pass muster.

Felix Trinidad Sr. then informed the crowd that his son had sparred 329 rounds for his comeback after a 28-month hiatus. The father touched on the talk that Mayorga, a formidable puncher and awkward stylist, would be a tall order for his son after a lengthy layoff.

"This will be a tune-up fight," he said in closing. "Mayorga will be a tune-up for Tito."

Junior nodded in agreement at that notion, as his father returned to his seat.

Mayorga took umbrage at that designation and answered by grabbing his crotch with his left hand while throwing a murderous glare at the Trinidads; he then made a lunging lotion at the Puerto Rican icon, but Trinidad didn't flinch an inch.