Tito, Winky have eyes on Hopkins
NEW YORK -- With all the talk about middleweight king Bernard Hopkins and Felix "Tito" Trinidad's new haircut, you could have forgotten that the reason the media gathered at midtown's Copacabana club was to promote a fight - and a potentially great one at that - between Trinidad and current junior middleweight champ Winky Wright at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on May 14.
It is early, though, and while the buzz will get louder and louder for this pay-per-view clash as the weeks go by, for now, the atmosphere is light, the trash talk is non-existent (thankfully), and the focus is not only on each other, but also on the future.
And for both men, the future after May 14 will be centered on "The Executioner."
"I've been ready for Bernard Hopkins," said Wright (48-3, 25 KOs), who truly arrived on the world scene with back-to-back wins over Shane Mosley in 2004. "I respect his skills, and Bernard's a great fighter, but I know that everybody can be beat. Bernard has been a smart fighter to pick the right fighters that he knows he can beat."
"I want to fight Hopkins, and if he says he wants to give me the rematch, then it's okay," added Trinidad (42-1, 35 KOs) of the man who handed him his only pro defeat. "But it's not going to be where if Hopkins wants to fight me on a certain day, then it's going to be that day. I've got my status in boxing too, so he may also have to change his schedule if he wants to fight me, because I won't be waiting for him. We can try to reach an agreement, but it's not going to be what he says."
Trinidad is referring to Hopkins' insistence that he will retire by his 41st birthday, thus making Hopkins-Trinidad II a 2005 necessity.
But there's business to be taken care of on May 14 first, and with Hopkins supposedly remaining in the game for only a year more, only the winner of Trinidad-Wright will likely get a ticket into the champion's lottery. So the stakes are understandably high when the two pound-for-pound entrants square off, and the clash of styles between the quiet assassin (Trinidad) and the master craftsman (Wright) makes this a highly intriguing bout with a lot of unanswered questions.
First, how will Wright, a natural 154-pounder, deal with the extra six pounds he'll need as he fights at the middleweight limit?
"The size won't make that much difference," said Wright. "I'm a good-sized junior middleweight, so I will be an average middleweight the weight won't mean nothing to me. I feel that I will be able to carry power with me because I always had to lose weight to get down to '54. Now that I don't have to lose that extra six pounds, it can't be nothing but speed and power."
But will he be able to take a middleweight's power? Ricardo Mayorga, Trinidad's comeback victim in October of last year, had a sturdy beard and heavy punch, but against the Puerto Rican superstar, he was outgunned and beat down en route to an eighth round stoppage loss.
"He fought a blown-up 147-pounder," responds Wright. "Mayorga could punch at 147; how is he gonna carry a 160 punch? And he was made for Tito. Anybody that's gonna run right in on Tito and let him tee off, you're gonna get your ass knocked out."
True, but even against the unorthodox Mayorga, Trinidad was freakishly accurate with everything he threw, and from ringside you could hear the concussive impact of each shot that thudded against Mayorga's head and body.
When asked if he thought he would be that sharp after over two years off, Trinidad smiled before saying, "Equal or better."
If he's going to get better, at 32, that's scary. And even though Wright is known for his tight defense, his habit of standing in front of his opponents will allow the occasional stray shot to get through or at least land on the gloves or arms. Is this a recipe for disaster?
"I'm not worried about Tito hurting me," said Wright. "You ain't never seen me get hurt or get dazed. It's gonna be a helluva fight."
He's not going to offer his chin up to Trinidad like Mayorga did either.
"Tito's got a lot of punches and he comes in shape, so it's just about being smart," said Wright, 33. "Yeah, he's got a good hook well, you've got to land that hook. You think I'm just gonna stand there and let you throw it and throw nothing back? It will be a big shock for everybody if that's what you think is gonna happen."
Wright also believes that he's getting sold short on what he can do to Trinidad once the bell rings, as he looks to exploit the sometimes spotty defense of the former three division champ.
"I don't possess that Tito knockout punch, or that Mike Tyson punch, but I can punch," insists Wright. "If you notice, how many fighters do you see running right at me? None. If you see them, they're going backwards. I don't throw the punch like Tito, trying to knock their heads off, but I'm gonna punish you enough where they say, "that guy hits hard enough that that s**t hurt.'"
Fighting a world-class southpaw can't be the easiest task to take on either, but Trinidad has enough experience against lefties (see his bouts against Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho, and Hugo Pineda) that he's got an idea of what he's in for, and he's already shipped southpaws into his training camp to prepare for Wright.
"Winky's taller than Whitaker and Camacho, but I also fought a southpaw that was bigger than me, Pineda, and I don't think Winky's going to be a problem for me," said Trinidad. "It doesn't concern me at all. Over my career I've been fighting the best southpaws in the world and I beat all of them."
Sounds like a fight to me - not one with flag throwing, nasty insults, and bad blood, but with two pros who clock in, do their work, and clock out. It's a clash of class, and the only negative I can come up with for this bout is that it's not going to be in Madison Square Garden. But then again, I'm biased.
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