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Tito, Winky have eyes on Hopkins

3/22/2005

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.