- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
- 0 Shares
Felix "Tito" Trinidad and Roy Jones Jr., two of the era's greatest fighters, were on a collision course to meet in 2001, but Trinidad ran into Bernard Hopkins and was knocked out.
Up in smoke went one of the boxing's potential mega fights.
Fast forward to Monday, when promoter Don King announced plans to match the future Hall of Famers in a pay-per-view fight early next year, most likely Jan. 26 at New York's Madison Square Garden.
"We just made this fight. It's a fight made in boxing heaven," King crowed from his offices in Deerfield Beach, Fla., where he was joined by both fighters, who were there to talk to the media and sign their contracts. "We're going to start the year off with a bang."
Trinidad, a former three-division champion, will be coming out of his second retirement for the fight against Jones, a former four-division champion.
Trinidad (42-2, 35 KOs), who has never fought above 160 pounds, will move up from middleweight and meet Jones at 170 for the scheduled 12-round bout.
"I'm going to feel very good at that weight," Trinidad said. "The night of the fight that weight will be right for me."
Jones (51-4, 38 KOs), who has fought in the 175-pound division since 1996, will come down to 170, which would be his lightest fighting weight since he was 167 pounds for his final super middleweight title defense in 1996.
"You don't like it, but you got to do it," said Jones, who weighed 193 when he dominated John Ruiz to win a heavyweight world title in 2003. "I'll sacrifice a few pounds to make the fight with Tito. Of course it will be difficult, but I'll do it. This is a fight worth getting up for."
In an unusual move, King said he made the fight without a television deal in place.
"The TV we have not got yet," King said. "We got to talk to HBO, talk to Showtime, got to talk to ESPN, talk to Rupert Murdoch, anyone who wants to broadcast it. You make the fight and figure it out, but the deal is real."
King, even more excitable than usual, was clearly overjoyed to have Trinidad out of retirement. Also coming out of retirement for the fight is Trinidad's father and trainer, Felix "Papa" Trinidad Sr.
King has worked feverishly behind the scenes for months to convince Trinidad, 34, to continue his career, and the Puerto Rican icon announced last month that he would come out of a second retirement.
His target was Jones, 38, the fighter he had hoped to fight six years ago.
"It's two titans, two legendary fighters coming together to fight," King said. "This is what the public has waited for a long time, and now they're going to have it. So, Tito is saying in the words of the inimitable and incomparable Cyrano de Bergerac, 'Don't bring me no mortal men, bring me giants.' And a giant is coming in Roy Jones Jr., one of the legends of our time, one of the greatest fighters in the world. So you got two of the greatest fighters in the world meeting each other."
Both genuinely seemed excited.
"I never avoided fighting great fighters," Trinidad said. "I am coming back to fight Roy Jones because he is one of the greatest fighters. It is true that I said in the past that I wasn't coming back, but I feel healthy and I have too much boxing inside of me that I can still show to the world, and show that I am still one of the greatest with this big challenge. I never refuse to fight great fighters. That's why me and my father decided to fight Roy Jones, a great fighter."
Said King, "Papa didn't want his son to come back unless he was going to fight someone who was a titan. He said right off the bat, 'Roy Jones.' Then my job was to get Roy Jones."
Jones was disappointed when the fight with Trinidad didn't come off because of Trinidad's loss to Hopkins. He even told King before that 2001 fight not to make the match because Trinidad would lose. At last, though, Jones has his fight with Trinidad.
"Tito is a great champion. He's built a great legacy and if someone like that challenges you, how can you turn that down," Jones said. "You make a big fight and give the fans something to watch.
"It ain't gonna be like [Floyd] Mayweather-[Oscar] De La Hoya. They gave the fans a dance. We'll give them a fight. We are both powerful punchers. It's a matter of who gets there first. And it won't be like Bernard Hopkins-Winky Wright, two guys with no bombs in their tank. We got bombs in our tanks. You got two beautiful punchers, two beautiful boxers. It will be a great fight."
The fighters' financial terms for the bout were not disclosed, but Trinidad, who made at least $10 million for his last fight, said, "It's a huge purse."
To help promote the fight, King said Jones and Trinidad would work as color commentators on the international broadcasts of several of his upcoming cards -- Sept. 8 (Fernando Vargas-Ricardo Mayorga), Sept. 29 (Chad Dawson-Adrian Diaconu), Oct. 6 (Oleg Maskaev-Samuel Peter) and Oct. 13 (Juan Diaz-Julio Diaz).
Jones, who has won titles at middleweight, super middleweight, light heavyweight and heavyweight, has won two fights in a row since his fast fall from grace in 2004 and 2005, when he lost three in a row, including back-to-back brutal knockouts to Antonio Tarver and Glen Johnson. But after a year off, Jones returned to outpoint Badi Ajamu in July 2006. Last month, he outpointed Anthony Hanshaw with rumors of a possible showdown with Trinidad swirling during the promotion.
Trinidad, who won titles at welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight, called it quits in 2002, but triumphantly returned to knock out Ricardo Mayorga in October 2004.
That victory set the stage for Trinidad to fight Wright, who is far more skillful than Mayorga. Wright easily dominated Trinidad en route to a virtual shutout decision win in May 2005, which sent Trinidad back into retirement.
On Monday, Trinidad was certainly back in fighting mode.
"I'm waiting to knock you out, OK baby," Trinidad told Jones.
Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.
9hMike Fish and David Purdum