By John Gregg
William Joppy didn't need to study physics to become a believer in the basic rule that "force equals mass times acceleration." All Mr. Joppy had to do was climb through the ropes and face one of the greatest fighters of his generation. It was a painful lesson but a lesson learned.
Behind laser-like left hooks and rapier right crosses, Felix Trinidad displayed enough force to drop Joppy three times and capture the WBA middleweight championship. Trinidad's victory also sets up a showdown with Bernard Hopkins and a shot at the unified version of the 160-pound title next September.
Joppy attempted to bang with Trinidad in the first round and he paid a steep price. Late in the opening stanza, Joppy dropped his hands and Trinidad unloaded a viscous three-shot combination. The quick volley floored Joppy and almost drove the champion underneath the ropes. Joppy survived the round and attempted to rally but it would prove to the challenger's night.
Trinidad floored Joppy in the fourth round and again in the 5th with a crushing left hooks and right hands to the head. The champion crumbled to the canvas and valiantly attempted to rise from the floor again but it was clear he was in no shape to continue. As Joppy careened along the ropes, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. had seen enough and mercifully waved off the contest at 2:25 of the fifth round.
"I knew he wanted to impose his will, his weight, and I wouldn't let him do it, Trinidad explained after the victory. "I have always said that I am a true middleweight and I showed that tonight. I know that [Bernard] Hopkins will come well prepared to meet me but once I hit him it will be over."
"He did what he had to do tonight. He was relentless but I'll be back," Joppy said after the devastating defeat. "I underestimated him. He was the better man tonight."
--Tito, Tito, Tito--
Joppy (32-2-1, 24 KO's) started strong and scored with a series of stinging left jabs to the face. Trinidad (40-0, 32 KO's) kept his poise but with 2:43 to go in the 1st, Joppy (158 ¾) drilled the challenger with another stiff jab and a right hand. Trinidad's (159 ¼) legs wobbled for a moment as the champion continued to apply pressure. However, with 48-seconds remaining in the round, Trinidad unloaded two hard right hands that caught Joppy flush in the face and rocked the champion. Seconds later, Trinidad connected with a three-shot combination that floored Joppy and almost propelled him underneath the ropes and out on the ring apron. The champion used the ropes to pull himself up off the canvas and somehow beat the count.
Still dazed and confused after hitting the deck for only the second time in his pro career, Joppy grabbed hold of the challenger around his waist and managed to survive until the bell. With his corner screaming at him to keep his hands up, Joppy appeared to be out on his feet and needed to be supported by the ropes to maintain his balance between rounds.
Trinidad, Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico went back to work in the second round and continued to hammer away at the champion. Joppy, Lincoln Park, MD., remarkably was able to regain his balance and by the end of the round he was bouncing stiff left jabs off the challenger's face. Trinidad returned to his corner after the 2nd, bleeding slightly from his nose.
Joppy, 30 stayed busy with his jab in the third round but Trinidad, 28 began to unload more heavy artillery. At the 2:30 mark of the 3rd, Trinidad nailed the champion with a whistling right hand over the top as Joppy leaned back following an exchange. Moments later, Trinidad saw the same opening and cracked Joppy with another searing right hand to the head. Joppy remained active with his jab but Trinidad continued to measure his man and look for openings. With just seconds remaining in the 3rd and the fighters tied up in a clinch, Trinidad made eye contact with his corner and nodded his head as if to say, "I got him."
Joppy was running out of options in the 4th, despite the fact he seemed to land his jab with uncanny accuracy. He continued to follow a puncher around the ring and courting disaster. At the 2:27 mark of the 4th, Trinidad connected with stinging right hand to the head that jarred Joppy. With 2:15 to go in the round, Trinidad scored with a four-shot salvo and then dropped Joppy for the second time in the fight with a whip-like left hook to the jaw. Joppy crashed to the canvas, rolled over on his shoulders, staggered to his feet and then collapsed again before struggling to get upright. Miraculously, the champion still had enough will and pride to survive the knockdown and to continue to battle.
Joppy, 5'10, still looked shaky at the beginning of the fifth round but he returned to firing out his jab and trying to pressure the challenger. With 1:35 to go in the 5th, Trinidad, 5'11" staggered Joppy with a blazing left-right combination to the head. The champion's knees buckled but he remained upright. Moving to his right with 1:21 to go in the round, Trinidad unloaded another clean right hand that caught the champion square on the jaw. With under a minute to go in the round, Trinidad opened up with yet another sharp combination that ricocheted off Joppy's skull. Fighting in the center of the ring, Trinidad unleashed another crippling right hand to the head that caught Joppy flush on the side of his face. Joppy legs began to buckle and as he headed for the canvas for the final time, Trinidad caught him once more with another right cross.
Joppy crumbled to the deck, sliding on his side and coming to rest near the ropes. Joppy made every attempt to rise but while it was clear the lights were on, it was also apparent that no one was home. The champion managed somehow to beat the count but he was still hurt and when he swayed along the ropes for support Mercante Jr. wisely interceded.
The night was over for Mr. Joppy and the festivities were just beginning for Puerto Rican fight fans all over New York. Newton's Law and Felix Trinidad's heavy hands had set the stage for parties that raged on way past dawn.