By Luis Escobar
Felix "Tito" Trinidad is the pride and the passion of Puerto Rico. He is the national treasure of a people who celebrate Trinidad's, style, talent, and greatness. He is the mirror in which the people of Puerto Rico wish to see themselves.
The IBF welterweight champion Trinidad connected with a counter left followed by a devastating hook that dropped the #2 challenger Mahenge Zulu as if he had been hit by a grenade luncher. Zulu crashed to the canvas and his head snapped back against the floor. Referee Luis Pabon Rivas began counting Zulu out in Spanish but stopped short at six. The fight was over and a nation began to celebrate at 2:20 of the fourth round.
"I hit particularly hard with my left hand. I caught him with a great shot. It stunned him and then I finished with the second (left)," Trinidad said after the victory.
--Measuring the victim--
Round One: Making his first appearance in front of his hometown fans in five years, Trinidad (33-0, 29 KO's) started the first round very cautiously. Within thirty seconds the fans began enthusiastically chanting, "Tito, Tito, Tito," as Trinidad moved around the ring and studied the challenger. Zulu (17-3-1, 7 KO's) continued moving forward for the first minute of the round as Trinidad stepped back and measured the challenger. At the 1:42 mark, Zulu, 32 , fired a wide left hook that Trinidad (147, 1998) blocked and then lashed back with a hook of his own. The champion stayed in the center of the ring, circling to his left, and landed three straight left jabs that barely grazed Zulu's (147, 1998) chin. The champion was just finding the range. Both men were on target with a minute to go in the 1st, and scored with crisp left jabs. Trinidad continued to connect and landed a stiff left jab with 38-seconds remaining in the opening round. Moments later, Zulu blocked a left hook but the champion tagged him with a pinpoint right hand that glanced off his jaw. Zulu connected with wide overhand right and Trinidad landed a left hand counter. Just before the bell, Trinidad, 25, scored with two more jabs and a whistling right hand to the head.
Round Two: With the fans singing to begin round two, the challenger tried to pick up the pace and missed with a wide left hook. Zulu, Kinshasa, Zaire, fired a scorching overhand right that just barely made contact. Trinidad, Cupay Alto, PR., returned fire with a chopping double left hook. At the 1:49 mark of the 2nd, Zulu connected with a solid left hook to the head. Trinidad remained impassive as he circled the ring. With 1:18 to go in the round, Trinidad, 5'11", scored with a double left jab followed sharp over hand right. It was Zulu's first taste of the champion's power. The champion kept moving to his left, while landing a series of crisp jabs as Zulu, 5' 10", was unable to cut the distance. However, with 21-seconds remaining in the round, Zulu snapped Trinidad's head back with a clean left jab of his own. Just before the bell, Trinidad nailed the challenger with a solid left hook just below the belt line, followed by two hooks to the head. The referee stepped between the fighters and screened out Zulu, as the challenger fired another right hand. When Zulu returned to his corner, his chief second Hector Perez realized that the challenger had fought the entire round without his mouthpiece.
Round Three: Trinidad began punishing the challenger in the third round with clean left jabs that opened a cut in Zulu's mouth. At the 2:34 mark, Zulu missed with a amateurish wild overhand right. Seconds later, Trinidad nailed Zulu with a straight right hand to the jaw. It was a clean shot and made a loud crack as the leather made contact with Zulu's jaw. With the crowd screaming, Zulu stepped back and Trinidad mounted his attack.. Two more jabs and a crisp left hook to the head wobbled the challenger ever so slightly. With just over two minutes remaining in the 2nd, Trinidad scored with three rapier-like left jabs and Zulu began bleeding from the mouth. Within seconds, blood was splattered on the front of the challenger's trunks. Two more hooks from the champion rocketed off Zulu's head. As the fans screamed for their hero, Trinidad obliged with two more sharp rights and another screaming left hook. Zulu tried to return fire but his shots were wide and Trinidad easily eluded the telegraphed punches. With under thirty-seconds to go in the 3rd, the challenger was bleeding heavily from his mouth as Trinidad continued to rip him with savage right hands. A brutal left hand to the liver thudded off the challenger's body, as Trinidad opened up his arsenal. Just before the bell, Trinidad rocked Zulu with a another three-punch combination to the head. The challenger glared at Trinidad at the bell but it was false bravado. He had survived the round but Zulu returned to his corner awash in his own blood.
Round Four: Trinidad blocked three left hooks from the challenger early in the fourth round. At the 2:06 mark, the champion bounced a double left hook off the challenger's skull. Zulu dropped his gloves and stepped back. Zulu made a game attempt to bob and weave but Trinidad speared him with two more jolting left jabs. Zulu missed with a wild right that Trinidad ducked under and then came back with a crisp counter that caught the challenger high on the head. Zulu was valiant but missed again and Trinidad made him pay with two more nasty shots. Halfway through the round, the champ hurt Zulu with a sharp left to the belly followed by a solid hook to the head. It was like watching an artist at work as Trinidad's classic skills destroyed his opponent. Trinidad landed another crisp combination that staggered Zulu. Two more riveting hooks rocked the challenger. With the fans again standing screaming their approval, Trinidad nailed the challenger with two more punishing hooks to the body. With less than a minute to go in the round, Trinidad stepped inside and staggered Zulu with a knife-like left hook to the head. Trinidad reloaded, dipped to his left, and calmly drilled the challenger with yet another brutal hook to the head. The shot caught Zulu flush on the jaw and he was out before he crashed to the canvas. His head banged back against the deck and for an instant he laid motionless. At the count of four, he bravely tried to raise his head but Zulu knew the fight was over. The referee mercifully cradled the fallen fighter'fighters head in his hands and removed his mouthpiece. For Felix "Tito" Trinidad it was yet another masterpiece at 2:20 of the fourth round.
The fight that all boxing fans want to see, is the eventual showdown between Trinidad and the WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya. In private, Trinidad desperately wants to fight De la Hoya but after the victory the champion was measured in his remarks.
"I can't be worried about just one fighter," Trinidad said. "Hopefully will meet. So far it doesn't look likes he wants to fight me."
Following the victory, fans and well-wishers stormed the ring. Under the weight of the crowd, a rafter snapped and part of the ring support collapsed. Fortunately everyone escaped unhurt. The only casualty on this night was the challenger who fell victim to the "Pride of Puerto Rico".