By Luis Escobar
Apparently bravado and training on Marlboros will only take you so far. Before this night was over one guy was left face down on the canvas, while his opponent was once again King of New York.
Puerto Rico's former welterweight, super welterweight and ex-middleweight world champion Felix "Tito" Trinidad returned after more than two years on the shelf, to hammer out hard headed Ricardo "El Matador" Mayorga in decisive style.
Trinidad overwhelmed the gutsy Mayorga with scalding right hands to the chin and brutal left hooks to the jaw to floor the Nicaraguan three times in the eighth round before referee Steve Smoger finally halted the carnage with 21-seconds remaining in the eighth round.
The knockdowns marked the first time that the former WBC & WBA welterweight titleholder had ever been off his feet.
With his hair dyed a bizarre powder orange for the festivities, Mayorga began to resemble an inverted road cone that had been pounded into the pavement after so many knockdowns, in front of 17,406 paying customers at Madison Square Garden.
Trinidad suffered a flash knockdown in the third round when his right glove grazed the canvas, after being clipped by an overhand right from the flamboyant but outgunned Mayorga.
Both men unloaded wicked shots over the course of the high velocity and highly entertaining contest but Trinidad's precision and accuracy continued to batter Mayorga's skull for much of the evening. Trinidad repeatedly stepped inside Mayorga's wheelhouse and nailed him with clean right crosses and thundering hooks until he eventually drove the Nicaraguan into the floor unceremoniously three times in the climatic eighth round.
Trinidad had not been in the ring since he scored a fourth round TKO over Hassine Cherifi, back May 2002, fighting in front of his countrymen at Roberto Clemente Coliseum, in San Juan, Puerto Rico. That lone victory by Trinidad came on the heels of his stunning and one-sided 12th round TKO loss to Bernard Hopkins back in September 2001.
Nevertheless, Trinidad displayed little rust as he controlled the bout with side-to-side movement; a stiff left jab and brutal right hands to the jaw that tattooed Mayorga for much of the evening.
"I've been in tough wars before, but I dominated this fight," Trinidad said. "He can take a good punch and he took a lot, which was bad for him."
--All Out Assault--
Trinidad entered the ring to sounds and screams of, "Tito, Tito, Tito," while thousands of fight fans waved Puerto Rican flags. A long chorus of boos greeted Mayorga and that sound resonated off the walls of the venerable Garden, when the fighters were introduced to the overwhelming pro-Trinidad crowd.
Mayorga (27-5, 23 KO's) connected with a wide right hand to the head in the opening moments of the first round, while Trinidad (42-1, 35 KO's) gave ground with his hands held high. At the 1:35 mark of the 1st, Mayorga (158) ripped Trinidad (157 1/2) with two digging body shots to the midsection and a cuffing right hand over the top. Mayorga continued to wing shots from all angles with 1:09 to go in the round; he clipped Trinidad with a chopping right hand to the jaw.
With the fans screaming and Mayorga firing leather, Trinidad stepped inside with 57-seconds to go in the 1st, and scored with a double left hook to the jaw that had little to no effect on the Nicaraguan. Mayorga dropped his gloves, pounded his chin and defied the Puerto Rican to hit him. Trinidad accepted the invitation and he drilled Mayorga with a clean left hook on the jaw. The theatrics and show boating continued while Mayorga shook his hips and Trinidad bounced two stiff left jabs off his opponent's profile.
Moment's later, Trinidad scored with two more straight right hands, an uppercut, and two stiff jabs for good measure before driving Mayorga backwards with another well-timed flurry. With 5-seconds remaining in the 1st, Trinidad hammered Mayorga with a five-shot volley that richochtted off the somewhat stunned Nicaraguan's thick skull.
If anyone had doubted Mayorga's reasoning ability and sanity before the fight there was little doubt after the first round. It was the equivalent of handing a weapon to a crack shot and saying, "see what you can do."
Following a half dozen more rapier-like left jabs to open the second round, Mayorga, Managua, Nicaragua began bleeding from his nose. At the 2:17 mark of the 2nd, Trinidad, 31 nailed the wild swinging Mayorga with a solid counter left hook to the jaw. Mayorga answered with his own left hook but his punches were wide and lacked his opponent's power. Seconds later, Trinidad jolted his opponent with a clean right hand to the jaw before both men flurried in the center of the ring. With 1:56 remaining in the 2nd, Trinidad, Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, tagged Mayorga with two more clean right hands to the face, as the crowd screamed their appreciation. At the 1:20 mark of the round, Trinidad caught Mayorga lunging with his right hand and nailed him with another hard jab to the face and a left hook that rocketed off his jaw.
Mayorga continued to return fire and he did land but he rushed his punches and rarely had his feet under him when he attempted to unload. Trinidad repeatedly stepped to his side and drilled his adversary with wicked shots to the skull. With the fans standing and screaming at the 31-second mark, Trinidad hammered Mayorga with two clean straight right hands down the middle that landed flush between his eyes. Both men continued to trade blistering shots but it was Trinidad's accuracy and power that won the exchanges.
The fireworks and the jabs continued in the third round, as Trinidad returned to blasting away at Mayorga's cement jaw. With 1:47 remaining in the 3rd, Trinidad scored with a brutal right hand to the chin followed by a whistling left hook that snapped Mayorga's head sideways. The Nicaraguan returned fire with two left hooks to the body but the punches were thrown from distance and did little damage. Seconds later, Mayorga connected with what appeared to be a sharp left hook to the head but Trinidad walked through the blow and continued to pull the trigger on the outclassed former world champion.
Mayorga, however, remained very dangerous and with 53-seconds to go in the 3rd, he nailed Trinidad with an overhand right behind the ear. The off balance Trinidad bent at the waist, and his right glove touched the floor. The referee Smoger called time and issued a mandatory eight-count to Trinidad, following the brief but very legitimate knockdown. The punch did not effect Trinidad and he went back to bouncing his stiff left jab off of Mayorga's face for the remainder of the third round. At the bell, Mayorga returned to his corner and almost spit out his mouthpiece and he began to gulp down air.
Early in the fourth round Trinidad was back on target and he bounced a five-shot volley off Mayorga's profile. The irrepressible Mayorga, however, scored with two looping left hooks to the head. With 1:33 to go in the 4th, Mayorga scored with another sweeping left hook to the face. However, moments later, Trinidad drilled the Nicaraguan with a searing left uppercut that thudded off Mayorga's jaw. With Mayorga tiring noticeably with 1:01 to go in the 4th, Trinidad clipped him with another searing right hand to the chin. Fighting in the center of the ring and ducking under telegraphed blows, Trinidad again nailed the Nicaraguan with 33-seconds to go in the 4th, with yet another laser-like right hand on the button.
With 18-seconds remaining in the round, Trinidad went downstairs and ripped Mayorga with a left hook on the beltline. The body shot hurt Mayorga and he retreated near the ropes before answering with an uppercut. However, Trinidad unloaded another rapid-fire four-shot combination and leather richochtted off Mayorga's bruised face. Once again, Mayorga rallied briefly and landed his own scoring shots just before the bell. Nevertheless, when Mayorga returned to his corner he looked out of gas. He was breathing hard and his body language conveyed the image of a man running low on oxygen.
At the 1:58 mark of the fifth round, Trinidad drilled Mayorga with a counter left hook to the chin and he froze his opponent in his tracks. Seconds later, Trinidad bounced another screaming left hook off the side of the Nicaraguan's skull. Momentarily, Trinidad backed Mayorga into the ropes and nailed him with two sharp right hands to the mouth. With the crowd returning to its chant of "Tito, Tito, Tito," Trinidad tagged Mayorga with another punishing left hook high on the jaw. Grinding and blasting away, Trinidad repeatedly scored with both hands and Mayorga was compelled to give ground. A scalding left hook to the point of the chin wobbled Mayorga and then with 36-seconds to go in the 5th, Trinidad rocked Mayorga with a jackhammer right hand to the jaw. Moments later, Trinidad connected again with a volley of blows; including a left uppercut to the chin and another right cross to the nose. With 14-seconds remaining in the one-sided round, Trinidad unloaded another barrage of hammering shots that caught Mayorga flush in the face. The Nicaraguan retreated along the ropes and Trinidad pinned him in the corner while landing a wicked volley of blows that opened up a nasty cut under Mayorga's left eye. With blood trickling down his face, Mayorga attempted to clinch but Trinidad continued to hammer away with ruthless accuracy and battered his opponent with yet another bloody volley. At the bell, the referee Smoger was forced to pry the Nicaraguan off of Trinidad. With blood streaming down the left side of his face, Mayorga turned slowly and returned to his corner before almost collapsing back on his stool. Within seconds, the ringside doctor was checking on his condition, as Mayorga's corner labored to halt the flow of blood.
Before the bell sounded to start the sixth round, Trinidad pounded his chest several times with his right glove and the cheering throng responded by serenading their hero. At the 2:19 mark of the 6th, Trinidad clipped Mayorga with another lead right hand that caught the former welterweight champ flush on his wound and once again blood began flowing from the cut. Sliding to his left and popping his shots, Trinidad continued to effortlessly outbox Mayorga while connecting with stinging right crosses and thudding left jabs that rebounded off the Nicaraguan's skull with the force of a large 2 x 4.
At the 1:47 mark of the 6th, Trinidad tagged Mayorga with a whistling counter right hand to the face and then a thundering left hook to the jaw. Seconds later, Trinidad nailed the flat-footed Mayorga in the center of the ring with a crippling left hook that exploded off his skull. For a moment Mayorga rocked back on his heels and he dropped his gloves, as he legs wobbled. The Central American retreated sucking in air, while Trinidad continued to bounce nasty shots off of Mayorga's bloody face. Following yet another brutal volley to the head, the referee Smoger peered inside and for several moments appeared on the verge of halting the bout. However, with 50-seconds to go in the round, Trinidad sank a low left hook off Mayorga's right hip.
Mayorga recoiled in pain and Smoger halted the action, as the Nicaraguan limped away while covering his hip. With the crowd booing, Mayorga took almost two minutes before he was able to continue. Compounding his problems, Mayorga's left eye rapidly began swelling shut. However, Mayorga was still wasn't through for the night and just before the bell to close out the 6th, he rallied yet again and landed a flurry of punches including a hook to the body that forced Trinidad to take a step back.
Mayorga opened the seventh round with a flaying combination that caught Trinidad hard on the chin. The former world champion in three different weight classes maintained his poise while Mayorga returned to winging leather. At the 1:45 mark of the 7th, Trinidad clipped Mayorga's face with a straight right hand and then snapped his head straight back following another volley of shots. Mayorga was still game and he attempted to return fire but Trinidad won virtually every exchange with short, crisp and accurate blows to the head. However, with 50-seconds to go in the 7th, Trinidad battered Mayorga with another hammering right hand on the beltline. Mayorga turned his back and limped away but the referee screamed at him to keep boxing. Trinidad responded by drilling him with another right hand to the body and a flurry of shots off Mayorga's bruised and bloody head. Trinidad set his feet and unloaded two crushing, neck snapping right uppercuts that jolted Mayorga. With 23-seconds to go in the round, Trinidad pulled the trigger on yet another six-shot burst to the face and Mayorga was forced to hold on to survive. Both men fired punches for the last 15-seconds of the round, but there was little doubt who had won the 6th, when Mayorga painfully returned to his sanctuary with blood cascading down his face and nose, with his left eye visibly swollen. The end was near the only question that reminded was when.
--Back With Authority--
To his credit, Mayorga opened the eighth round by firing punches but Trinidad eased away maintaining his composure but ready to unload. However, with 1:41 to go in the 8th, Trinidad hurt Mayorga with a hammering left hook to the jaw that landed flush. Mayorga's knees buckled, his head dropped and he retreated on rubbery legs. Trinidad unloaded another five-shot flurry including a hammering right uppercut to the chin; however, a brutal left hook to the ribs dropped Mayorga for the first time in his career.
Mayorga collapsed to his hands and his knees staring at the floor while Smoger screamed the count in his left ear. Mayorga valiantly climbed off the deck at the count of nine and attempted to throw punches. Moments later, Trinidad resumed his attack and hammered his opponent with another volley of blows including a searing body shot, three left hooks and a right cross to the side of the skull.
Mayorga crashed to the floor for the second time and he came to rest near the ropes down on one knee. Up at the count of eight, the action resumed but following one final obligatory volley of leather Mayorga sank to the canvas for the third and final time. Smoger quickly waved off the fight and Trinidad raised his arms in triumph before returning to his corner at 2:39 of the eighth round.
Tito's return was victorious while across the ring the slumped figure of the man who trained on cigarettes needed a smoke and a strong drink. It was going to be a long flight back to Managua.