By Elisa Harrison
Updated: October 6, 2004

“It’s one thing to call out the devil, another to see him coming….”

Photo Credit: David Martin-Warr/DKP

Photo Credit: David Martin-Warr/DKP

Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad once uttered the above cited colloquial expression in reference to the ire stirred in his soul by Bernard Hopkins’ disrespect of the Puerto Rican flag and of Tito himself. As we all know, Tito couldn’t collect his dues from Hopkins, but two years later he found himself challenged again, this time by Ricardo Mayorga, who called out the devil in Trinidad many times over in the weeks preceding their much anticipated bout. On Saturday, October 2, 2004, the devil showed up, in rare form, and handed Ricardo Mayorga the beatdown of a lifetime.

There isn’t one single fighter out there, not one, that brings to the table the passion, the excitement, the ferocity, the tremendous courage and professionalism Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad exhibits in the ring. Compare Saturday’s fight to the mega fights that preceded “Back with a Vengeance” and they all pale by comparison; apples and tangerines in my book. Added ingredient -and an integral one without a doubt- was Ricardo ‘El Matador’ Mayorga, who on Saturday October 2nd demonstrated a warrior’s heart, and tremendous staying power against a superior opponent in Trinidad. These two men gave us the most fierce and explosive fight I’ve witnessed in quite some time. Gentlemen, I am still breathless…

New York City’s Madison Square Garden was the scene of Trinidad’s only defeat. It was only fitting that his return to ring action would take place in the same venue once known as the Mecca of boxing. Watching the scene at the Garden, I felt as if stuck in a time warp… Although Trinidad has been away from the sport for over 2 years, his fan base came out 17,000+, and Tito Mania was even stronger this time around than when he fought Joppy and Hopkins at the same venue in May and September of 2002 respectively.

Tito’s entrance was energetic and full of confidence. He seemed appreciative of the tremendous support being displayed by his fans. Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad had come home, and boxing fans were excited to see him. In a few minutes the world was going to find out whether Trinidad still had his heart in the ring, or whether the return had been a huge mistake.

Ricardo Mayorga’s ring entrance was also confident, and there was some vocal support for the Nicaraguan fighter. There was no doubt in anyone’s mind that Mayorga was set to give Tito the fight of his life.

Round 1 – In the opener Trinidad looked tight and a bit dry; he seemed to be on somewhat unsteady legs. Mayorga did as promised, he stuck his chin out to Tito, and got rocked with a solid combination. He felt the power and covered up. It was a good opening round for Trinidad.

Round 2 – Tito now seemed more comfortable; he began finding his range with more ease, his legs seemingly steadier. Tito’s shots came in combinations, set off by a stiff and assertive jab. Mayorga got off his shots too, but they didn’t seem to have the same effect on Tito; the power -and the round- belonged to Trinidad.

<Mayorga returned to his corner bleeding from the nose and breathing hard>

Round 3 – This round had Tito delivering monstrous combinations to Mayorga’s head, countered by strong left hooks from the Nicaraguan. Mayorga’s punches were well delivered, but no harm was done. Out of nowhere Tito goes down, barely touching the mat with one glove, due to a combination of a punch, a push and a slip on the mat’s logo. He is not hurt, and calmly takes referee Smoger’s 8 count. A round that had started so strong for Tito now became a 10-8 round for Mayorga.

<Don Felix instructs Tito to not move around a lot, to stay center ring and trade with Mayorga> Round 4 – Mayorga begins to falter technically, throwing one punch at a time, all of them wide and looping shots. Just as I was thinking Tito needed to go to the body since Mayorga was assimilating all the head shots, Tito connects to the body and Mayorga is visibly hurt by the punch.

Round 5 – Mayorga seems frustrated; perhaps the reality of his transgression is beginning to set in. Although he is throwing shots and connecting, Tito keeps coming at him, and Tito hurts! Mayorga is busted up, cut under his right eye, bleeding from his nose, and more than likely beginning to feel the wrath of the devil he so recklessly called out. I scored this round for Tito 10-8.

<Tito waves Mayorga to come on as he stands in his corner waiting for the bell to ring; his gesture reminiscent of someone who has been waiting a long time to settle a serious dispute. It was clear that Tito Trinidad was ready to roll…> Round 6 – Mayorga’s face is beginning to look like he has been in a real fight. In the heat of action Tito hits Mayorga low, on his left hip, and Ricardo wastes no time letting referee Smoger know he is ‘hurt’ by the shot. Mayorga is given a rest period, and during this time he keeps looking at his corner, seemingly seeking answers to the puzzle standing across the ring from him. The delay tactic was not a wise move by Mayorga since the rest period also benefited Trinidad, who came at him with punches in bunches, each and everyone of them capable of inflicting serious damage. Hard to figure out what kept Mayorga on his feet here; even harder to comprehend why his corner didn’t bail him out of the inevitably painful finale being set up by Trinidad’s punches. I can’t blame referee Smoger for not stopping the fight in this round, because every time it looked as if Mayorga was finished, he managed to throw a punch or two, and his legs kept him erect, not much a ref can do under such circumstances. Nevertheless I had to score it a 10-8 round for Trinidad. How much longer will Ricardo Mayorga be able to absorb this type of punishment? Not long, not long at all…

Round 7 – Huge round for Tito Trinidad, who almost made my 7th round KO prediction a reality. He hit Mayorga with everything he could muster, and the Nicaraguan kept fighting on adrenaline alone. Mayorga had nothing left in his tank and didn’t seem to want much more of Trinidad’s power punches, but somehow, he managed to survive the most punishing round of the fight, so far. Incredible courage being displayed by Ricardo Mayorga, who by now realizes the devil is collecting all payments due. Score the round 10-8 for Trinidad.

Round 8 – In what would prove to be a last bravado, Mayorga musters up enough energy to open the round with a flurry that connects but only seems to infuriate Tito. The answer was a hook to the body which sent Mayorga to the mat on all four, gastric fluids spewing from his mouth. He beat the count only to be bombarded again, mostly to the body, which caused a second knockdown. Mayorga rises one more time –by now most wondered why wasn’t his corner saving him from himself- only to fall one last time, victim of Trinidad’s power punches. Referee Smoger waves Mayorga off as the Nicaraguan collapses to the mat for a third time. Official time of the stoppage 2:39.

Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad smiled broadly. His demons had been conquered, his mark was made once again and his message was unequivocal: Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad is back! It was great to see Tito and his father, don Felix Trinidad, Sr., center stage, their hands raised in victory as Tito was declared a champion once again.

Ricardo Mayorga was taken to Bellevue Hospital for observation following the massacre that saw Trinidad land 66% of his 329 power punches, and 63% of the 460 punches thrown. Truly incredible numbers for a guy who was supposed to have shown traces of ring rust…

‘Back with a Vengeance’ grossed $4.65 million, the third largest gate in Madison Square Garden history, and it certainly qualifies as a candidate for Fight of the Year 2004.

While congratulations are in order for Team Trinidad, I must express my contempt for Mayorga’s corner, who in my humble opinion should have saved their man from unnecessary punishment. I remember thinking about all the times Mayorga claimed he was going to beat Tito so badly his dad would have to step in and stop the fight. If only he would have had such a caring corner!! I don’t know what happened there, it seems as though egos got in the way. Oh, and speaking of egos, a little message hereby to HBO’s Roy Jones Jr.:

Roy, please, don’t use your position as HBO commentator to defend your own causes. Your self-serving message didn’t go unnoticed, at least not by this writer. You are not Tito, never have been, never will be. Tito Trinidad never, and I repeat, NEVER, has made excuses for anything, including his one and only devastating loss to Bernard Hopkins. If only you could take a page from his book, the page entitled “NO EXCUSES.”

Quotes of the night:

Ricardo Mayorga:

  • “I felt good about my performance, but my eye swelled up, and I couldn’t see some shots.”

  • When asked if he felt that he had hurt Trinidad when he knocked him down in the third round, Mayorga replied, “No,” and left the ring and immediately left Madison Square Garden in an ambulance for Bellevue Hospital.

    At the hospital, translator Tony Gonzalez asked Mayorga if he was okay. El Matador replied: “I’m fine except for a bruised heart.” He was later seen at his hotel where members of his team said he was fine and mentioned that he did not receive stitches for the gash under his left eye.

Felix Trinidad:

  • “I was strong in the ring, and I felt very comfortable, I expected a tough fight and Mayorga did not prove me wrong. He has an incredible chin and great power.

  • “The moment I started working the body I knew I was going to take off and dominate the fight.

  • “The knockdown was more push than punch, the referee did his job, and I had to continue. My corner asked me how I felt, and I told them that I was in perfect condition.

  • “God has given me health to return to the sport, and the strength of my family and team has carried me here. I have the best fans in the world and this fight is for all of them.”

Papa Trinidad:

  • “The real Tito showed up today, and we worked in such a way that we really did not show any ring rust.

    “The body shots changed the history and a valiant Mayorga had no option but to go down for the first time in his career.”