By Tré Berry III🖊️ | 03/30/2020
The finale towards crowning an Undisputed Middleweight Champion of the world took place on September 29th, 2001. Crafty and ruggedly skilled longtime Middleweight World Titlist 🇺🇸Bernard “The Executioner” Hopkins (39-2-1, KO👊) was looking to make the 14th defense of his IBF title, and his first defense of the WBC strap that he had won from 🇺🇸Keith Holmes a fight prior, while Puerto Rico’s legendary wrecking-ball 🇵🇷Felix “Tito” Trinidad (40-0-0, 33KO👊👊) was looking to defend his WBA Middleweight Title that he ripped away from 🇺🇸William Joppy earlier that year by way of 🔥fiery destruction and malice.
SOME BACKSTORY – The fight was scheduled to take place 2 weeks prior, but of course was rescheduled after the horrific events of 📜9/11 taking place. With a city and nation reeling from the reality of the situation, they would take this fight to 🏟️Madison Square Garden as the first fight back since the tragedy, a place that Felix Trinidad had essentially welcomed as his second home due to his overwhelming support of his Puerto Rican contingent in NY, as well as other fans who naturally flocked to him due to his electrifying presence, and in how he 🔪knifed his way through all top competition up to this point in time.
The pre-fight antics and confrontations were very contentious, and reached a point of no return when Bernard Hopkins shamefully snatched a Puerto Rico flag out of Trinidad’s hands and threw it to the ground, angering the Puerto Rican fans in attendance. Hopkins post-fight claimed it was a deliberate, thought out tactic to take Trinidad off his game, and is a believable concept (more on that later), although a very low one that some people till this day can’t forgive, but Hopkins was never one to censor anything he does. Apparently Hopkins had a plan in place, and knew what he was doing.
THE MOMENT WHEN IT HAPPENED
Both were fighting for the vacant Ring-Magazine/Lineal Middleweight World Title, and vying for becoming the sole dominant Champion in the division, and also to add a large chunk of glory to their already impressive resumes.
Coming into the fight, Trinidad was the betting 2️⃣ – 1️⃣ favorite over the Executioner. Hopkins up to this point in his career was one of those fighters who was shorted by the boxing masses on his 🌊deep reservoir of talent, and much of that was attributed to him prior to this not having a great dance partner in the ring, despite him routinely putting forth great performances in his career. In terms of getting all that avoided him, the time was now to make the definitive statement to truly take his place atop the boxing world.
THE FIGHT – What made Felix Trinidad so dangerous was that excluding Heavyweights, he was arguably P4P the hardest precision puncher in the sport since 🇺🇸Tommy “Hitman” Hearns (especially from Welterweight to Middleweight), and Trinidad had the predatorial approach of a killer. On top of that, he packed plenty of speed, so there was a lot on Bernard Hopkins plate to deal with, but for Bernard’s sake, there is no substitute for knowledge and timing, and he had those 2 components mastered.
Hopkins plan for this fight was to utilize angles, and rely on both his carefully crafted defense and counter-punching, with the intention of taking advantage of Trinidad’s feet, which was often out of position because he firmly planted in a spot to try and muster power on every one of his punches. Hopkins also did what he did in throwing the Puerto Rican flag on the ground to anger Tito with expectations of throwing him off his game come fight time, and it did work to a degree.
Early on, Felix Trinidad would try to assert his will and establish the higher plateau over Bernard, coming forward to punch his way through the 🎯target, but found it a difficult task as that target was constantly moving, with Hopkins out-thinking and out-maneuvering Felix in most sequences.
Hopkins patience became paramount when Tito looked to be falling behind on the points, and stepped up his rate of aggression against the Executioner. Bernard, while he took the mental edge, also played the bully role in spots and fought fire with fire, bombing Trinidad in closed quarters and continuously following up, planting some 🌱seeds of doubt into Trinidad’s psyche. Of course Trinidad continued to barrel forward and trade, but he couldn’t land frequent enough as Hopkins had a beat on everything he wanted to do.
The fight turned into a war in the middle rounds, and by the later rounds, Hopkins started to truly separate himself from his opponent. At the end of the 10th round, Hopkins damaged Trinidad badly with an uppercut that wobbled Tito. 🗣️Referee Steve Smoger escorted Trinidad back to the corner, much of it doing with Hopkins looking to continue the onslaught after the 🛎️bell, but everything looked to be down hill from there for Felix. Hopkins power crept more and more into the picture in the 11th and early part of the 12th round, and in the 12th is where Hopkins landed a massive right cross that he hid well, to Trinidad’s cheek, knocking him emphatically to the canvas.
Trinidad was in a daze as he tried to scramble his way up to his feet, but his father and 🗣️Head-Trainer Felix Trinidad Sr. entered through the ropes to save his son as a signal to Smoger that Tito had enough, and for the fight to be stopped. A stunned crowned looked on in disbelief as their hero suffered his first defeat in 41 professional fights. Hopkins would get the signature win of his career with this masterful performance.
HISTORIC IMPLICATIONS AND CONTINUED PATHS – With this monumental moment and achievement in Bernard Hopkins career, he became the first Middleweight to become Undisputed World Champion since 🇺🇸“Marvelous” Marvin Hagler did so back in 1980 when he defeated 🥉🇬🇧Alan Minter to win the RING, WBA & WBC World Titles. For many boxers, a moment such as this would be the stand-alone achievement of their career, but this instead was just the start of what Hopkins would achieve, as he continued on as a dominant Middleweight Champion, then putting together some historical showings at Light-Heavyweight against even stronger opposition that he had faced at ⚖️160 lbs. Hopkins took his textbook skill-set and reigned much of his duration as a Champion all the way to the age of 49 years old, as the oldest Champion in boxing history.
HOPKINS DOMINANT LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHT PERFORMANCE OVER ANTONIO TARVER
Tito Trinidad’s career had went on a completely different trajectory. Most of Trinidad’s greatness was front-heavy in terms of already taking place prior to his defeat to Hopkins, thus him already being universally regarded as Hall-of-Fame material. He did win 2 more fights in his career to follow. One of them came in a savage effort when he punished and made an example of 🇳🇮Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga, who although was great at Welterweight, was up in a new division 📈north of that, where he couldn’t physically throw his weight around the way he wanted to considering his locked-in pressure abilities.
FELIX TRINIDAD BEATING UP AND SHOWING RICARDO MAYORGA WHO WAS BOSS
Trinidad would go on to lose a lopsided decision against the great 🇺🇸Ronald “Winky” Wright, and would retire temporarily before coming back to fight legend 🇺🇸Roy Jones Jr. for what turned into an interesting over-the-hill type of match between two great fighters, one that had Trinidad see the short-end of the scorecards, so Trinidad would officially walk away from the sport of boxing for good.
FIGHT HIGHLIGHTS – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HMYiB0ueAu8
FULL FIGHT – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3Ec2xeQp_U