A victorious Felix Trinidad is eager for a showdown with Oscar De
This is an article from the March 1, 1999 issue
The eagerly awaited welterweight revival of The Odd Couple may be
delayed until the next millennium--and if it ever does open, it
may not play Broadway. Oscar (De La Hoya) and Felix (Trinidad)
can't seem to agree on anything, from money to weight to who'll
get top billing.
In the past two weeks both stars have showcased their talents in
12-round victories. On Feb. 13 in Las Vegas, Oscar held on to
his WBC title with a sloppy but stirring split decision over Ike
Quartey. Last Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, the
usually fastidious Felix (29 KOs in his previous 33 fights)
retained his IBF crown with a unanimous decision over Pernell
(Sweet Pea) Whitaker, a lithe but light-hitting former champion.
Though he decked Whitaker and rocked him more than once,
Trinidad couldn't finish him. Still, the performance confirmed
Trinidad's status as the Felix that fans want to see sharing, if
not an apartment, certainly a ring with Oscar.
In the prefight press conference last week the Trinidad and the
Whitaker camps took shots at De La Hoya, the division's
undisputed box-office champ, who has a history of ducking
dangerous contenders. Whitaker's trainer, Lou Duva, landed the
lowest blow, dubbing him "Oscar De La Homo," while Trinidad's
promoter, Don King, referred to him as "Chicken De La Hoya."
Said King, "If Oscar doesn't stand up like a man and a Mexican,
he'll prove himself a peep-peep and a cock-a-doodle-doo, and
embarrass his children, his children's children and every alien
Whitaker had already faced De La Hoya, losing a disputed
12-round decision in 1997, and needed to beat Trinidad to earn
another Oscar night. A defensive wizard who throughout his
15-year career has frustrated opponents with his jab-and-grab
rigadoon, Whitaker insisted he was ready for Trinidad. "He may
be nine years younger than me," said Whitaker, 35, "but I'm the
one with the fresh legs."
If so, it was because he hadn't fought in 16 months. Whitaker
tested positive for cocaine after his last bout and was suspended
for six months. Last March he failed another drug test and spent
30 days in rehab and remained under suspension. Sweet Pea was
suddenly Snow Pea.
Trinidad, meanwhile, hadn't fought in 10 months, a layoff due
partly to litigation: Last summer he filed suit against King for
fraud and breach of contract. After a judge ruled against
Trinidad in November, he was compelled to re-sign with King.
This year Trinidad's biggest battle has been with the bulge. In
early February he was reportedly 10 pounds over the 147-pound
welterweight limit. Last Friday, a half hour before the 4 p.m.
weigh-in, he was reportedly three pounds over. With two hours to
make weight or forfeit his title, a sweat suit-swaddled Trinidad
ran the streets of Hell's Kitchen. When the fighter returned at
4:22, King exclaimed, "The moment of truth is at hand!" Trinidad
stripped to his Skivvies and ascended the scale. His weight was
announced as 147. "He came out looking like a champion
welterweight," proclaimed a relieved King.
Which is pretty much how Whitaker looked at the opening bell. A
9-to-2 underdog, he took the fight to Trinidad early, spattering
him with jabs and slapping him with combinations. But Trinidad
was too big, too strong and too young. He dropped Whitaker with
a quick right hand in the second round, shook him badly in the
sixth and the eighth, and stalked him from the middle rounds on.
Too artful to get KO'd, Whitaker hung in on craft and faith in
himself. He left the Garden with a 41-3-1 record and a fractured
Though the decision was lopsided (two judges had it 118-109, the
other 117-110), Trinidad's failure to stop Whitaker may
undermine King's odd coupling with De La Hoya's promoter, Bob
Arum. Felix wants to move up to 154 pounds; Oscar wants to stay
at 147. Felix wants pay parity; Oscar thinks he deserves the
lion's share. On top of all that, King has contractual
obligations to Showtime, Arum to HBO and its pay-per-view arm,
TVKO. "Oscar will never fight Felix while King's around,"
predicts Duva. "King will demand 14 options, which would tie up
Oscar until the millennium after the next millennium."
He's Into Heavy Training
One of the most dominant figures in the heavyweight division
these days is a 60-year-old former middleweight. Don Turner,
Evander Holyfield's trainer, is preparing his man for a March 13
showdown with Lennox Lewis, a megabout that could be Holyfield's
swan song. At the same time Turner has taken over in the corner
of undefeated Michael Grant, 26, the heir apparent to the
Turner's path to this pinnacle has been long and circuitous. He
was born in the projects of Cincinnati's West End, where, he
says, he had three meals a day: "Missed meal, no meal and
oatmeal." He learned to box in the nearby gym of heavyweight
champ Ezzard Charles, where he watched Charles's trainer, Jimmy
Brown, as closely as he watched Charles. "I'm proud to admit I
stole whatever I could," says Turner.
With a jarring jab and $861 in his wallet, Turner left
Cincinnati for Harlem in 1959. For 11 years he drove a cab, ran
illegal card games and fought preliminaries, never making more
than $750 a bout. One night he pocketed $200 for a fight in
Atlantic City where, he says, "the promoter was so cheap, he
wouldn't even give me a hotel room." Turner prepped for the
fight in a movie theater across from the arena. "Viva Las Vegas
was playing," he says. "I watched it four times, got up and won
a six-round decision."
It was Turner's service to another old king that endeared him to
Holyfield. Turner had trained 42-year-old Larry Holmes for his
1992 bout with Holyfield. Though Holmes lost, he stayed strong
for the full 12 rounds. That impressed Holyfield, and two years
later when he was casting about for help, he turned to Turner.
The Lewis fight will be Turner's ninth in Holyfield's corner.
The first--in which Holyfield lost his title to Michael Moorer
in 1994--was nearly his last. "If Evander loses, I always take
the heat," he says. "But it doesn't matter. I've got alligator
As a concession to age, Turner has the 36-year-old Holyfield
spar only every other day. "Boxers don't get hurt in the ring,"
he explains. "They get hurt in the gym." Turner, who expects
Holyfield to force Lewis to mix it up inside, views the gym work
as mostly repetition. "My job is to remind Evander what he does
best," Turner says. "With older boxers, you hone skills, you
can't create new ones. You can't make a trotter out of a
Super welterweight David Reid, the only U.S. boxer to win a gold
medal in the 1996 Olympics, is 11-0 as a pro and will go for his
first world title in Atlantic City on March 6 against WBA champ
Laurent Boudouani of France....
Two of Reid's Atlanta teammates have already beaten him to the
punch. Junior middleweight Fernando Vargas, who upset Yori Boy
Campos for the IBF crown on Dec. 12, fights on the
Holyfield-Lewis undercard on March 13, while WBC super
featherweight champ Floyd Mayweather Jr., who last week ran his
pro record to 20-0 with a win over Carlos Rios, is rapidly
emerging as one of boxing's brightest young stars....
While Mike Tyson was earning himself a stretch in an isolation
cell in the Montgomery County (Md.) Detention Center for tossing
a television set last Saturday, a couple of his old foes were
tossing punches. James (Buster) Douglas, who in 1990 upset Tyson
with an 10th-round KO, continued his comeback by stopping Andre
Crowder last Friday in Burlington, Iowa. On the same night, in
Verona, N.Y., Donovan (Razor) Ruddock, who lost to Tyson twice
in '91, knocked out Anthony (Big Hand) Willis in the sixth.
"I've been away for a couple of years," said Ruddock, 34. "What
I want to do is be very, very ready before I start taking on any
top 10 contenders." Maybe he can wait for Tyson to get out....
Speaking of getting out: Look for light heavyweight prospect
David Telesco to hit the road. Telesco (21-2), who outpointed
William James last Friday in the boxing mecca of Port Chester,
N.Y., is on probation after spending three years in prison on a
drug charge. His probation, and with it a restriction against
leaving New York State, ends on Feb. 28.