Search

King of Pop

May 23, 2005
May 23, 2005

Table of Contents
May 23, 2005

Sports Illustrated Bonus Section: Golf Plus
SI Players
NBA Playoffs
Baseball
Tennis
Marlon Shirley
Inside
Inside Hockey
Inside Boxing
Inside Baseball
Departments

King of Pop

Having annihilated Felix Trinidad with a razor-sharp jab, Winky Wright is suddenly the hottest thing in boxing

It was immediately apparent, the way Winky Wright kept sending shock waves of sweat off Tito Trinidad's head, that he had completely solved the legend. One jab after another was reducing the great knockout artist to a kind of bobblehead doll, his noggin bouncing back and forth as if on a spring. Trinidad barely had the chance to plant his feet, much less uncoil his feared hook, before he'd take another on the nose. The spray of perspiration, lit up by the ring lights, became a watery corona of defeat, even in that first round at the MGM Grand arena in Las Vegas last Saturday.

This is an article from the May 23, 2005 issue Original Layout

Still, it was rather amazing to see this go on for 12 rounds, in what may have been the most lopsided fight ever conducted at an elite level. It never stopped, it seldom varied. Pop. Pop. Pop. One jab after another, Wright reducing Trinidad to a desperate and helpless opponent, forced into inevitable ignominy. The big puncher couldn't even enjoy the mercy of a knockout; instead he had to absorb the stinging accretion of humiliation, one jab after another, round after round.

Trinidad's abilities can hardly be questioned, even if he failed to demonstrate a single one of them against Wright. His career, from the time he won the welterweight title at age 20 until he lost a middleweight title fight to Bernard Hopkins eight years later, has been bona fide. He's always been a danger machine, with the ability to deliver a knockout at any time. Even though Hopkins retired him in 2001, and even though he stayed home in Puerto Rico for two years until Don King dangled the big bucks in front of him, Trinidad always retained that power.

So it's not fair to apply any revisionist history to him. Rather, it's Wright who must be reconsidered. His two wins over Shane Mosley at junior middleweight may have declared his wanderings over--an unappetizing southpaw, he had made most of his fights overseas before the first Mosley bout in 2004--but his mastery of Trinidad announces Wright's new home at the top of boxing. It's not just that he beat Trinidad; on one judge's scorecard he won every round. (Trinidad got only one round on each of the other two cards.) The domination was simply stunning, unprecedented actually.

It was also sufficient to negate any need for a rematch, although Trinidad's promoter promised one was definitely in the works. "Encore!" cried King afterward. But that was a voice, however loud, lost in the wilderness. The possibility of another similar clinic would advance the cause of boxing reform more than Senator John McCain could ever hope to. It's best for all to move on.

For Wright, who is getting his taste of attention and money (he got $4 million) only at the relatively late age of 33, the victory was especially sweet. He'd been a marginal player in marginal places for so long that he barely knows what to hope for any longer. He said a rematch would be fine by him--"He'll fight better next time," Wright declared--not guessing that his victory entitles him to so much more. In the little time left in his career, he deserves bigger and better fights, starting with the winner of the Hopkins--Jermain Taylor bout on July 16.

Should Hopkins win as expected, he might not enjoy the prospect of such a match. At 40, he was looking to repeat his knockout of Trinidad for righteous money. Instead Hopkins would find a southpaw whose mitts and elbows construct an impenetrable defense and whose jab would render him doubly helpless. It's discouraging, really. It's hard to imagine, having seen this performance, that anybody will do any better against Winky. ■

Short Jabs

Zab Judah didn't have the luxury of a quality opponent last Saturday, but he continued to rehab his career with a third-round TKO over Cosme Rivera. The undisputed welterweight king now calls out Oscar De La Hoya.... Promoter Bob Arum, who had once decried the use of women on boxing undercards, has put together Million Dollar Lady, a July 30 pay-per-view card pitting Lucia Rijker and Christy Martin in the main event.

COLOR PHOTOROBERT BECK (WRIGHT)FACE IT Long an obscure southpaw, Wright is finally becoming a household name.COLOR PHOTOJOE CAVARETTA/AP (JUDAH)