January 26, 2021
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Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas: The Tito and El Feroz war twenty years later

Felix Trinidad-Fernando Vargas: The Tito and El Feroz struggle twenty years later

photo through Al Bello/Allsport
by means of Tom gray

The fight turned into precisely 20 seconds historical and the capability crowd at the Mandalay Bay events middle in Las Vegas exploded into a deafening frenzy.

Fernando Vargas had stepped ahead with a left jab and when the punch reached full extension, for a break up second, he’d dropped his appropriate hand. The opponent, fellow unbeaten junior middleweight titleholder Felix Trinidad, had slipped the shot and put full leverage on a left hook counter that landed flush on the jaw. It was a direct hit like nothing Vargas had skilled in his three-and-a-half 12 months skilled profession. It became additionally a moment that set the stage for arguably the surest 154-pound championship fight of all time.

Vargas, 22, changed into a adorned newbie celebrity who had received a hoard of countrywide titles and represented the U.S. on the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. His style, youngsters, seemed proper to the seasoned online game, and so it proved when he gained his first 17 fights by way of knockout, halting such bold foes as Raul Marquez and Yori Boy Campas, whom he displaced as the IBF 154-pound titleholder.

At 21 years and five days, Vargas become the youngest fighter in history to win a championship within the junior middleweight division, and the top notch news for battle fans turned into that he’d tackle any one, anywhere, every time. Following stoppage victories over the hopelessly outclassed Brit Howard Clarke and Marquez, the precocious young Vargas focused larger video game – he insisted upon it. an in depth – and for some, controversial – determination win over the remarkable Winky Wright become followed by way of a convincing points conquer former welterweight titleholder Ike Quartey. With a fourth-circular mauling of obligatory challenger Ross Thompson at the back of him, Vargas called for a unification combat with one of the crucial optimal pound-for-pound fighters on the planet. “El Feroz” feared nothing.

Trinidad, 27, was 38-0 (31 KOs) and a two-weight world champion. Thanks generally to a controversial 12-circular majority decision win over Oscar De La Hoya in a welterweight unification bout, the legendary boxer-puncher from Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, turned into now one of the vital greatest superstars within the game. The De La Hoya triumph, in September 1999, marked his fifteenth a hit defense of the IBF title, which he’d held for over six years.

sometimes dabbling at 154 kilos all the way through his title reign, Trinidad made an earnest and permanent debut at the weight in March 2000. He bought off the floor at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas to systematically wreck 1996 Olympic gold medalist and Vargas teammate David Reid, then the WBA 154-pound titleholder, losing the American four times in a bloodbath. Trinidad inflicted such savage punishment over the route of a 12-circular unanimous determination win that Reid changed into by no means the same fighter once again. Following a 3-round battering of Mamadou Thiam in Miami, Trinidad become most effective too satisfied to accommodate Vargas.

Trinidad, promoter Don King and Vargas at the pre-battle press convention. image from The Ring archive

The bout took location on December 2, 2000 and changed into dubbed “Forces of Destruction.” It became the main experience on an HBO TVKO pay-per-view telecast assembled by means of lead promoter Don King, representing Trinidad, and main routine, who had been with Vargas from the beginning of his expert journey. In a yr that saw the curtain rise on the Marco Antonio Barrera-Erik Morales and Oscar De La Hoya-Sugar Shane Mosley rivalries, Trinidad-Vargas become the perfect encore for battle enthusiasts.

however with the bout now not even 30 seconds old, Vargas changed into in severe hazard of a humiliating defeat. Trinidad bought off a couple of greater huge shots that toppled the younger fighter and raced to a neutral corner satisfied that he’d be sipping champagne right away and leaving the arena with out the need for a post-battle shower. No sooner become Vargas up than he changed into down once more, courtesy of an additional left hook to the aspect of the chin. His trigger now regarded hopeless, but he survived the nightmare birth – barely.

Belying his years, Vargas remained calm following the worst three minutes of his expert life. He boxed neatly within the 2nd, stored his distance and compelled Trinidad to reset his offense by using staying on the movement. by evading the concussive bombs that rocked his world in the first round, he competed on exceptionally even terms along with his vastly more experienced opponent. within the third, Vargas, the larger man, sought to make a physical influence. After troubling Trinidad with a shot to the attention, he focused the damaged enviornment on the inner with his left hand, scoring multiple times. In a well timed stream, Trinidad responded with a left hook directly under the belt and drew a stern warning from referee Jay Nady. however the pain from that infringement to at least one side, Fernando Vargas changed into on a high.

And issues have been about to get even better.

Early within the fourth, Vargas completely grew to become the tables when he scored with a compact left hook to the jaw that dropped Trinidad on the seat of his trunks. The Puerto Rican famous person rose gamely, but again he went low in what appeared to be a deliberate try to buy time. Nady deducted a point, which supposed that Vargas had evened up the 10-7 round that went towards him in round 1. precipitated via his group, he well took a big component of the five minutes that he turned into given to improve.

maintaining the momentum, Vargas outboxed Tito during the fifth and most of the sixth. however like so many first rate champions have executed in the past, Trinidad adjusted close the conclusion of that session and began slamming home the vigor photographs. some extent deduction for a different low blow appeared harsh as an remoted incident, but there had been a big change. The brilliant Trinidad become now in desirable gear. whereas Vargas loved success in rounds seven through eleven, he changed into on the inaccurate conclusion of some spectacular exchanges. The Californian became shaken up by using a magnificent mixture in the ninth, and a low-blow factor deduction within the tenth turned into a penalty Vargas might sick-come up with the money for on the cards.

coming into circular 12, Vargas mandatory a knockout however ended up on the receiving conclusion of 1. The signature left hook of Trinidad hadn’t landed with maximum affect considering the chaotic opening minute. That evil weapon had lain dormant however the bell for the closing round had awoken it. With a minute gone, a short right landed flush on Vargas’ chin and, in defiance, the younger man gave his opponent a derisive sneer. Trinidad closed in with a appropriate and the comply with-up left hook swiveled Vargas’ head and dumped him on the canvas. Fatigued and worn down by way of his own effort and over half-hour of punishment, Vargas, this time, could not improve. When he rose unsteadily, Trinidad approached together with his right hand cocked. He only touched the bothered fighter’s shield, which disguised a different brief left to the chin for a fourth knockdown. The warrior inside Vargas pulled him upright once more. If he couldn’t win, Vargas was pushing for the heroic ending that he could live with in defeat. Trinidad closed with a powerful appropriate on an open goal. The legitimate time turned into 1:33.

An explosive beginning, remarkable ebb and movement and an unforgettable ending – this turned into boxing at its premier.

Tom grey is affiliate Editor for Ring magazine. observe him on Twitter: @Tom_Gray_Boxing

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