Looking Back – 18th September 1999: Oscar De La Hoya vs Felix Trinidad
By Peter Wells (twitter- @boxingpeter): With the upcoming latest installment of the Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalry coming up on June 15th when Mikey Garcia of Mexico takes on Juan Manuel Lopez of Puerto Rico, I felt it fitting to look back at a much talked about Mexico-Puerto Rico match-up which I had yet to witness until today.
That match-up was between two of their respective nations greatest treasures as National icons, Oscar De La Hoya and Felix ‘Tito’ Trinidad faced off in Las Vegas. A fight still talked about to this very day, not entirely for the drama in the ring but the controversial scoring that gave Felix Trinidad a majority decision win. The general consensus was that the fight was either a draw or a close victory for De La Hoya. But while one judged scored it dead even at 114-114, the other two at ringside favoured with Trinidad with scores of 115-114 & 115-113 respectively. To go as far as suggesting a robbery, might be a slight overreaction – there were several close rounds, where one had to choose between fast clean counter shots of Oscar or the aggression of Trinidad. Also the final three rounds, De La Hoya took his foot off the gas and neglected the work rate that had helped him into an early lead, which is coupled with Trinidad going for broke.
De La Hoya entered the contest as the WBC Welterweight champion, which he had acquired two years earlier when defeating defensive wizard, Pernell Whittaker(W UD). An amazing 7 defences later and he was taking on the IBF Welterweight king, Felix Trinidad. After destroying Maurice Blocker in 2 rounds back in 1993, ‘Tito’ had successfully defended his IBF crown 14 times. His challengers included, Hector Camacho(W UD), the 56-0 Luis Ramon Campos(W TKO 4), Pernell Whittaker(W UD) and many more. In his early reign, Felix suffered 3 knockdowns in his first 5 defences but always fought back to dominate.
During the opening few rounds, Oscar boxed well off the back foot, as Trinidad failed to get his punches off as De La Hoya moved around the ring, before firing quick combinations. De La Hoya had moments of flair where he forced Trinidad to back up momentarily, but most of his good work came when Felix was on the attack. Although I awarded Oscar the first 3 rounds, their was little in them, especially the opening 2 rounds, which could have gone either way. The 4th was Trinidad’s best round as he managed to land left hooks, and right hands, but it was false hope for Trinidad’s fans.
Oscar got back on his bike and dominated the next 4 rounds – although round 6 was a 50-50 round. In the 9th De La Hoya lessened his work rate, as Trinidad was allowed back into the fight. It was a round that drew a lot of different conclusions on who won the round, I scored it 10-10. But the final 3 rounds, Felix dominated as De La Hoya neglected the right hand which he had rarely missed with all fight. As Trinidad neglected his defence it was a perfect chance for Oscar to close out the fight by stinging the Puerto Rican with the right, but he refused to take it, instead opting to survive the championship rounds, believing he was far enough ahead on the cards. I believed that Oscar had just done enough to win, 116-113, but the opinions that counted did not.
So now it is up to JuanMa Lopez and Mikey Garcia to etch their names in the book of great Mexico-Puerto Rico rivalries.