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When Is the Timing Right?

(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)
(Photo © Tom Casino / SHOWTIME)

By Robbi Paterson


Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez meet tonight at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, in a fight billed as “The One.”
 
Rewind to a clash billed as “Forces of Destruction.”
 

December 2, 2000, at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino, Las Vegas, Felix Trinidad and Fernando Vargas squared off in one of the most highly anticipated junior middleweight contests in the history of the division. It was a genuine 50/50 affair. Many knowledgeable observers leaned toward the explosive power and relentlessness of Trinidad with others opting for the tactical boxing skills of Vargas, albeit if he could fight in a disciplined and controlled manner.


A year earlier at welterweight, Oscar De la Hoya showed that swift movement, combined with a ramrod “Viagra”-aided jab, could offset and nullify Trinidad - almost to the point of no return.
 
Trinidad’s effectiveness: pinpoint accuracy, crunching power (from either hand) and the type of effortless momentum thrust toward the opposition would be the equivalent of a plough truck going through the roads of a town after a hefty couple of feet of snowfall. 
 
De la Hoya was never in the same place for too long. He threw jabs, triggered off combinations, then smartly departed the scene of his rapid fire assaults with his hair still in the same place as it was during the introductions. The “Golden Boy” was nowhere to be seen. He was wise and experienced enough to know Trinidad needed to set himself - standing flatfooted - before launching his assortment of hurtful weapons.
 
During the late rounds of the fight - 10 through to the 12th - De la Hoya’s fuel tank was draining and he trusted his own judgment that enough points were banked into his account by the ringside judges to see him through for a victory.
 
As soon as Trinidad shifted to high gear, De la Hoya’s legs went into overdrive with his fists poking out ineffectively as he was being chased down. He had a decision to make. If his decision was based on playing the card game, Pontoon, he definitely decided to stick. If he went the polar opposite by twisting, we’d have seen a trade-off that might well have been finalised by either combatant being knocked out.
 
Trinidad won the closing rounds, more on work rate rather than clean and effective punching. While De la Hoya never looked in danger of suffering a knockout, he fizzled out over the last three rounds like a professional runner instead of a prizefighter.
 
At one point, De la Hoya was endorsed by Colgate toothpaste; it was a sure thing he’d be leaving the ring with his teeth intact.
 
Trinidad won a highly disputed majority decision by scores of 114-114, 115-113 and 115-114.
 
The blueprint on negating Trinidad had been painted onto the canvas.
 
Could Vargas go one better than De la Hoya by either nailing Trinidad to the canvas or outboxing him thoroughly enough to convince the judges?
 
Ding! Ding! Ding!
 
Vargas comes out and meets Trinidad in the centre of the ring. He advances, lands a jab, misses with a massive left uppercut, then lands another jab. He’s right there in front of Trinidad’s power, his lateral movement being minimal to say the least.
 
With only 20 seconds gone, the man from Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, swivels his hips, dips to his left, then delivers a crunching left hook on Vargas’ jaw. Trinidad closed into his prey with both hands, missing every follow up punch of his bombardment - give or take a couple of partially landed punches - but those misses didn’t matter as his initial punch had a delayed effect on Vargas.
 
Vargas’ ass eventually hitting the canvas for the first time in his career was a combination of his faculties being scrambled by the missile he absorbed and the successful attempts at avoiding every other one coming his way.
 
From the moment Trinidad’s left hook landed perfectly on his chin, up until he hit the canvas, Vargas was swaying around within the ring trying to stay on his feet as if the gambling capital of the world was promptly hit with the devastating force of a hurricane. 
 
Hurricanes are usually given names: Sandy, Katrina, etc. Well, “Hurricane Felix” arrived from the south and had swept itself into Vegas like a juggernaut with stellar consequences.
 
Vargas rose to his feet far too soon. Getting up just before the count of 10 would have given him the precious time he needed to gather his senses but he got up quickly, went back to war, then was floored heavily again by another - long range - left hook.
 
Vargas catapulted his own force of nature into the contest when Trinidad was given some of his own treatment as he himself was dropped - onto his black satin trunks - by a left hook during round four. Trinidad was winding up his own left hook but the same punch from Vargas found its destination first.
 
Trinidad rose.
 
As Vargas looked to end proceedings, Trinidad delivered an intentional low blow, giving him time to recover and gain a break in the action to disrupt Vargas’ onslaught while referee Jay Nady deducted a point.
 
When it came to experience during this war - no contest. Trinidad was in front by the length of the Vegas strip.
 
Through the middle rounds, Vargas moved and boxed beautifully. He implemented the usage of brains over brawn unlike the opening stages when he decided to wear his heart on his sleeve, complementing his nickname, “The Aztec Warrior.”
 
Yes. Vargas did have his period of dominance but Trinidad wouldn’t be denied.
 
During the last three rounds, Trinidad got a second wind and came on strong. His right hands began to find their mark with alarming frequency. His left hook was also gaining rhythm and precision. Vargas was dropped three times during the fateful last round. Two of them came by the way of left hooks with the decisive blow that halted the contest being a right hand at one minute, 33 seconds of round 12.
 
Vargas went on to have a mediocre career. He suffered defeats to Oscar De la Hoya, Shane Mosley (twice) and Ricardo Mayorga in Vargas’ final fight back in 2007.
 
Vargas’ problem? Probably too much machismo. His temperament and discipline were never his best attributes. He distastefully spat on his opponent, Ross Thompson, after knocking him down during their fight in August, 2000.
 
Floyd Mayweather and Saul Alvarez will also do battle in a super-fight in the junior middleweight division, although it’s stipulated under the condition of a catchweight at 152 pounds.
 
The dollar signs are obviously significantly higher than they were 13 years ago for Trinidad versus Vargas.
 
While the styles of the fighters and both match-ups on paper aren’t exactly mirror images of each other, many parallels can be drawn - especially between Vargas and Alvarez.
 
Vargas always entered the ring with the Mexican flag. He was born in Oxnard, California with Mexican descent in his family. One the other hand, Alvarez has 100% Mexican blood running through his veins.
 
Trinidad and Vargas battled for WBA and IBF belts; Mayweather and Alvarez, the WBA and WBC.
 
Alvarez is around the same age as Vargas was when he fought Trinidad. 23. He’s also the inexperienced fighter going up against the seasoned campaigner at the very top of the pound-for-pound lists. Mayweather is considered the best on the planet right now just as Trinidad was or thereabouts in 2000.
 
Alvarez has vastly the higher number in fights at 42-0, whereas Vargas was only 20-0 before he faced Trinidad. But their number of title defenses are strikingly close, six defenses for Alvarez, five for Vargas.
 
The most distinctive comparison between Alvarez and Vargas is they are the youngest junior middleweight champions in the history of the division. Vargas was the youngest until Alvarez won the vacant WBC title in 2011 at the tender age of 20.
 
The first round and subsequent developments thrown in with the end result on September 14 will surely resemble nothing like what happened back on December 2, 2000. Why? Neither Mayweather nor Alvarez brings the same power to the table as Trinidad or Vargas for their fight to materialise in a similar manner. Therefore, don’t count on witnessing six knockdowns. Expect a significant fraction of the fight to be “cat-and-mouse” with Alvarez adeptly looking to create confined spaces.
 
With the benefit of hindsight, Vargas wasn’t quite ready for Trinidad’s hammering blows - or his experience for that matter.
 
Veteran trainer, Nacho Beristain, said about Mayweather, “You think you can beat him but when you’re face to face with him in the ring, it’s like the puzzle is written in Chinese.”
 
 

Is the timing right for Alvarez in solving such a puzzle?



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