This will be the start of a series of articles looking at how we got to the Cotto – Canelo match up on November 21st of this year. I will explore past match ups within the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico rivalry and other match ups in both Cotto and Canelo’s career that led to this bout. In this first installment we will look back at the match up that this fight will be most compared to; Oscar De La Hoya versus Felix Trinidad which took place in September 1999.
Looking back at the match up that took place on May 2nd, its hard to imagine that there were any greater let-downs in boxing history. The fans were shut out from the fight, up-charged $100 for a Pay-Per-View with virtually no under-card of any worth and treated to a match up of two fighters who proved one thing…that they were both past their prime. Hindsight being 20-20 we know that Floyd Mayweather rarely engages in any match ups that are exciting and takes the sweet science down to a mathematical scheme of 5% Hit and 95% not be hit. While Manny Pacquiao was content to go through the motions and take selfies during his ring entrance, both men are on the other side of 35 and satisfied to win their matches by doing the minimum that is needed.
May 2nd will forever have left a bad taste in every fan’s mouth however the night of September 18, 1999 can be argued to be something much worse. The match up took place at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas just as Cotto – Canelo will and with history repeating itself, fans were not able to purchase tickets to De La Hoya – Trinidad either. What makes this match up a bigger disaster than May 2nd is that simple fact that this fight had all of the ingredients to be a great fight. And by everything I do mean absolutely everything.
This match up had the rivalry of Mexico vs. Puerto Rico. It had two fighters who were in their prime both at 26 years of age. De La Hoya’s record going into the match was 31-0 with 26 knockouts going along with being a champion in 4 weight classes. Felix Trinidad’s record going into the match up was an impressive 35-0 with 30 knockouts as well as holding the record for longest reigning welterweight champion in the sports history with an added touch of having 14 title defenses, second only to all time great Henry Armstrong. This match up even had common opponents with Pernel Whitaker, Oba Carr, and Hector Camacho. There was even a promotional rivalry involved with Bob Arum and Don King. Lastly, the two guys didn’t seem to like each other as De La Hoya made remarks that Trinidad wasn’t worth or deserving of the payday while Trinidad brought out a chicken and thus started the nickname Chicken De La Hoya that Floyd Mayweather copied at his press conferences for his match up with De La Hoya in 2007.
The fight itself…well there’s not much to say; there were many close rounds that most scored for De La Hoya in the first-third of the fight. The middle rounds in my opinion definitely belonged to De La Hoya while the last 4 rounds 9 through 12 were famously taken by Trinidad by seemingly De La Hoya’s own admission, arrogance and ignorance that he had won all of the first 8 rounds. This fight brought out the worst outcome anyone could have hoped for as it was clearly divisive. Robbery has been a word thrown out describing this match up and while I strongly disagree with this notion, most fans feel that De La Hoya won at least 7 rounds so I will not start a debate about the scoring of the match up as this isn’t the point of this article. In the biggest match up of his career De La Hoya decided that doing the minimum was good enough while Trinidad just plain under-performed and possibly could have exhausted him self at 147. Both men grew past this match up and had great fights afterwards that took the sting off of this bout. The fight itself set a record for Pay-Per-View sales for a non-heavyweight match up. It was also a reminder that sometimes boxing’s ability to be unpredictable can be a gift and a curse. Larry Merchant described this match up perfectly in saying that “De La Hoya was looking for an excuse to lose and Trinidad couldn’t give him one”.
This match up is the most disappointing within the annals of the Mexico vs. Puerto Rico Rivalry. May 2nd was a disappointing affair but it was also a matter of fans not reading the fine print. Mayweather doesn’t care to be exciting and Pacquiao has other things to do such as hold political office in the Philippines. Looking at the track records of both Cotto and Canelo and having the ability to look back at the De La Hoya – Trinidad disaster it seems that they have the advantage of giving the fans a great fight on November 21st. Here’s to the boxing gods giving us a great night of boxing on November 21st. With a prayer and a wish that we don’t get another May 2nd, but especially another September 18th, 1999.