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Oscar vs. Felix
Richard Hoffer
September 20, 1999
De La Hoya and Trinidad make an oddly perfect match
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September 20, 1999

Oscar Vs. Felix

De La Hoya and Trinidad make an oddly perfect match

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Greed and Ego have an upside. Without those twin pestilences we would never have this: two unbeaten champions meeting in their prime. What else explains De La Hoya-Trinidad, an event so popular, so obvious, that boxing in all its perversity would normally not allow it? Money and attention—and two fighters who can't get enough of either—finally overrode cynical matchmaking to produce a game-saving bout.

For WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, the respect he could earn by destroying IBF welterweight champ Felix Trinidad this Saturday in Las Vegas might be worth more than his $15 million guarantee. Even as he has won five titles in four weight classes De La Hoya (31-0 with 25 KOs) has been beset by doubts—his own and others'. Is he a tough guy or just a complicated marketing tool, making the occasional ring appearance to leverage his endorsement deals?

For Trinidad (35-0 with 30 KOs), $8.5 million is the payday of a lifetime. He has been plenty concussive, but his fame hasn't traveled far beyond his native Puerto Rico. Until he was matched with De La Hoya, who has been a moneymaking brand since winning Olympic gold as a lightweight in 1992, Trinidad was a poorly paid secret. Will he be outclassed on Saturday night?

This fight is compelling for reasons beyond seeing two practiced 26-year-olds make boxing history. De La Hoya once clung to a defensive style that had even his fans booing, but now he backs up his superior technique with crowd-pleasing brawling. As he has stepped up in competition, he has increasingly found himself in desperate situations and each time has responded eagerly with ferocious mayhem. His WBC title fight with Ike Quartey in February didn't showcase his boxing as much as his heart—a minute of full-on trading in the final round proved that this crossover star is driven to win.

Trinidad is desperate in a different way. Unlike his opponent, he hasn't earned almost $100 million in the ring. Could Trinidad, hungrier and with a bigger punch, upend the weekend welterweight? This is as close to a pick-'em as we'll see for a while, but De La Hoya somehow makes magic out of his toughest fights, dredging up a scary desire when he needs it most. De La Hoya by decision.