That little tournament that was supposed to lead Felix Trinidad and Oscar De La Hoya to a blockbuster rematch has, rather predictably, unraveled just short of the final. About all you can wonder is, How did it even get that far?
As it stands, both De La Hoya and Trinidad, having swept rather easily through their "semifinal" bouts, are discussing alternate opponents. De La Hoya, who outgunned Derrell Coley two weeks ago, has just announced that he will fight former IBF lightweight champion Shane Mosley in June. Trinidad, who flew in from Puerto Rico to collapse the hopes of David Reid last Friday night in Las Vegas, immediately began speculating on what it might be like to move up a couple of classes to engage undisputed light heavyweight champ Roy Jones Jr. In any event, they seem equally determined to avoid a resolution of last year's business, a rather disappointing fight in which Trinidad won an unconvincing decision from an overly cautious De La Hoya.
To try to put this in a normal perspective (a phrase that might be an oxymoron in reference to boxing), imagine that the St. Louis Rams and the Tennessee Titans had won conference championships and then, come Super Bowl week, announced that they were going their separate ways. The Rams would play the college all-stars, and the Titans would give one of those Arena teams a go. They might get together at a later date, more convenient to their own schedules, or they might not. We'd have to wait and see.
Simply because De La Hoya-Trinidad is the only bout that would make sense—and big money (the fighters would each earn $20 million)—does not mean it will ever occur. As soon as the undefeated Trinidad had disposed of an outclassed Reid, adding the WBA super welterweight championship to his IBF and WBC welterweight crowns, Trinidad's father-manager was insulting De La Hoya, calling him a gallina (as in Kentucky Fried Gallina) and offering virtually impossible rematch conditions.
"We have 15 days to talk about giving up the WBC [welterweight] crown," said Felix Sr., referring to the WBC's demand that Felix declare by March 18 whether or not he will defend the title, "so we are going to give Oscar De La Hoya 12 days to decide if he will fight Tito. It's an ultimatum. If he doesn't decide, we'll leave him behind."
To hear the two camps talk, the only impediment to the rematch is an agreement upon weight. Larger obstacles, such as money and promotional rights, have already been cleared. De La Hoya, who still fights at 147 pounds (and who would inherit Trinidad's WBC crown if his nemesis moved up a class), was willing to go up to 151. But then Felix Sr. said he would not permit his son, who struggles to make that weight, to fight lighter than 152. So De La Hoya. wary of a beefed-up Trinidad (even by 16 ounces?), told promoter Bob Arum to go ahead and sign him up with Mosley.
Now you know what boxers go for per pound: roughly $40 million.
As you can see, it's hard to tell who's gallina and who's not. But, for the moment, both seem silly, at the least, taking short money for far less dramatic fights and avoiding the one bout that everybody wants.
There was brief hope that Friday's fight, held in an outdoor stadium behind Caesars Palace, might be more dramatic, not less. It wasn't the bout everyone wanted, but it was an improbably brave match all the same (all the more improbable in that Arum, still pushing for De La Hoya-Trinidad II, bad-mouthed it from the get-go). Trinidad, for a payday of only $4 million, was gambling his eventual De La Hoya cut against a young, charismatic and undefeated Olympic champion. Reid, the 156-pound gold medalist in 1996, was taking a huge step up in class in only his 15th fight but was considered a dangerous opponent in the 154-pound division he ruled. Indeed, in a poll conducted by Reid's promoter, 26 of 51 boxing writers favored Reid.
Likely the writers were taken as much by Reid's story as by his actual prospects. A former crack dealer, rehabilitated by trainer Al Mitchell, Reid developed into the only gold medal winner the U.S. had in Atlanta, championed as a steadfastly serious and blazingly quick...golden boy. There is no way to say it but that Reid was enjoying a lot of press as a kind of De La Hoya alternative, a bolder version, a fighter who would never resort to the kind of disastrous and gallina-like retreat that De La Hoya performed in the late rounds of his Trinidad fight.