F�lix Trinidad began his 160-pound campaign with a brutal TKO of William Joppy
The Puerto Rican posse encircling the Madison Square Garden ring last Saturday night was chanting "Tito! Tito! Tito!" while inside the ropes countryman F�lix (Tito) Trinidad was proving that he's the middleweight Mambo King. Peppering William Joppy with punches the way that other famous Tito—Puente—once thumped on the timbales, Trinidad dethroned the two-time WBA champion with a brutal fifth-round TKO.
Since abdicating his 147-pound crown two years ago, Trinidad has stopped previously unbeaten 154-pounders David Reid and Fernando Vargas. He kept right on drumming against Joppy in his first fight at 160.
The prize of this prizefight was the chance to face Bernard (the Executioner) Hopkins at the Garden on Sept. 15 for the undisputed title. "Tito definitely outclassed Joppy," said Hopkins, the WBC and IBF champ, who watched from ringside. "Next he'll have to prove he's the best in the class."
Five days before the fight, Hopkins had predicted, ' Trinidad will walk right through Joppy." The sweeping dismissal seemed to offend Joppy. " Trinidad is overrated," he snarled. "When he beat Vargas and Reid, he was fighting kids whose bones hadn't fully developed. I'm a true middleweight."
Agile and slippery, the 30-year-old Joppy had campaigned at 160 or 168 pounds for his entire 34-bout career. His lone loss, to Julio C�sar Green in 1997, had come on a questionable decision. Since then Joppy had won eight in a row, but all against opponents far below the level of Vargas and Reid. The only name was Roberto Duran, who, at 47, had legs, as well as hands, of stone.
Though Joppy was older and supposedly more seasoned, the taller, far more powerful Trinidad, 28, entered the ring a 3-to-1 favorite. His 39-0 record had been built on heavy-fisted combinations, tight defense and relentless pressure. Elusive opponents like Joppy have sometimes given Trinidad trouble—but only for so long. Oscar De La Hoya opened a sizable lead over Trinidad early in their 1999 welterweight bout only to give it back by running away in the final four rounds. Reid knocked Trinidad down and was ahead until wilting in Round 7 of last year's super welterweight match and losing on a unanimous 12-round decision.
Figuring he would have to take Trinidad out early, Joppy was anything but elusive, carrying the fight to Trinidad and swinging from his heels from the opening bell. He landed a chopping right 16 seconds into the first round that seemed to startle Trinidad and battled briskly until 50 seconds remained. Then, after missing a sweeping right, Joppy left himself open. To the delight of the 18,235 partisans on hand in the Garden, Joppy was floored by a left, a straight right, another left and another right. He rose unsteadily at the count of five, and for the rest of the night his face was a study in puzzlement.
In Round 4 a three-punch salvo sent Joppy tumbling backward. Again he righted himself just in time and, clinching repeatedly, lasted to the bell.
In the fifth Joppy was flattened for good. Spun around by a pair of lefts, he walked into a pair of rights and went down. He struggled to get up and, still struggling, fell again. When he staggered headfirst into a ring post, referee Arthur Mercante Jr. waved the bout to a halt. "My left was for the cemetery," Trinidad said. "My right was for the hospital."