Fairest of them all?; Boxing: IBF champion Felix Trinidad is out to drop WBC champ Oscar De La Hoya and pick up the title of world's best welterweight fighter.


LAS VEGAS -- Standing inches away from his opponent during a photo opportunity after Wednesday's news conference at the Paris Hotel here, Felix Trinidad aimed an intense stare at Oscar De La Hoya.

Trinidad had heard it all from De La Hoya, who had taken shots at the Puerto Rican fighter's boxing skills leading up to their welterweight title unification bout at the Mandalay Bay Hotel's event center tomorrow night.

De La Hoya did not stare back.

"All this talking that De La Hoya has been doing, it is only to try to give himself confidence," Trinidad said. "I am a complete boxer. I am the best. And he knows it. And on Sept. 18, he will be no different from any of my other opponents. I will knock him out."

Trinidad puts his International Boxing Federation title on the line against De La Hoya, the World Boxing Council champion, at a sold- out 12,000-seat venue in what is expected to be the largest-grossing non-heavyweight title fight in history.

Trinidad, 26, is 35-0 with 30 knockouts -- his 86 percent knockout ratio ranks among the highest in the sport's history. A devastating puncher with either hand, Trinidad has defended his IBF crown 14 times -- one of the longest current streaks in boxing.

Trinidad's last defense, in May, was a four-round pounding of previously unbeaten Hugo Pineda (37-1) in Puerto Rico.

Still, in a conference call last week, De La Hoya, 26, labeled Trinidad "a weak fighter, not a solid physical structure," and one with a susceptible chin.

"Felix Trinidad," De La Hoya said, "wobbles when he's hit."

Trinidad has been knocked down six times -- four times in the second round. But a knockdown only seems to bring out his best. Yory Boy Campus was unbeaten in more than 50 fights before Trinidad got off the canvas and battered him senseless in four rounds.

Promoter Don King called his fighter "a treasure many of you don't know about."

Trinidad began boxing at 12, winning five amateur titles before launching his professional career in 1990 -- two years before De La Hoya became the only U.S. Olympic boxer to win a gold medal in Barcelona.

When De La Hoya's pro career was just taking off in 1993, Trinidad knocked out Maurice Blocker of Germantown, Md., in two rounds for his first title.

Trinidad shares three common opponents with De La Hoya -- Oba Carr, Hector Camacho and Pernell Whitaker. His ninth-round knockout of Carr was at least as convincing as De La Hoya's. And there are many who feel that Trinidad's decisions over Camacho and Whitaker were even more convincing than De La Hoya's.

Camacho and Carr have gone on record picking De La Hoya (31-0, 26 knockouts). But after losing a nationally televised, 12-round decision to Trinidad in February -- during which Trinidad twice knocked him down -- Whitaker called Trinidad "a much better fighter" than De La Hoya.

Whitaker lost a disputed 12-rounder to De La Hoya in 1997.

Trinidad has said he has trouble staying at the 147-pound welterweight limit. He plans to move up to 154 pounds (junior middleweight) after the fight.

Back in June, Trinidad's workouts in his native Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico, included running three to five miles daily and also interval sprinting.

He accused De La Hoya of living "la vida loca" -- "going out partying" on a nine-city press tour in June, "staying out until 5 a.m."

Since that promotion ended, however, Trinidad's manager and father, Felix Sr., has limited his son's contact with the U.S. press.

Until Wednesday's news conference, Trinidad had not spoken publicly since addressing his countrymen in Cupey Alto 12 days ago, guaranteeing a victory over De La Hoya inside six rounds.

Trinidad said he expects to win and be greeted by some 100,000 fans when he returns home.

"It will be a great, great fight," Trinidad said. "This victory is going back to Puerto Rico, and we're going to celebrate like never before."

Fight facts

Who: WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya (31-0, 26 knockouts) vs. IBF champion Felix Trinidad (35-0, 30 knockouts)

What: Title unification bout, 12 rounds

Where: Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas

When: Tomorrow night TV: TVKO (pay-per-view), 9 p.m.; main event to start about 10: 45 p.m.


Other bouts on the Oscar De La Hoya-Felix Trinidad card tomorrow night:

Vassiliy Jirov, Phoenix, vs. Dale Brown, Canada, 12 rounds, for Jirov's IBF cruiserweight title

Eric Morel, Madison, Wis., vs. Miguel Angel Granados, Mexico, 10, super flyweights

Johnny Nelson, Britain, vs. Sione Vaati Asipeli, Tonga, 12, for Nelson's WBO cruiserweight title

Tony Marshall, Albany, N.Y., vs. Ray Domenge, Omaha, Neb., 10, super welterweights

Pub Date: 9/17/99

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