De La Hoya-Trinidad 1 hot ticket; Frenzy over bout drawing comparisons to Leonard-Hearns

THE BALTIMORE SUN

LAS VEGAS -- A man in a business suit walked up to a group standing outside the Mandalay Bay Hotel, holding what appeared to be a stack of business cards.

Upon closer inspection, each one read: "De La Hoya vs. Trinidad Tickets Wanted. Cash Paid/Strictly Confidential. Call 24 Hours A Day."

"Hey, man, you got to help me out," he said, slipping a card to a man in the group. "I need tickets."

Welcome to the club, pal.

Tickets to tonight's welterweight title fight between World Boxing Council champ Oscar De La Hoya and International Boxing Federation king Felix Trinidad at the Mandalay Bay Hotel's 11,800-seat event center sold out nine days ago. So did the Mandalay Bay's 2,400-seat closed-circuit venue. As of Thursday, 10 of Las Vegas' 30 closed-circuit venues had been sold out, too, leading officials to consider adding sites that would bring capacity from 25,000 to 40,000.

"There wasn't even a chance for on-site tickets to be made available to the public because promoters, hotels and casinos bought them up so quickly," said Lee Samuels, an official with Top Rank, promoter of the fight.

"This is healthy for boxing: two 26-year-olds, unbeaten and in their prime. We've never sold out a venue nine days early without even one ticket going to a member of the public," said Nevada State Athletic Commission executive director Marc Ratner. "The last fight to come close was Evander Holyfield-Mike Tyson II. That sold out at the MGM in 1997, when public ticket sales took about an hour."

Ratner expects the fight to gross $13.5 million, which would make it the highest grossing non-heavyweight title fight in history.

Some liken tonight's main event between De La Hoya and Trinidad to the first Las Vegas meeting between welterweights Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns 18 years ago nearly to the day.

"Leonard-Hearns came at a time when the heavyweight division was struggling, and it put the welterweights on center stage," said Bob Arum, De La Hoya's promoter, who also was the promoter of Leonard-Hearns.

Neither of tonight's fighters figures to remain a welterweight much longer. Trinidad, who expects to make a personal-best $8.5 million off the fight, has reportedly had trouble staying down at the 147-pound limit.

De La Hoya has set a goal to win seven titles in as many different classes before retiring: He already has five in four different classes. Already worth $90 million, according to Arum, De La Hoya is guaranteed $15 million but could earn up to $21 million if Top Rank's pay-per-view projections prove true.

Even more lucrative bouts loom for the winner, including those with 154-pound champs Fernando Vargas (IBF) or David Reid (World Boxing Association). IBF middleweight Bernard Hopkins of Philadelphia has hinted at moving down as well.

De La Hoya said he is willing to consider a rematch with previously unbeaten Ike Quartey (34-1), whom he defeated by split decision in February. There also is unbeaten welterweight Vernon Forest.

"It's a matter of their promoters promoting their fighters right," De La Hoya said. "I'm looking at maybe fighting once or twice a year after this in major fights, so it has to be a big event for myself."

Oddsmakers have called De La Hoya-Trinidad an even fight.

Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee picks Trinidad by knockout.

"Leonard turned into a banger against Hearns, but I think this time the banger's going to be Trinidad," said Dundee, 78, Muhammad Ali's former trainer, who also worked Leonard's corner against Hearns and over much of Leonard's career.

"De La Hoya doesn't have the foot speed people think. When his feet separate, he often plants that right foot, and that's when he's there to be hit," Dundee said. "And I don't see the jab some people say he's got. I see it more as a countering left. Oscar was a tremendous lightweight fighter, where he could punch down on guys. He won't be as effective punching up at the taller guy. Style-wise, I pick Trinidad to stop him in six."

Trinidad predicted as much two weeks ago before leaving his native Cupey Alto, Puerto Rico. "I guarantee a victory," he told his fans before boarding an airplane.

Until Wednesday's news conference at the Paris Las Vegas hotel, however, Trinidad had been tight-lipped about his strategy. He was unavailable to the media. His workouts had been closed.

Two of the fighters' three common opponents, Hector "Macho" Camacho and Oba Carr, give the nod to De La Hoya for his boxing ability and a powerful left hand. "You just don't see it coming," said Carr.

Having studied several videotapes of his opponent, De La Hoya said Trinidad "can't box, is not a boxer and can't move on his toes.

"He's a heavy hitter with either hand, but he doesn't have many choices: It's either him coming forward and putting on a lot of pressure, or he stays back and waits for me to fake and counter," De La Hoya said.

"But he's been down like six times -- four times in the second round. So when he gets hit, he wobbles," De La Hoya said. "I'm prepared to go the full 12 rounds, but I'd be more satisfied with a knockout. I think, landing the right punch, he'll stay down, whether it's the first or last round."

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: Tonight

TV: TVKO (pay-per-view), 9 p.m.; main event to start about 10: 45 p.m. and 11:45 p.m.

Undercard

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

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

TALE OF THE TAPE

How WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya and IBF champion Felix Trinidad measure up for tonight's 12-round title unification bout in Las Vegas.

De La Hoya Trinidad

Age: 26 26

Weight: 147 147

Height: 5-11 5-11

Reach: 72" 73 1/2"

Chest: 39" 40"

Biceps: 13 3/4" 13 1/4"

F orearm: 12" 11"

Waist: 31 3/4" 29 1/4"

Thigh: 21" 21 1/2"

Calf: 13 1/2" 14"

Neck: 15 1/2" 15 1/2"

Wrist: 7" 6 1/4"

Fist: 9" 11"

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