LAS VEGAS -- Felix Trinidad called Oscar De La Hoya a "chicken" before their fight last night, and for at least three of the last four rounds, De La Hoya ran like one.
Trinidad added De La Hoya's World Boxing Council welterweight title to his International Boxing Federation belt with a majority decision in their unification bout before a sellout crowd of 12,000 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center
Judge Glen Hamada scored the fight, 114-114. Ben Logist scored it, 115-114, and Jerry Roth, 115-113, for Trinidad.
The victory was Trinidad's 16th in a row in title bouts, improving his record to 36-0 with 30 knockouts, and dropping De La Hoya to 31-1, 25 knockouts in a fight billed "The Fight of the Millennium."
Trinidad, who entered the bout weighing 156 pounds, seemed to possess more power than De La Hoya (152) and had the energy to pour it on down the stretch.
Down by two points on two cards, and by one point on another after eight rounds, Trinidad won all four rounds on Roth's card, and three of the final four on the other two cards.
Trinidad began to bang more to De La Hoya's head in the 10th, his best round, and also to the body in the 11th. De La Hoya, getting hit often, began to hold midway through the 11th and Trinidad pushed for the knockout.
Twice, Trinidad turned the head of De La Hoya, who backpedaled but could not escape the pressure as it became apparent Trinidad was the more powerful puncher.
"I always thought from the very beginning I was the No. 1 welterweight, and I was going to prove it. And I did that tonight," said Trinidad, who earned $8.5 million for the fight. "Once I figured him out, in the last four rounds, all he did was run."
Worth $90 million before the fight, De La Hoya was guaranteed $21 million for his performance, which could rise to $25 million depending on pay-per-view sales. He reportedly is expected to earn $8 million to $10 million in endorsements this year alone.
Trinidad had heard it all from De La Hoya, who criticized Trinidad's marketability and boxing skills before the bout.
Trinidad channeled all that frustration into 219 rounds of sparring for the fight.
De La Hoya had been giving mixed messages about his strategy heading into the fight.
Would he box or slug? By late in the fight, he simply seemed confused.
"I hurt inside emotionally. I know the fans didn't appreciate my boxing show," De La Hoya said. "I thought I won, easily. Next time, I'll be a brawler."
Early on, De La Hoya appeared to be in control. Yet, despite Trinidad's low punch output -- he landed only five punches in the second round -- all three judges awarded him the second round.
Trinidad, his white trunks becoming red from his blood, landed two hard rights and a hook midway through the fourth. He closed with a solid right-left combination and appeared to be closing the distance between himself and the "Golden Boy."
Trinidad opened the fifth round with a wide hook to De La Hoya's jaw. The boxers traded right-hand shots before Trinidad landed another uncontested right hand. Trinidad was beginning to settle into a rhythm when De La Hoya stopped him with a left-right. Trinidad landed two more right hands before De La Hoya closed with a left-right combination that popped back Trinidad's head right before the bell.
De La Hoya landed a similar combination early in the sixth and danced away. Trinidad's left eye was puffy underneath. De La Hoya landed a left, then a right to the eye. The crowd began to boo the fighter's tactical approach. In response, De La Hoya landed two three-punch combinations.
Trinidad landed hooks to De La Hoya's body, then later, to his head early in the seventh round. In between, however, De La Hoya jabbed him twice. Trinidad missedwith a left uppercut and landed a right hand.
A left-right combination brought a roar from the crowd, but Trinidad stunned De La Hoya with a straight right near the end of the round, and, after the bell, hit him again. De La Hoya glared at him and muttered something.
A left hook caught Trinidad coming in early in the eighth round, and a right to the jaw landed as well. De La Hoya was beating Trinidad to the punch, and landed a left off his forehead.
A wide left hand caught De La Hoya circling into it, but De La Hoya kept Trinidad off with a double-left jab. Trinidad landed a right at the bell that, yet again, irked De La Hoya.
Trinidad dug to the body to start the ninth. De La Hoya landed four times to the body before a left to the head. De La Hoya's jab was working even though Trinidad was getting closer. Trinidad turned De La Hoya's head with a left. He caught De La Hoya with a short left inside. De La Hoya then landed a right to the broad side of Trinidad's jaw, and finished the round with a nice combination.
On the undercard, Eric Morel, nicknamed "The Little Hands of Steel," defended his International Boxing Association continental Super Flyweight title by unanimous decision over Miguel Angel Granados (19-9-1) of Mexico before a growing crowd in the 12,000 capacity arena.
The 115-pound Morel (23-0), who grew up in San Juan and now lives in Madision, Wis., got the Puerto Rican contingent going in the first round when it appeared he would score his 17th knockout.
In that round, Morel fired four straight jabs before dropping Granados to his back with a straight right hand to the jaw. Morel also wobbled Granados in the 11th round, chased him to the ropes where he landed three more blows, but could not take him out.
Morel won by 118-108 on two cards, and 117-109, on the third, but it turned out the hands of steel were a little softer than usual: Morel said he injured the second knuckle on his right hand in the second round, and sprained his left hand in the fourth.
Heavyweight Eric "Butterbean" Esch (46-1-2, 35 knockouts), who is called "The King of the Four Rounders," also was featured.
Esch (47-1-2) got his 36th knockout when he cornered Ken Craven in the second round and rained repeated blows off of his head, forcing the referee to end it at 1: 55 of the round.
"I'm just throwing punches until that coward [Mike Tyson] fights me," Esch said after the bout.