20 years later: Felix Trinidad vs. Oscar De La Hoya

Boxing

It was the year of the Millennium (sort of), the year of Y2K, and the year of the welterweight. In 1999, the welterweight division was on top of the boxing world, boasting three of the top five fighters in Ring Magazine’s pound-for-pound list.

On September 18, 1999, two unbeaten champions faced off in the most hyped welterweight match since Sugar Ray Leonard vs. Thomas Hearns. The comparison was easy. Oscar De la Hoya — the boxer — (Leonard) vs. Felix “Tito” Trinidad — the destroyer — (Hearns). Although the action didn’t live up to the Fight of the Millennium hype, the result, and the legacies of both fighters continue to be talked about.

About De La Hoya

De La Hoya was the WBC welterweight champion. He was 31-0 with victories over boxing legends like Julio César Chávez, Héctor Camacho and Pernell Whitaker. In April 1999, Ring Magazine named De La Hoya the best pound for pound boxer, above Roy Jones Jr, Evander Holyfield and Trinidad himself, whom he would face in the “The Fight of the Millennium.”

His career in boxing had begun 10 years before, when he was crowned Golden Gloves champion as a featherweight. After winning the gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games , De La Hoya became the “Golden Boy”, the nickname he will carry for his entire boxing career.


About Trinidad

Trinidad arrived at the Fight of the Millennium as the IBF welterweight champion. Undefeated after 35 bouts and with 30 knockouts, Trinidad had defended his crown 14 times, the second longest streak in the history of the division behind Henry Armstrong’s 19 defenses.

Trinidad also had an outstanding amateur career, although he was not internationally recognized as De la Hoya, as he didn’t compete in the 1992 Olympic Games. He won youth titles at 75, 80, 85 and 100 pounds, and then at 119, 126 and 132. Trinidad turned professional at the age of 17 in 1990.


The fight

De La Hoya seemed to be in control of the fight early with his movement and counter punching with his left hand, neutralizing Trinidad’s power. After nine rounds, De La Hoya was ahead in two of the three scorecards, but the margin according to the judges was not as wide as he thought (87-84, 86-85, 86-86).

From the tenth round on, only one judge gave him a round. De La Hoya, despite having connected more power shots than Trinidad in seven of the first nine rounds, was outpunched 64-33 in the last three, and lost a majority decision (114-114, 115-113, 115- 114).

Despite what was said about the fight, that De la Hoya “ran” in the last 3 rounds, he threw more punches per round than Trinidad after the ninth round, although Trinidad was clearly more aggressive and effective.


The legacy

After 15 title defenses, Trinidad went up to 154 pounds and then to 160, conquering titles in both divisions and becoming the fifth Puerto Rican fighter to win titles in three different divisions (Miguel Cotto would join the list years later and became the first fighter from the Island to win titles in four weight classes years later).

With the victory, Trinidad would become the first unified champion of Puerto Rico in more than 30 years. A year later, Trinidad would unify the WBA/IBF junior middleweight world titles. Since then, Puerto Rico has not had a unified champion.

De La Hoya would also move up in weight, adding the WBA/WBC junior middleweight belts and then the WBO middleweight title, thus becoming the first boxer in history to conquer titles in six different divisions (Pacquio would end up matching and then winning titles in eight weight classes).

If we exclude heavyweight fights, the match broke the PPV sales record by generating 1.4 million ($ 70M) and revenue from box office sales ($12.9M). These records were later broken by De La Hoya himself eight years later when he faced Floyd Mayweather.

In 2014, 15 years after the fight, both were exalted to the International Boxing Hall of Fame.

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