On September 29, Bernard Hopkins beat the crap out of Felix “Tito” Trinidad, knocking him down and out with a right hand at 1:18 of the 12th round and proving that you can never underestimate the hunger of a fighter who’s been starved for money and fame for most of his career.
Basically, Trinidad ran into someone who badly wanted what he had. Hopkins wanted Trinidad’s wealth. He wanted his popularity. He wanted, most of all, the recognition of being regarded as, pound for pound, the best fighter in the world. When the terrorists struck, everyone, including Trinidad, took time out of their lives to mourn the thousands lost. Hopkins, for his part, disappeared immediately back to Philadelphia, where he resumed training without interruption. He reappeared again at the pre-fight press conference, three days before the match, wearing a skullcap with the word WAR written on the front—in reference to his upcoming fight, not the World Trade Center catastrophe.
Hopkins had started his verbal pounding of Trinidad months ago, showing contempt not only for Tito but also for Tito’s beloved Puerto Rico. And Hopkins kept up the abuse at the press conference, even going so far as to serve Trinidad a “last supper” of rice and beans. The 36-year-old Hopkins’s focus on the fight was eerie, especially compared with other sports figures’ behavior in the aftermath of the WTC attack. He never publicly visited any firehouses, as Trinidad had done, and he never talked about the events of September 11 unless prodded. September 29 was the only date in Hopkins’s head.
When the fighters entered the ring, Trinidad was wearing a police officer’s cap. Hopkins wore a red leather executioner’s mask. An ad for a casino was inscribed in black letters on the skin of his back. He was booed unmercifully.
Over the next 12 rounds, Hopkins put on a boxing display nobody could have imagined. Trinidad, who had never been able to size up Hopkins before the fight the way he had previous opponents, similarly was unable to figure him out in the ring. Hopkins fought like a man possessed, counter-punching effectively and smothering Tito’s power shots. His concentration and intensity were unwavering, and he battered Trinidad into the later rounds before Tito’s father stopped it after a knockdown in the 12th.
At the postfight press conference, Hopkins pledged to stay in the city for an extra three days to visit firehouses and pay his respects. His fight was over. He understood that another one was just beginning.