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Rumors of Return Don't Weigh on Him

June 21, 2003|Paul Gutierrez | Times Staff Writer

Felix "Tito" Trinidad was in a playful mood as he bounced around a dressing room at the Grand Olympic Auditorium on Thursday night, doling out hugs and greetings with equal aplomb before jumping on a scale fully clothed. His decidedly fuller face breaking into a wide grin, he seemed to take a perverse pride when the needle finally stopped at 193 pounds.

Retirement, it seems, has been good to Puerto Rico's favorite son. A five-time world champion at 147, 154 and 160 pounds who had won 41 of his 42 fights and knocked out 34 of his opponents, Trinidad shocked his island home and the boxing world last July when he abruptly announced that he was quitting at 29. This was only two fights after his first loss, a brutal 12th-round knockout by Bernard Hopkins.

Trinidad had flown nine hours to be in Los Angeles to support his cousin, lightweight prospect Juan Gomez Trinidad, and to sit in his corner for his HBO Latino fight later that night. His mere presence, though, fueled speculation that he was about to reenter the fray.

The Times caught up with Trinidad before his cousin's fight -- 10 years to the day after he won his first world title -- and he proved to be just as elusive with a reporter in the dressing room as he was in the ring with opponents:

Question: Your retirement and the circumstances surrounding it have been described as one of the great mysteries of boxing. What do you think when people assume you'll return?

Answer: To tell you the truth, it shouldn't be any great mystery because in reality, I made it very clear that I was retiring. And I'm going to keep my word. I can't control what people say.

Q: Once and for all, set the record straight: Why did you retire?

A: I retired because, to those that don't know, we wanted to fight against Hopkins and Hopkins didn't want to do a rematch. We looked for other fights, but that's the fight I wanted and we couldn't come to an agreement. And since the fight I wanted was with Hopkins and we couldn't get it, I retired.

Q: There are three scenarios, three stories that attempt to explain why you retired -- that you have an eye injury, that your mother was fearful for you and did not want you to fight any longer, and that you have a bad contract with Don King. Which is the correct story?

A: The contract is always there, always being discussed by people. I feel very happy with everything I did with Don King. And my mom, yes, my mom did feel very bad when I went to fight and that's something that weighed a lot on me. My eye, nothing.

Q: You know that stories will begin again that you are coming out of retirement, especially with your being here with Oscar De La Hoya. Does that have any effect on you?

A: Yes, now they're going to start talking that I'm here, that I'm looking for Oscar, looking for a rematch. ... I think he's a good guy and I consider him to be a good person and I'll continue to be a gentleman to him.

Q: What do you think when De La Hoya says that he won the fight, not you?

A: I think that that's a boxer being a boxer. He may have thought that night that he won. I thought that I won. But the decision lies with the judges. As a boxer, I know that it was a hard fight, a tight fight, but we didn't know who was going to win. And after the fight I was saying, 'I won! I won!' And after he was saying, 'I won! I won!' But after the fight, the decision went my way.

Q: So then who needs the rematch more, you or Oscar?

A: Oscar needs the rematch. I won the fight.

Q: How would you describe retirement?

A: In reality, it's going well for me. People are always telling me, 'Tito, we need you. Tito, return. Tito, come back.' But it's very tranquil for me now, especially after having so many hard moments in my career. And to tell you the truth, I don't want to go through that again. But people are always telling me, 'We need someone else to do it the way you did it. We need another [hero].' But I'm very happy where I am right now.

Q: Last year, you talked about going to college to study to be a teacher or an accountant. Did you take classes?

A: No. A couple of years ago I was studying accounting. But if I went back to school, I want to study to become a physical education teacher. I can do more with my prestige in physical education with my background. I have the experience in that field to help more people and be more successful.

Q: What do you think of Don King?

A: With all respect to the other promoters, he's the biggest. In business and negotiations, he's very strong. But as a person, well, he's also a good person.

Q: When does your contract with Don King end?

A: I'm not too sure. I don't know, 2004, 2005? With the years I had in boxing, it should be up soon. That's not [a question] for me. The contract has nothing to do with me staying retired from boxing. I feel very proud that I've been a champion and I've done my whole career with passion.

Q: What is in your immediate future?

A: I think that I see myself one day as a boxing promoter, a manager. Boxing is what I've done for many years and that's what I'm going to do. That's why I'm here, supporting my cousin.

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