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Fight a thing of beauty

NEW YORK -- ­Felix "Tito" Trinidad's return to boxing Saturday against Ricardo Mayorga at Madison Square Garden was fierce and it was violent, make no mistake about that.

It was also beautiful.

In eight rounds that were as hotly contested as the three-round war between
Marvin Hagler and Thomas Hearns, Trinidad stopped a courageous Mayorga after "El Matador" finally succumbed to the Puerto Rican assassin's steady attack of power and accuracy.

The Garden was subdued for much of the evening, but once Trinidad entered
the ring to the strains of "Mi Bandera," the crowd erupted in raucous chants
of "Tito, Tito." The drama continued as security guards blocked the
combatants from each other, a la Lewis-Tyson.

Not surprisingly, once the bell rang Mayorga was the aggressor, winging bombs, most of which missed. Those that did land seemed to get the rusty Trinidad's attention. Trinidad, back after a two-year layoff, got into the action late in the first with his patented left hooks, and true to his word, Mayorga gave up his chin for the Puerto Rican superstar.

Even though Trinidad's flush hooks didn't faze Mayorga, his right hand
rockets to the chin did, and by the end of an amazing first round, Trinidad
had "El Matador" on rubbery legs.

Both traded slamming hooks to the jaw in the second round with little
effect, but again, Trinidad's underrated right hand was jarring Mayorga with
regularity, even though both men were swinging for the fences with each
punch, delighting the crowd with their show of power, chin and machismo.

Using a tight boxing style to open the third, Trinidad jabbed effectively
while Mayorga's fight plan of kill or be killed didn't waver, even after he caught a swift combination flush on the face midway through the stanza. With under a minute left, a wild right by Mayorga forced Trinidad to touch his glove to the canvas for an unpopular knockdown call, but the Puerto
Rican's head was clear by the end of the round, even though Mayorga still
landed effectively with both hands.

Mayorga tried the right again in the fourth, but this time Trinidad made him
pay with whipping shots to the face which sent sweat spraying into the
crowd. The Nicaraguan answered with his own particular brand of
return fire. At the midway point of the round Trinidad landed a stiff
uppercut, and Mayorga responded in kind with hooks to the head. But as
Trinidad pressed the action, he got wild in his zest to finish his foe, and
Mayorga was able to counter with power shots.

Trinidad walked to Mayorga's corner to kick off the fifth round, and while
the crowd noise dipped as the arena took a collective break, the fighters
kept up their frantic pace, truly fighting like two guys who didn't like
each other. In the final minute, Trinidad used his reach advantage to lance
Mayorga from long range, and then moved in assassin-like to severely punish
Mayorga with shots that have felled lesser men and left the courageous
Nicaraguan with a nasty gash under his left eye and not nearly enough time
to rest.

Before the sixth round, Trinidad raised his hand to the crowd, smiled, and
pounded his chest, but Mayorga still rose to meet him in the middle of the
ring, even though his bombs were coming less frequently, and Trinidad's were
rarely missing as he sent Mayorga's head ricocheting from side to side in
vicious fashion. As the round drew to a close, Trinidad started attacking
the body, but one stray shot below the belt earned Mayorga a brief reprieve
from the onslaught that enabled him to roar back into the fray in the final
seconds of the round, and as Steve Smoger broke the fighters at the bell,
they both defiantly stared and shouted at each other, ready for another go
at it.

That go came a minute later in round seven, and with stamina rarely seen at
any level of the game, both fighters started and fought each round as if it
were the first. Mayorga complained of a low blow again late in the seventh. Smoger told them to continue fighting, and "Tito" pounced with the heavy
artillery, only to see Mayorga pull one out of the fire again with his
trademark haymakers.

Mayorga opened the eighth strongly, driving Trinidad to the ropes with a
barrage of hooks. He followed up with some effective work in the middle of
the ring. Trinidad coolly stood in the pocket and picked at Trinidad
with heavy shots to the head. At the midway mark of the round,
Mayorga finally fell, ironically from a body shot. He gamely rose before
ten, but was sent to the canvas by Trinidad again seconds later by a hook to
the jaw. Hurt, but unable to quit, Mayorga stood in the line of fire once
more, and after a third knockdown put him on his knee, Smoger had seen
enough and halted the bout at the 2:39 mark.

Someone asked me midway through the fight who I had winning the fight. I
looked around and simply said, "We are."

At the time of the stoppage, Trinidad led on all scorecards, 68-64 twice,
and 67-64.

With the victory, Trinidad improves to 42-1 with 34 KOs. Mayorga falls to
26-5-1 with 22 KOs.

In a welterweight undercard bout, Zab Judah sent overmatched Wayne Martell
to the canvas five times en route to an unsurprising first-round stoppage.

"I felt great fighting in my hometown and I did spectacular," said
Brooklyn's Judah. "I am very powerful at 147, and my next opponent must be
Cory Spinks. That's it."

The end came at the 2:08 mark as Benji Esteves finally rescued North
Dakota's Martell (24-3, 15 KOs) from further punishment.

With the victory, Judah, who improves to 32-2 with 23 KOs, earns the fringe
WBO intercontinental welterweight title.

"There's nothing to be proud of. I did not do what I was supposed to," said
Martell.

In the HBOPPV opener, "Tremendous" Travis Simms retained his WBA super
welterweight title for the first time with a solid but unspectacular 12-round unanimous decision over veteran Bronco McKart.

Scores were 116-112, 118-110, and 117-111 for the unbeaten Norwalk, Conn.,
native, who improves to 24-0 with 18 KOs. McKart falls to 47-6 with 31 KOs.

"I knew he was a tough guy, that's why we took the fight," said Simms. "He
never hurt me, but I did get a little sloppy at times."

The first two rounds were cautious, with Simms displaying his superior hand
speed in spurts as McKart coolly got his bearings in the relatively small
ring.

Simms finally got close in the third, landing a stiff left that briefly
jarred McKart, but the Michigan native paid Simms back seconds later with a
hard right, followed by a strong left and some showboating at the bell.

Having tasted each other's leather in the third, McKart and Simms picked up
their work rates in the fourth and fifth, with Simms' speed earning him the
best of the exchanges, even though both were now sporting bruises under
their eyes.

The pace slowed in the middle rounds, though there was some fairly good
infighting taking place between the lulls in the action.

Simms took a pot shot at McKart's body in the tenth, taking advantage of the
veteran's high defense, but McKart wasn't offering enough offense in
response to win rounds.

Perhaps sensing the fight slipping away, McKart pushed the action in the
11th and 12th, but Simms' pinpoint counters continued to reshape the
challenger's swollen face as the final seconds ticked away.

"Simms deserved the win and now I go back to the drawing board," said a
gracious McKart.

Rosendo Alvarez pounded out a 12-round split decision over Beibis Mendoza in
a bout originally scheduled to be for Alvarez's WBA light flyweight title,
but which turned into a non-title contest when Alvarez came in three and a
half pounds overweight.

"Nothing affected me more in this fight than my opponent," said Alvarez.
"My weight was not an issue. My delay in the trip for my visa was not an
issue either, because these would just be excuses."

Scores were 115-113, 116-112, and 113-115 for Alvarez, who improves to
33-2-2 (21 KOs). Mendoza drops to 30-3 (2 KOs). There were no knockdowns.

"This will be the last time I fight in the 108-pound division," said Alvarez,
the longtime king at junior flyweight.

Featherweight Elio Rojas (5-0, 4 KOs) made short work of Corey Goodwin (3-1,
1 KO), stopping him at 1:05 of the opening frame.

In a welterweight barnburner, Brooklyn's Louis Collazo won a lopsided
unanimous decision over Puerto Rico's Felix Flores in a bout that was
anything but one-sided.

Scores were 100-89, 97-92, and 97-90 for Collazo (22-1, 9 KOs), who scored
the bout's only knockdown in round two.

"I think the judges never saw me throw a punch, like I had my hands behind
my back," said a disappointed Flores (19-4, 15 KOs), who was the aggressor
the entire night, but who ate more than his share of combinations from
Collazo. "I guess you have to live here [in New York] to win. I think I won
the fight."

Miami light heavyweight Danny Santiago sent once-promising Elvir Muriqi to
defeat in the fourth round of a scheduled ten, dropping "The Kosovo Kid"
twice before referee Dan Schiavone halted the contest at the 2:12 mark.
Santiago, who was trailing on all three scorecards, lifts his record to 24-2
(16 KOs). Muriqi falls to 30-2 (18 KOs).

Promising cruiserweight prospect Steve Cunningham scored four knockdowns of
Ann Arbor, Michigan's Forrest Neal (16-5, 12 KOs) en route to a fourth-round
stoppage. The Philadelphian improves to 16-0 (9 KOs) with the victory.

In the opener, Croatian heavyweight Mario Preskar (5-0-1, 3 KOs) remained
unbeaten with a 37 second KO of Fort Smith, Arkansas' Danny Weiland (1-1, 1
KO).