In the Shadow of 9/11: When Boxing is More Than a Sport

by Paul Magno

9/11/01

I had just moved to Mexico weeks earlier and was still unpacking my things from cardboard boxes when September 11th came along.

My satellite dish was still new and I had yet to master the channel guide when I turned on the TV to take a break from the work of moving things into my bedroom. I was flipping through the channels when I saw the first tower come down. I sat in shock the rest of the day as the horror and insanity passed before my eyes.

There’s really not much to be said about those tragic events that hasn’t already been said and, quite frankly, a Boxing blog is not the right place to say those things anyway.

However, I will say that I don’t see the tragic events of September 11th in a socio-poltical light. Forget all the craziness that followed that day, 9/11 makes me think about the people who were caught up in something that never should’ve happened.

Every time I step onto a plane, I think about the poor people on those four doomed flights. I think about the people in the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, just going to work and finding themselves under attack. I even think about the terrorists themselves who were so deceived and manipulated that they found themselves capable of such heinous acts.

September 11th, 2001 was a day that made me doubt everything I thought I knew about the world.

9/29/01

With chaos still in the air and the tears still wet in many eyes, Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad prepared themselves for battle in the most important fight of their careers.

The Hopkins/Trinidad Title Unification, billed as “And Then There Was One,” was originally scheduled for the 15th, but the events of 9/11 pushed back the date to September 29th. It was the final bout of Don King’s Middleweight tournament which saw Hopkins, Trinidad, William Joppy and Keith Holmes go at it to determine the top dog at 160 lbs.

Trinidad came into the fight as the 2 to 1 betting favorite after crushing William Joppy. Hopkins, the underdog, had defended his IBF title 13 times already and made his way to the finals by roughing up slick stylist and WBC champ Keith Holmes.

The fight itself was a classic example of Hopkins at his best. He started the fight on the outside and then slowly moved the fight closer to the game Trinidad, constantly alternating between slick boxing and sharp countering. Tito tried to make it a fight, but B-Hop had the Puerto Rican WBA Champ off-balance and guessing for most every second of every round.

Towards the middle of the fight Hopkins began to lean into his punches, seriously buzzing Trinidad a number of times. He put on the pressure at closer range and essentially re-published the textbook on how to handle a younger, more aggressive power puncher.

The end came at 1:18 of the 12th round when Trinidad’s corner threw in the towel following a big right hand from “The Executioner” that sent Tito to the canvas hard. It was the perfect end to a masterful exhibition of the art of Boxing.

Hopkins immediately crumpled to the canvas in joy, staring straight up at the huge American flag that was hanging over the ring as a tribute to the victims of 9/11 and their families. I don’t remember ever being as overjoyed at the end of a fight as I was on that day.

In the grand scheme of things, this was “only” a Middleweight Title Unification bout. Although it was an important moment in the sport and, surely, essential to both fighters, everything seemed to pale in comparison to what had happened in New York, Washington and in rural Pennsylvania just under three weeks earlier- But for some reason I was ecstatic at that moment, almost to the point of tears.

This was a moment when Boxing took on a new importance and became more than merely a sport. It was important to see Hopkins win…It was important for me.

Maybe its silly or just plain absurd, but on September 29th, 2001 it was somehow comforting to see the American flag waved in victory.

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2 responses to “In the Shadow of 9/11: When Boxing is More Than a Sport

  1. 160 pound top dog my friend. Not 150.

  2. Sorry, that was a typo-

    Long story, short, but I am having computer problems and forced to use a very uncomfortable keyboard.

    I’m nearly president of the Hopkins Fan Club, so believe me when I tell you that I know B-Hop was a 160 pounder…Thanks for pointing that out, though.

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