- The Washington Times - Monday, May 14, 2001

NEW YORK. And then there were none.

Not long ago, there were four count 'em, four boxing world champions from the Washington area: Mark Johnson, Keith Holmes, Sharmba Mitchell and William Joppy.

Remember the good old days, just two years ago, when they were holding championship fights at MCI Center featuring all of Washington's world champions on Showtime? Remember Return of the Kings, when Mitchell, Holmes and Joppy were all defending their titles on Don King Day in Washington?

Well, as everyone in boxing knows, Don King giveth and Don King taketh away.

Johnson was different from the rest. He didn't lose his International Boxing Federation title in the ring, having it stripped from him after he went to jail. The other three, all promoted by King, lost their titles in the last three months to King fighters Mitchell losing his World Boxing Association junior welterweight title to Kosta Tzysu in February, Holmes losing his World Boxing Council middleweight crown to Bernard Hopkins in April and now Joppy losing his WBA title Saturday night to Felix Trinidad, who will face Hopkins on Sept. 15 at Madison Square Garden in a middleweight title unification match, in a performance that surely puts Trinidad at the top of the boxing world.

Joppy's loss was the most surprising, particularly in the devastating manner in which it was delivered. The Seabrook middleweight was highly regarded by many going into Saturday night's fight at the Garden, including one of the judges for the Trinidad-Joppy fight, Stanley Christodoulou of South Africa, who said yesterday morning he expected a much more difficult fight for Trinidad, given what he had seen of Joppy in previous fights. "I thought it would be a much tougher fight," he said.

It wasn't. It was a walk through Joppy Park for Trinidad, who used power in both his left and right hands to put Joppy down three times in the fight in the first, fourth and the fifth round before referee Arthur Mercante Jr. stopped the fight at 2:25 of the fifth. And, by all right, Joppy shouldn't have gotten up from the first two knockdowns, but, to his credit, he didn't quit. He went out like a champion, albeit one with Jell-O for legs.

Those who picked Joppy to win including myself figured Trinidad and everyone else were underestimating Joppy, a two-time WBA champion who successfully defended his title seven times. It turns out we and particularly Joppy were underestimating how great a fighter Trinidad is.

After the fight, Joppy said he was surprised at how powerful Trinidad was, after moving up in the past two years from 147 pounds, where he was the International Boxing Federation and World Boxing Council welterweight champion, to 154 pounds, where he defeated David Reid and Fernando Vargas to win the WBA and IBF junior middleweight titles, to his first fight at 160 pounds Saturday night. "I didn't think he would have that much power coming up from 154 pounds to 160," Joppy said. "I have never been hit like that."

To say he was underestimating Trinidad's power would be an understatement. Foolishly, Joppy had such little regard for it that he told those close to him before the fight that he wanted to let Trinidad hit him, to show that he could take the Puerto Rican champion's best shot, to intimidate him.

Great idea.

Joppy earned a little more than $1 million for taking his beating more than five times what he had ever made for a single night's work. He is a good, hard-working young man who once operated an office building window-washing business while he was champion. He knows the value of a dollar and will take care of his money.

What his future will be in the ring is unclear. Trinidad just doesn't beat opponents, he seems to destroy them. Neither Reid nor Vargas was the same fighter after the pounding he took from Trinidad, and Joppy received a more brutal beating. There was talk by King of matching him up against Holmes, the two losers facing each other on the undercard of the Trinidad-Hopkins fight in September.

But Joppy shouldn't get in the ring for at least six months, and his co-manager, Steve Nelson, said yesterday it was unlikely that September fight will happen. If Joppy can recover, he is still among the top five middleweights in the division. If and when the winner of the September fight Trinidad or Hopkins moves up after that to fight Roy Jones Jr. as a super middleweight those middleweight belts will be vacant again. Nelson said he would like to match Joppy up against Holmes then for one of the vacant titles.

Trinidad will beat Hopkins. And do you know what? I think he can beat Roy Jones, who hasn't been in a fight for so long he may have forgotten how to do it.


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