LAS VEGAS It appeared to be as devastating a defeat as a fighter could have in the ring.
William Joppy, the Seabrook, Md., resident who was the two-time World Boxing Association middleweight champion, suffered a brutal loss in May to Felix Trinidad, knocked down three times before the fight was stopped in the fifth round.
He was floored by devastating blows, and though he gamely got up after each knockdown, he was on shaky legs from the time he went down to the canvas the first time in the first round until referee Arthur Mercante Jr., stopped the fight in the fifth round.
Two other fighters who suffered losses at the hands of Trinidad David Reid and Fernando Vargas haven’t been the same since. Tonight, on the undercard of the Hasim Rahman-Lennox Lewis heavyweight title fight, Joppy (32-2-1, 24 knockouts) is determined to show he has put the loss behind him as he faces British middleweight Howard Eastman (32-0, 28 knockouts) for what is being billed as the vacant WBA middleweight title.
“I want to show the world that I’m back,” Joppy said. “Losing to Felix Trinidad didn’t take anything out of William Joppy.”
Before that, Joppy had never suffered such a big loss in his career. The 31-year-old Joppy, who only started fighting at the age of 21, won the WBA crown the first time by stopping title holder Shinji Takehara in nine rounds in June 1996.
He successfully defended the championship with wins over Ray McElroy and Peter Venancio before losing a controversial decision to Julio Cesar Green in Madison Square Garden in August 1997, a fight that many ringside observers believed Joppy won.
He avenged that loss by defeating Green in a rematch in January 1998 to win back the WBA championship, and then six times before losing it to Trinidad in May, as part of promoter Don King’s middleweight unification tournament. The tournament concluded with Trinidad losing to Bernard Hopkins in September.
Joppy said he did little immediately after the loss except stay at home with his family.
“I took it easy, hung out at home, spent some time with my kids and family, then I went back to the gym, getting back to doing what I do best,” he said. “I love fighting. I can’t let something like that get me down. Lot’s of great champions have lost and come back, Thomas Hearns, Roberto Duran, they all lost and came back. That’s what made him so great. You’ve got to take the bitter with the sweet.”