On March 3, the outdoor arena at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas hosted a Super Welterweight showdown between David “The American Dream” Reid and Felix “Tito” Trinidad.
A sellout crowd of over 10,000 fans packed the outdoor arena to witness a bout that was billed as “The Glory of Caesars. Undefeated Gladiators.”
The year was 2000.
Now 26, Reid (14-0, 7 KOs) was the reigning WBA Super Welterweight champion. A former gold medalist at the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, his first bout was just three years earlier in March of 1997.
Reid had progressed quickly, scoring victories over Simon Brown and Keith Mullings. An educated boxer with knockout power in his right hand, Reid also possessed tremendous hand speed and exceptionally quick feet.
Against Trinidad, he was making the third defense of his crown.
Moving up from Welterweight to Super Welterweight to challenge Reid, the 27-year-old Trinidad (36-0, 30 KOs) had been the reigning WBC and IBF Welterweight kingpin.
Fresh off wins over Pernell Whitaker and Oscar De La Hoya, Trinidad had a strong fan base present. Many inside Caesars waived the Puerto Rican flag and cheered their man as he walked towards the ring.
Often recognized as a slow starter, once Tito got rolling, he often steamrolled opponents with relentless power-punching combinations.
Reid, as champion, entered next. His fans made their presence known as he entered the arena. Reid’s entourage hoisted his WBA belt high above his head as he climbed up and into the ring.
Ring announcer Jimmy Lennon Jr. introduced referee Mitch Halpern and then the fighters. Both men were in tremendous shape, each weighing in one pound under the 154-pound limit.
The bout was aired live on Showtime with Steve Albert, Bobby Czyz and “The Fight Doctor” Ferdie Pacheco seated near ringside to call the action.
Round 1 began with Reid, who was wearing green trunks with white trim, as the aggressor. Coming forward behind his left jab, the champion showed glimpses of the early game plan as he forced Trinidad to move in reverse.
Trinidad, wearing black trunks splashed with the colors of the Puerto Rican flag, was bouncing on his toes. Hands held high, almost in a peek-a-boo style defense, Tito looked patient as he fired his own left jab and occasionally mixed in thundering left hooks as he now began to move forward.
Both corners were exceptionally calm as each guided their fighters in between rounds. Challenger and champion, respectively, were experiencing early success with their game plans.
After nearly seven minutes of what amounted to a safe, feeling-out process, Reid stepped forward in Round 3 and launched a monster overhand right that forced Trinidad backward. As the crowd rose, Reid capitalized on the moment and fired a straight right hand that crumpled Trinidad to the canvas.
The crowd rumbled as Albert called the action. “Straight right hand and down goes Trinidad!”
Rising to his feet after Halpern’s eight count, insult was soon added to injury as Trinidad whacked Reid low for a third time. He was quickly scolded by Halpern who warned that another low blow would cost him a point deduction.
The crowd began chanting, “Reid! Reid! Reid!” After nine minutes of action, the champion had assumed tactical command of the fight.
Entering Round 4, Trinidad stepped on the gas and now pursued Reid with a passionate, unrelenting determination. Reid, smiling, remained calm and moved backward while looking for spots to counterpunch.
The ebb and flow of the bout had clearly defined that the fighter who moved forward was the ring general, controlling the pace and dictating the action. As the sixth round came down the stretch, Trinidad again ventured below the belt just as the bell sounded to end the round.
Halpern leaped in and penalized Trinidad a point for the low blow.
After six rounds, Czyz had Reid ahead 57-55. The Fight Doctor had it dead even, 57-57. Fans scoring the bout at home had Reid comfortably ahead. Although there was difference of opinion on the scoring, there was no debate on the quality of the action. It was first class stuff.
The momentum of the fight changed dramatically with just 20 seconds remaining in Round 7. Standing at close quarters, Trinidad ripped the champion with a blistering left hook. Reid buckled, stopping dead in his tracks as Trinidad put him on the mat with a right hand.
The crowd again rose as did the voice of Czyz. “Big left hook, right hand! Down goes Reid! He got hit with a left hook, he never saw it guys!”
Reid climbed to his feet only to be hammered in the final few seconds of the round by Trinidad. The bell sounded to end the seventh and the onslaught. The challenger has seized command.
After being battered in Round 8, and suffering a cut over his right eye, the champion was now clearly more defensive. Trinidad again shot himself in the foot losing another point in Round 9 for low blows.
Whatever doubt remained was eliminated in Round 11. The challenger was cooking with all burners going and lowered the boom on the champion.
Trinidad floored Reid three times, the first with a wicked right uppercut. The second knockdown was an accumulation of punches midway through the round.
Perhaps out of respect for the champion, Halpern allowed the fight to continue.
Reid, cut, bleeding, and without his legs under him, was fighting on pride and heart. A brief delay again halted the action as Trinidad was penalized a third time for low blows.
Reid, catching his breath and clearing his head, fought back in the final seconds, desperately looking to land his money punch, that booming right hand. The resiliency of Reid vanished after tasting the deck for a third time with just seconds remaining in the round.
Taking no chances in the last three minutes of the fight, Trinidad continued rolling forward like a locomotive. The champion desperately fired home run right hands, but was unable to connect.
The final bell sounded and Pacheco summed up the evening. “What a fight. What a terrific fight. Well, I’ll tell ya, I’ll give it to David Reid. He gave him a hell of a battle.”
Lennon then read the judge’s scorecards. Trinidad had scored a unanimous-decision victory, staking his claim among the pound-for-pound elite as the new Super Welterweight champion.
Reid would fight just four more times, winning three and dropping the last of his career. Mindful of his eyesight, “The American Dream” retired after last fighting in November of 2001.
Trinidad had just eight more fights left in his own gas tank. After a splendid war with Fernando Vargas, he dropped three of his last five bouts. He was inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame in June of 2014.