On paper, it looked like the mismatch of the new millennium. But
then boxing tales are not written on paper; they're painted on
canvas. In the red corner towered Felix (Tito) Trinidad, the
178-pound Puerto Rican knockout artist. In the blue corner
glowered Molly Sims, the artistic 122-pound Kentucky knockout.
For months, the supermodel had been gunning for the onetime
super-welterweight champion. She had promised to drop the
three-time world champ like a cheap boyfriend. Boxing wags
compared her chances to her figure (slim) and her ring
experience to her swimsuits (skimpy).
Sims pointed out that she had prepped for the showdown by
attending karate school and taking three kickboxing classes.
Still, she acknowledged never having boxed before. "Except for
boxing the shoes in my closet," conceded the host of MTV's House
of Style. "I'm really motivated, though. I'm looking forward to
the spitting part."
Tearing a page out of Muhammad Ali's book (The Greatest,
paperback, $4.99), Sims showed up on Trinidad's doorstep to
challenge him face-to-face. In this case, the doorstep is at the
entrance to the Wilfredo Gomez Arena, a public gym in Tito's
father's adopted hometown, Guaynabo. Trinidad actually hails
from Cupey Alto, but the fighter jumped gyms after his father
had a falling-out with the former mayor over statehood. "What's
up, Tito?" the Old Navy girl says with a sailor's swagger. "Can
you take me? You think you can take me. I don't think so."
Trinidad smiles politely. He doesn't speak English.
A translator is enlisted. "Who's your favorite fighter of all
time?" asked Sims.
"Sugar Ray Leonard," says Trinidad. "You know him?"
"No, but I love Sugar Ray, the rock band." At Sims's urging,
Trinidad recounts his greatest ring victories. He names an
opponent, then smashes his right fist into his left hand: Oscar
de la Hoya. Pow! David Reid. Bam! Fernando Vargas. Whomp! One of
Sims's handlers mentions Bernard Hopkins, who powed and bammed
and whomped Trinidad to the canvas in September at Madison
Square Garden in a middleweight title unification bout--the only
loss of Tito's 41-bout pro career. "Hopkins!" cries Trinidad,
before biting his knuckles.
With the prefight banter turning increasingly nasty, Trinidad
gives Sims some pointers on technique ("Hands held high, protect
the face") in return for tips on crash-dieting. "How do I lose
weight fast for a fight?" he asks.
"That's simple," Sims counters. "Lots of protein. No carbs."
"Well, not no carbs. Just a lot less than usual. Chicken, fish,
spinach. Carrots are really good."
"I don't like carrots."
Sims shrugs off the carrot-diss as if it were a harmless jab. "No
potatoes," she continues. "No rice, no bread, no pasta."
"It's called the supermodel diet."
"I'm male, don't forget."
Sniggering, she dons 12-ounce gloves and takes a couple of
perfunctory swipes at a heavy bag stenciled with the names and
caricatures of Tito's recent opponents. Above a drawing of a cat
is written: "Kitten Vargas: MIAUUU." A sketch of a hen bears the
legend "Chicken de la Hoya." The Vanderbilt University alum
seems determined not to become Goldfish Sims. Climbing through
the ropes, she jabbers and swaggers and does a few minutes of
shadowboxing for the camera.
Her eyes blaze with a look that says: "Tito won't know what he
is fighting. How could he? He has fought some good champions,
but not in their prime, not like me. I am ready for whatever he
throws at me. If he wants to box, I will box. If he wants a war,
I will give him one." On second thought, maybe her look isn't
Rarely have two styles clashed so strikingly in the ring.
Trinidad favors classic Latino patriot-wear--spangled shirts and
trunks of red, white and blue. Sims's ensemble is basic black
and white--a devastating combination one ringside fashionista
describes as "street edgy-slash-vintage chic."
Trinidad has the advantage in height and reach; Sims, in looks.
She takes a swig of water, swishes it around her mouth and hocks
into a funnel attached to a ring post. How'd it feel?
"It felt pretty good, I have to tell you."
When the bell rings, they move to the center of the ring. Sims
looks tenacious; Trinidad, tentative. She feints with a left to
the head of Trinidad, who reflexively raises his right glove to
fend it off. Without shifting her weight, Sims launches a right
from down low, then catches him with a left hook that staggers
him like a ton of feathers.
Teetering like the regime of some Banana Republic dictator, the
three-time world champ plunges to the canvas. Not to worry:
Eight times in his career, Tito has risen from the deck to win.
Alas, this will not be the ninth.
A few minutes later, a revived Tito confides that he probably
won't fight professionally again.
"If you quit boxing," says Sims, "what will you do?"
"After boxing," he says, "I want to become a model."
ELEVEN COLOR PHOTOS: PHOTOGRAPHS BY STEVE ERLE
HAIR: PETER BUTLER FOR ARTISTS AT TIMOTHY PRIANO; MAKE-UP: JOHN
Molly had promised TO DROP TITO LIKE A CHEAP BOYFRIEND.
Tito gave Molly TIPS ON BOXING in exchange for TIPS ON CRASH
MOLLY FEINTS WITH A LEFT TO THE HEAD, THEN CONNECTS WITH A HOOK
THAT staggers Trinidad like a ton of feathers.