-- Just before the start of the sixth round of his fight with Ricardo Mayorga Saturday night at Madison Square Garden, Felix "Tito" Trinidad nodded, pounded his chest and smiled.
He looked happy to be back -- and for good reason.
Trinidad ended his 29-month retirement with a dominating performance, scoring an eighth-round technical knockout in a 160-pound fight. Trinidad (42-1, 35 KOs) put Mayorga (27-5) on the canvas three times in the eighth round before referee Steve Smoger stopped the fight with 21 seconds left in the round.
For his first bout in nearly 21/2 years, Trinidad, 31, showed almost all of the power he had in his earlier years.
"I came out for this bout in excellent condition," Trinidad said.
After a successful performance in his comeback against a quality opponent, Trinidad now can think about whom he would like to face next. Possibilities include rematches with the popular Oscar De La Hoya, whom Trinidad defeated by majority decision in September 1999, or middleweight king Bernard Hopkins, who is responsible for Trinidad's only loss.
Trinidad won the first 40 fights of his career but was beaten soundly by Hopkins three years ago. Hopkins used a steady and precise attack to build leads on all three judges' scorecards before Trinidad's father and trainer, Don Felix Trinidad, threw a white towel in the ring to stop the fight in the final round.
At Saturday's post-fight news conference, Trinidad, his father and his promoter, Don King, all refused to say whom they wanted Trinidad to face next. But a chance to earn revenge against Hopkins seems like the obvious choice. And Trinidad's father let on as much when he answered a question about why his son retired in the first place.
"In the past, all great champions that lost have always had the opportunity to do a rematch to avenge their defeats," he said. "And at that moment, Bernard Hopkins, when he defeated Felix, he said immediately that he was going to give a rematch to Tito Trinidad. And then he stepped back and started to do mandatory fights but never gave the rematch to Tito."
Contacted Sunday, Hopkins said it was the Trinidad camp's insistence Trinidad fight a tune-up bout after their first meeting that derailed a possible rematch. But Hopkins said he "absolutely" would be interested in fighting Trinidad.
"This is the perfect time not to do any other fight but this fight," Hopkins said. "I'm in New York, and everybody keeps coming up to me saying, 'When are you going to fight him?' "
Trinidad's fans, who booed Hopkins when he entered the arena Saturday, chanted, "We want Hopkins," after the fight. King said those sentiments "mean nothing," but said, "If [fighting Hopkins] is what Tito wants, if he came back to fight Bernard and get his revenge, that's what he'll get."
A victory over Hopkins (45-2-1), who has successfully defended his title 19 consecutive times, would be the crowning achievement of Trinidad's career. Before his retirement, Trinidad had built a reputation as one of the world's best pound-for-pound fighters by winning titles at 147, 154 and 160 pounds while taking on some of boxing's best.