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28 NOVEMBER 2014

 




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De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao: A Super Fight in Question


Manny
Manny

By Matthew Hurley: In the weeks leading up to the WBA welterweight world boxing championship bout between Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito rumors abound as to whom Oscar De La Hoya would choose as his dance partner in what was alleged to be his final fight in December. After Floyd Mayweather unexpectedly retired De La Hoya went through with his tune-up fight against Steve Forbes, winning by unanimous decision, and then sat back with that omnipotent and oh-so-annoying smile on his face. In the end it really didn’t matter who he fought because when Oscar occasionally sets foot in the ring his accountants dance in glee on their desktops. An Oscar De La Hoya fight means cash and lots of it, regardless of who he is swapping leather with him. No matter who he fights Oscar will get paid and paid handsomely, and the masses will come.

Unfortunately for Oscar many hardcore fans have grown tired of his act. Make no mistake, when De La Hoya was a full time fighter his naysayers were always being more than a bit disingenuous in their disdain for him. He may have crossed over into superstardom and the Fortune 500 Club but he fought nearly everyone of note and held his own in every single bout, win or lose (the one glaring exception being his loss to Bernard Hopkins). Oscar may have been a pretty boy star with well-rehearsed sound bites but he was tough to the core – a true fighter. As time wore on though, he became more businessman than fighter and those who disliked him before now loathe his apparent money lust as he dodges true contenders in the welterweight and junior middleweight divisions.

On top of his apparent unwillingness to engage fighters like Miguel Cotto and Antonio Margarito his record in his past six fights, dating back to 2003 is 3-3, with his ugly unanimous decision victory over Felix Sturm in 2004 seen by many as a gift. That present was wrapped up with a shiny bow in order to keep his already scheduled pay-per-view date with middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins in check. Hopkins would knock the ‘Golden Boy’ out with a body shot in the ninth round.

So, after Cotto and Margarito finished waging war on one another, with Antonio emerging victorious by a thrilling eleventh round technical knockout, many were hoping against hope that Oscar would step up and take on the true king of the welterweight division. That notion was not just impractical it was silly. Oscar was never going to fight either one of those two 147 pound monsters. Mayweather wanted no part of them either. De La Hoya, who didn’t look particularly impressive against feather fisted Steve Forbes, was suddenly lobbying for a fight with junior welterweight Ricky Hatton. In fact he was trying to sell the bout to reporters hours after Mayweather had knocked the ‘Hitman’ out back in December of 2007. He wanted a rematch with Mayweather, and it seemed a sure thing, but he also wanted to set up the popular Hatton as a potential future opponent. That should have set off the alarm bells that Oscar had no intention of fighting anyone he didn’t outweigh by at least ten pounds, and it certainly left Cotto and Margarito out in the cold.

When it became apparent that Oscar would look even further down the scale at current pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao his detractors smiled derisively and said, “See, I told you so.” Pacquiao had just made his debut at lightweight, winning the WBC title from David Diaz by an impressive ninth round technical knockout. Pacquiao’s trainer Freddie Roach, who trained De La Hoya for his losing effort against Mayweather, was all for the bout. It would represent the biggest payday Manny will likely ever get and, should he win, transform the already wildly popular fighter into a crossover superstar. From the point of view of Manny’s camp it was a no-brainer.

But Pacquiao waved the fight off at first. Of course it all dealt with money, but when more was put on the table and Roach put him in a headlock and explained to him in nickels and dimes what was at stake, the Filipino icon smiled, nodded and signed on the dotted line. What difference did it make that he would be adding 12 pounds from his last fight? What difference did it make that he would be entering the ring over 40 pounds heavier than his professional debut in 1995? Money doesn’t just talk, it screams and if any fighter deserves a huge payday it is Manny Pacquiao.

The fight, set to take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on December 6th, has garnered tremendous criticism from fans and pundits alike. But is it warranted? Those who believe that Pacquiao is way too small to get inside of De La Hoya’s six inch reach advantage should be reminded that the much slower and comparably sized Steve Forbes had little problem connecting against Oscar. In fact, the light hitting and slightly intimidated fighter bruised up Oscar’s face. (Forbes stands 5’ 7 ½” with a 68 inch reach. Pacquiao stands 5’ 6 ½” with a 67 inch reach.) Pacquiao is also coming off one of the best performances of his career while De La Hoya hasn’t truly looked good against a world class opponent since his rematch loss to Shane Mosley five years ago. Oscar has also come up short in several of his big time bouts – Felix Trinidad, Mosley twice, Hopkins and Mayweather. One should wonder if that plays on his mind, particularly when he’s heard all of the criticism leveled at his decision to take on Manny in the first place.

It’s really a no-win situation for Oscar. He wins, well, he’s bigger, stronger – he was supposed to win. He loses and his detractors have yet another disappointment in his career to point out.

As for Pacquiao, he’s already positioned himself into the win column. His willingness to fight anyone has endeared him to the hardcore fan base. He’s a living legend in his native Philippines (and something of an adopted countryman among Mexican fans because of his thrilling style, despite his series of bouts with Mexican idols Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.) And at 29 years of age he’s already established himself as a first ballot hall of famer. With this fight he is guaranteed a monster payday and if he pulls off the upset he replaces De La Hoya as boxing’s biggest attraction. Not bad for a guy who was once knocked out by Medgoen Singsurat in Thailand when no one thought he would amount to anything.

The De La Hoya – Pacquiao fight will be a huge event and most of those who say they will “boycott” the fight will cave in and buy it in the end. And the reason they will is because even if it turns out to be a farce and Oscar overwhelms Manny the event itself will transcend the fight. It will become, in the weeks prior to the opening bell, must see TV to any boxing junkie because the build up will be overwhelming, and non-boxing fans will suddenly become interested – such is the appeal of Oscar De La Hoya. And the mere thought that Pacquiao might actually pull off the upset against the aging ‘Golden Boy’ is much too intriguing a notion for any true fan to pass up.

October 13, 2008


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