No love lost between Oscar and Floyd
Big Fight Preview by Ben Cohen: After a relentless promotional blitz, it would be easy to forget that the fight between WBC 154lb champion Oscar De La Hoya and the WBC and IBF 147 lb champion Floyd Mayweather is an actual boxing event. So impressive and ubiquitous has the campaign been that my girlfriend knows more about Oscar DeLaHoya’s past than she does my own.
Alongside the TV ads, posters, and radio announcements, the emotionally charged ‘De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7’ series on HBO has taken the promotion of a fight to new heights. The elegantly shot behind-the-scenes documentary has given fans an unusual look into the camps of both fighters, providing an insight into how elite boxers prepare for huge Pay Per View bouts.
We have witnessed the family life of Oscar De La Hoya in his mansion in Puerto Rico, the entourage and family dramas of Floyd Mayweather, Oscar’s intense training sessions under his new coach Freddy Roach, and Floyd’s relentless pursuit of perfection in the gym.
The fight pits two entirely contradictory characters against each other, and the promotion exploits it for all it is worth.
And it has worked brilliantly.
Mayweather has set himself up (not entirely deliberately) to be the bad guy, presenting himself as a ‘gangsta’ style boxer, concerned with appearance, money and status and driven by a need to be the best.
He has been obscenely obnoxious, strutting in front of the cameras with his ludicrous entourage (with one mans job being to be pick up Floyd’s money after he has thrown it around the room), and telling everyone how ‘real’ he is. He has also jibed and disrespected De La Hoya throughout the promotion, going as far as to steal his gym bag at one of the press conferences.
“Ok, so I stole your shit”, said Mayweather a few days later. “So do something about it”.
“He ain’t real”, he then lamented on a press conference call later. “And you all keep believing all of them stories he be telling you all, all that media stuff he been telling you all.”
“Oscar De La Hoya is a fake ass fighter. And it’s just like he says stuff like I don’t deserve to be in the sport of boxing, and I don’t deserve certain things. It’s more like we all know Oscar De La Hoya is greedy. He’s ungrateful and he’s a brat.”
De La Hoya, on the other hand, is being portrayed as the good guy in the promotion, the approachable family man, dedicated to his business and driven to succeed by an unquenchable thirst to test himself.
In response to the ‘Pretty Boy’s’ repellent behaviour, DeLaHoya has also set himself the task of teaching Mayweather a lesson.
“Well I truly feel that Mayweather Junior needs a humbling experience”, he said on a conference call. “He really is a little brat…I mean he’s very arrogant”.
“He can get up on the podium and say a few nice things, and then his real side will come out,” he continued. “I mean he starts talking all of this trash, about I’m nothing, and I haven’t fought anybody…And it’s uncalled for, it’s unnecessary.”
DeLaHoya certainly has a point. Mayweather has insinuated throughout the press tour that ‘The Golden Boy’ quit against Bernard Hopkins in 2004, staying on the canvass because he knew he could not win.
“There’s two things that we do know about Oscar, we know he gets tired”, said Mayweather. “And we know he will lay down. Those are two things that you guys got to know about Oscar. And in his full weight Oscar can be beat because he got four L’s. In Oscar’s last four fights, Oscar is two and two. In my last four fights, I’m four and zero.”
For De La Hoya, that was a step too far.
“You would never see Tiger Woods talk bad about Jack Nicklaus”, he retorted indignantly. “It’s just something that is disrespectful and therefore it revs me up to really shut him up on May 5.”
Leaving the rhetoric and drama behind, like most writers and pundits in the game, I am edging towards Mayweather in this fight. Given the ‘Pretty Boy’s’ astounding skills and flawless performances in the ring thus far, it would be difficult to bet against him.
But the nearer the fight gets, the more and more I hesitate to go with Mayweather.
There is absolutely no doubt that DeLaHoya is the best and most dangerous boxer Mayweather has ever fought despite what he would have people believe. Diego Corrales, Jose Luis Castillo and Zab Judah are no Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley or Bernard Hopkins. And although De La Hoya lost in those fights, he was highly competitive in each, and most observers thought he deserved the win against Trinidad, and Mosley in their second bout.
De La Hoya is a dangerous, driven fighter with huge depth to his game. He has fantastic hand speed, excellent power at 154, and a very sturdy chin. These are attributes that will give Mayweather some real problems when he gets in the ring.
As De La Hoya has noted, Mayweather not only does not carry a lot of power north of 140lbs, but he does not have a particularly hard right hand either. This means De La Hoya can fire his favourite weapon, the left hook, without too much fear of reprisal. Mayweather also does not throw combinations, preferring to throw single shots from the outside and freezing his opponent with his quick jabs and fast twitch feinting.
Against De La Hoya, this might not be enough. DeLaHoya’s jab is fast enough to contend with Mayweather’s, and he has an added reach and height advantage. I may be alone in this, but I actually don’t see Floyd as being amazingly fast. Roy Jones Jr and Sugar Ray Leonard had serious speed, but Mayweather is just very quick. This means Mayweather will have to go inside with De La Hoya at some point, and given the disparity in size, that may be no cakewalk either.
Oscar will cut the ring down relentlessly when the opening bell sounds, his strategy being to take it to the smaller man as quickly as possible. De La Hoya will try to get as many rounds in the bank as he can during the early rounds, and the longer he can retain his aggression, the better.
Oscar has an extremely good chance of pulling this off, and as the fights draws closer my bet is that the odds in Vegas will narrow.
However, we must not neglect one extremely important fact.
Floyds extraordinary ring intelligence makes the difference when it comes to picking his fights. His ring presence and sharpness of mind has rarely been seen in the prize ring, and it is this reason why so many people believe he will be victorious on Saturday.
Zab Judah was faster than Mayweather, but he was not as smart. The brash New Yorker rattled Mayweather early on with his incredible speed, but the Pretty Boy waited patiently and subtlety adjusted to take advantages in Judah’s lack of technique as the rounds wore on. It was one of his better performances, not in terms of action, but how easily he could deal with a difficult style of fighting.
Although the difference is negligible in the eyes of most people, Mayweather is smarter than De La Hoya in the ring, and this counts at the top level in boxing.
If Floyd can gain Oscar’s respect with his power, he can begin to play mind games with De La Hoya, feinting, turning and befuddling the bigger man to take a win on point. As the saying goes, speed is power, and Mayweather probably has enough of it to get Oscar’s attention. His quick body movements will translate into effective power against most people under 154lbs, not enough to score one punch knockouts, but ample to execute an effective game plan.
Mayweather will look to establish his own jab against De La Hoya, and it will take him a couple of rounds to get his timing and distance down properly. Once he does this, he can effectively overtake DeLaHoya by boxing smartly from the outside. As Freddy Roach and Oscar have noted, Mayweather has done a lot more running as he has moved up in weight, and he will certainly do this against De La Hoya. The fight will come down to a battle of left hands, and Mayweather is probably just that little bit sneakier when it comes to executing it. It is unlikely we will see Mayweather throwing combinations, as it will simply be too risky against such a big and powerful opponent, but he should be able to land enough single shots over time to win the majority of rounds.
This is an extremely close fight to call, but one where the smart money goes on the more complete fighter. For all Mayweather’s repulsive behaviour outside of the ring, he conducts himself flawlessly inside of it. He rarely makes mistakes and has made great fighters look average in the ring. He won’t do this to De La Hoya, but we should see the difference between a great fighter, and an all time great.
I wouldn’t bet on it though.
May 3, 2007.
Ben Cohen can be reached at email@example.com