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TSS Monday Morning QB: Oscar/Forbes Fight

BY Michael Woods ON May 03, 2008
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A man who can laze away the day on one million thread-count sheets, as his interest accrues into a pile large enough to live on does not need to do what Oscar De La Hoya did on Saturday evening in California.

He does not need to engage in fisticuffs, after spending three months whittling down his waistline, and two months getting into proper condition, with hours of roadwork and thousands of crunches, for any reason at all.

Nope, De La Hoya has plenty of money, a cute as a button baby, a (presumably) adoring wife, a thriving empire that encompasses real estate, publishing, and a professional sports franchise. Even if he missed the roar of appreciation from 30,000 people gathered to see him in action, that ultra-buzz that feeds the ego like Mirace Gro, his face will remain familiar enough that he will be asked to sign autographs well into Jenna Bush’s second term as President.

So the Golden CEO deserves a clap on the back for getting into rock-solid shape, and taking his sparring sesh with Steve Forbes seriously as he looks ahead to his September rematch with Floyd Mayweather. He didn’t need to do it. Most wouldn’t have. Most guys would have been able to fool themselves into believing that they could do what they had to do to get ready for Floyd without taking a fighter in the interim. Why risk an injury? Why put more wear on a 35-year-old body? But Oscar is able to look at himself with enough honesty in his heart that he quite rightly decided that the only way he was going to do better against Floyd this time around was to be sharper.

In the first Floyd fight, on May 5, 2007,  Oscar had been off for a year, having last fought Ricardo Mayorga in May 2006. This time around, as long as the expected Ts get crossed and Is get dotted, and the re-do occurs on the projected September 20, Oscar will go only 3 ½ months in between bouts. Perfect. He won’t presumably have time to bloat up to cruiserweight during a long period of downtime, and he won’t have to spend as much time just carving off pounds and inches. Instead, he’ll be able to fine-tune strategy and tactics and with Floyd Mayweather Sr. Will that matter? Not a lick, in my opinion.

I had Floyd the obvious winner in the first one, and expect Money to deposit Oscar on the deck in this one, as he’s gotten another taste of the noticeable uptick in affirmation from fans and pundits who liked his killer instinct against Ricky Hatton last December.

Oscar’s effort against Steve Forbes, who we all can agree should not be holding 150 pounds on his 5-7 frame, does not make me one iota more inclined to give him a slim chance against Floyd.

Saturday, I didn’t see a brand new model of Oscar, one who promised to be up on his tippy toes, having fun, and feeling as relaxed as if he was taking Millie and Oscar and Nina on a picnic. I did see a pretty damn sharp fighter, who was winging body shots with both hands in effective fashion, and had a decent level of energy late. (ASIDE: Some experts do forget that ODLH hasn’t faded down the stretch in every match he’s ever been in. He threw 69 punches and sent Ike Quartey to the floor in their 1999 match, earning himself the win, as one judge had Ike up, and another had Oscar up a point going in to the last round. Yes, he didn’t roar down the backstretch against Felix Trinidad in September 1999, or against Shane Mosley in June 2000. But you’ll recall that he TKOd steroid-bolstered Fernando Vargas in the eleventh round of their September 2002 grudge match scrap, a fight that had one judge seeing Vargas ahead by three points after 10.)

It seems like a good amount of viewers were pleasantly surprised by Forbes’ showing on Saturday. Some have taken offense to the description of the bout as “sparring session,” and many point to the marks on Oscar’s face as proof that the tussle rose above sparring level quality. I disagree. Visit a gym sometime, I say to this crew. Sparring sessions can get as heated as though a belt were on the line, and were it not for headgear, copious evidence of damage done at many a sparring sesh would be on displayed regularly.

Now, regular readers will recall that I touched on some sensitive subject matter with Steve Forbes in an April 23rd column (http://www.thesweetscience.com/boxing-article/5853/forbes-swears-win/). 

“I am hoping, and I am almost 100% certain, that he was not chosen to be a designated loser, to be a cooperative ally in The Plan,” I wrote then.

Well, I have to say I think Steve left a little bit on the table on Saturday, and was a bit more cooperative than I would have liked, as opposed to summoning some much needed pugnacity. He touched gloves with Oscar, and nodded to him, in the manner one would during a sparring session, on several occasions. Eff that! If he was truly in a win-at-all-costs mode, there would be no touching of gloves, or affectionate glances! I’m all for sportsmanship…after the final bell. The sport still suffers from the mistaken assumption on the part of casual fans that many of the fights are fixed.

And what of his comments after the bout? “It was an honor to fight Oscar,” Forbes said. “I felt strong in there and it was great to have the opportunity to get in there and not go down. He has fought the greats and I hope I proved I am a top level fighter."

That’s NOT the sort of talk I hoped to be hearing after the match, though I feared that I would be hearing it.

 Just glad to get the assignment.  Just glad to stay on my feet, to survive.

But as our man Merchant astutely pointed out during the show, Forbes has never been knocked down as a pro, and people point to that fact as an undeniable plus in his favor. But that fact could indicate, as it did to me Saturday, that Forbes fights with a defensive mindset, and is sometimes more concerned with not going down, rather than taking the other man down. I am disappointed, I admit, because I love an underdog, and love to see a man rise above his station, and surprise himself, and all of us, and remind us that we are capable of summoning unseen reserves from deep within ourselves.

But the issue of how much Forbes left in the ring, and whether he cooperated with The Plan subconsciously, are matters that will likely not be articulated aloud by the fighter. Those issues will more probably kick around in his conscience, and bubble up in 10, 15 years, when he is retired, and replaying his mental highlight reel, and chewing on some decisions that would have been handled differently, in retrospect.

Now, we move forward, and look ahead, to where De La Hoya has been looking all along, to September.

Oscar and Floyd were like Treasury last year, printing money furiously, like Bear Stearns was going under. They generated $134 million of revenue in their Super Bowl square-off. Could they touch that single-fight record this time around? I’m not willing to say they couldn’t. Do not underestimate the marketing wizardry of Richard Schaefer and Golden Boy and HBO. Do not underestimate the savage soundbites that are going to be kicking around real soon, as the Mayweathers play out their issues of patriarchy in public. We will be eating up that subplot, which has been elevated to main event status, and so will the mainstream media. The NY Times may even send a live body to cover the rematch!

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