A week has passed since Oscar De La Hoya revealed that Manny Pacquiao will don the gloves and step inside the boxing ring against him come December.
It will be an early Christmas gift for somebody but most experts see the bigger man grabbing the prize.
De La Hoya, the 10-time world champion from East Los Angeles and the sports biggest moneymaker in history, said he will be fighting WBC lightweight titleholder Pacquiao because of the Filipino’s status among the press as the best fighter pound for pound in professional boxing.
It all started after renowned trainer Freddie Roach witnessed the De La Hoya match against former junior lightweight titleholder Steve Forbes in a 10 round junior middleweight bout that took all 12 rounds to decide. That fight prompted the wise Roach to estimate his primary fighter Pacquiao could beat the Golden Boy.
“After seeing what Steve Forbes could do to Oscar imagine what Manny would do,” said Roach. “Forbes is a good fighter but doesn’t hit as hard as Manny.”
Forbes heard the comments comparing him with Pacquiao.
“Oscar is too big for him,” said Forbes. “Manny is a great fighter but he doesn’t fight anything like me. He darts in and out. I’m a slick defensive fighter.”
De La Hoya heard the comments too.
“People are talking that Manny Pacquiao can beat me,” said De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) during a telephone press conference call. “When Freddie Roach started saying, ‘Oscar can’t pull the trigger’ or ‘Manny Pacquiao, the fighter I trained can beat you,’ it started to become a challenge to me.”
De La Hoya the “Golden Boy” and Pacquiao the “Mexican destroyer” will meet on Dec. 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas in what’s expected to sell out the MGM Garden Arena and bring in more than 1.5 million pay-per-views.
Pacquiao, who has risen from the 112-pound flyweight division as a champion to capture the world titles in the super bantamweight, junior lightweight and lightweight divisions, now faces a former pound for pound champion who is five inches taller and fights three divisions higher, a weight disparity of 19 pounds.
Both fighters have made concessions for the fight. De La Hoya is dropping down to 147 pounds and Pacquiao moving up. Both will fight with eight-ounce gloves, the glove weight Pacquiao normally uses. De La Hoya has been using 10-ounce gloves for eight years.
“I think I can beat De La Hoya especially after I saw his last performance on the last fight,” said Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs). “I think I’m faster and stronger than him and I’m younger.”
In Pacquiao’s last fight he destroyed former WBC lightweight titleholder David Diaz with blistering speed and powerful combinations.
“Manny will knock out Oscar,” said Freddie Roach who formerly trained De La Hoya for the Floyd Mayweather fight last year and trains Pacquiao. “You can put Oscar’s right hand in his pocket. It’s useless.”
De La Hoya captured the gold medal at the 1992 Olympic in Barcelona, Spain and proceeded to win world titles in the junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight divisions.
“Size isn’t going to be that much of a big difference,” De La Hoya said. “I understand the relentless style that Manny has. I understand the speed he has. So for me, as a 35-year-old fighter, it really is a big challenge for me.”
Big challenge for Pac Man
Experts don’t all agree that it’s a big challenge, but they’re talking about De La Hoya.
Forbes, who is preparing for a world title bid against WBC titleholder Andre Berto at the Staples Center on Sept. 27, chuckled when told about comparisons between him and Pacquiao.
“As soon as Manny stands in front of Oscar he’s in trouble. One thing Manny is going to learn is Oscar is much bigger and hits harder than anybody he ever faced before,” said Forbes who has never been knocked out. “The most important thing I learned against Oscar is the value of a good jab. He kept the left hand in my face the whole night.”
Forbes feels that Pacquiao had problems in both fights against Juan Manuel Marquez.
“I thought Marquez won both fights,” said Forbes. “He punched Pacquiao good to the body and hurt him.”
Forbes can’t see Pacquiao being defensively adept enough to slip De La Hoya’s punches.
“Manny is going to get hit harder than he’s ever been hit in his career,” Forbes said. “I’m really shocked about this fight.”
Riverside’s Henry Ramirez, who trains heavyweight contender Chris “The Nightmare” Arreola and Josesito Lopez, said the pairing doesn’t make a sporting sense, only money sense.
“You have a guy (Pacquiao) who barely beat Juan Manuel Marquez and he’s going to fight a junior middleweight?” said Ramirez. “Here is a guy De La Hoya who fought Fernando Vargas, Bernard Hopkins and Felix Trinidad and now he’s relegated to fighting Pacquiao who is a great fighter but there are other guys he (De La Hoya) could have fought like Antonio Margarito.”
Boxing writer German Villasenor of Maxboxing.com, calls it a terrible mismatch despite Pacquiao’s speed advantage.
“Obviously it’s just about the money,” said Villasenor. “It’s just about the money. Oscar is too big for Pacquiao. Pacquiao is good but he can’t hurt Oscar.”
Female boxing world champion Elena Reid, who is Filipina, said the size difference would determine the outcome.
“It’s crazy,” said Reid by telephone. “Obviously Pacquiao is not big enough for De La Hoya. It’s a good monetary opportunity but I just don’t understand. They’re two different weight classes. Pacquiao is the best at his weight but there is a reason we have different weight classes.”
Don Leonard, who writes for a Southern California boxing and MMA magazine, said that Pacquiao could be gambling for the big money now.
“There are about six lightweights I think that can beat Manny Pacquiao like Joan Guzman, Nate Campbell, Juan Diaz, Michael Katsidis, and Urbano Antillon,” said Leonard. “He’s probably taking this fight with De La Hoya so he can make his money now before those guys beat him.”
Regardless of the size and weight disparities, De La Hoya and Pacquiao are about to clash.
The event is expected to be the most watched event of the year and will be co-promoted by Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank.
“This fight has world-wide implications,” said Top Rank’s Bob Arum.
Pacquiao said it’s a gift from God to be fighting De La Hoya and that it will establish him for certain as the best fighter of this generation.
Three months till Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.
Colombia’s undefeated Yonnhy Perez (17-0, 12 KOs), who fights for Thompson Boxing Promotions, meets Tomas Rojas (28-11, 19 KOs) in a 10-round bantamweight fight at Buffalo Bill’s Casino at Primm, Nevada.
Perez fights out of Santa Fe Springs, Calif. and has fought his way to the top 20 of the bantamweight division. Now he gets another opportunity to show whether he’s ready for the likes of Fernando Montiel and Gerry Penalosa.
Also on the fight card will be Ela “Bam Bam” Nunez (8-3) against fellow New Yorker Melissa Hernandez (8-1-2) in a 10-round contest for the vacant IWBF junior featherweight world title.
Nunez recently fought and beat Dominga Olivo by split-decision a month ago for a regional title and now runs into Hernandez, the former GBU lightweight world titleholder who relinquished the title to meet Nunez. It should be fireworks.
In a lightweight bout Antonio DeMarco (18-1-1, 13 KOs) meets Jose Reyes (23-4, 8 KOs) in a 10-round contest.
The first 500 fans to arrive get in free to the Gary Shaw Productions fight card.
Fights on television
Fri. ESPN2, 6 p.m., James Kirkland (22-0) vs. Ricardo Cortes (22-2-1).
Fri. Telefutura, 8 p.m., Urbano Antillon (23-0) vs. Daniel Attah (24-4-1).
Fri. Showtime, 11 p.m., Yonnhy Perez (17-0) vs. Tomas Rojas (28-11).
Sat. HBO, 10:15 p.m., Juan Diaz (33-1) vs. Michael Katsidis (23-1, 20 KOs).
Who's the best Mexican boxer today?