Manny Pacquiao beat the life out of boxing’s Golden Boy, Oscar De La Hoya, forcing him to retire on his stool after the eighth round and probably forcing him into permanent retirement. Pacquiao not only didn’t lose a round, he so dominated the fight that he won one round 10-8 without benefit of a knockdown.
Hatton, like many people including the Las Vegas oddsmakers, felt the 35-year-old De La Hoya would find a way to beat down boxing’s pound-for-pound champion but Pacquiao’s hand speed, agility and ability to get inside, land and then escape before De La Hoya had time to react was utterly overwhelming.
In fact, Pacquiao even won the battle of the bulge. Much debate had gone on over the size of the two and what that size difference might mean. De La Hoya had not fought at the welterweight limit in over seven years while Pacquiao was only one fight removed from weighing 126 pounds and thus was really moving up three weight classes, not two.
Yet the day after they hit the scales, Pacquiao entered the ring at 148 1⁄2, outweighing De La Hoya by a pound and a half. Considering how Pacquiao then performed, it was clear that while his punching power lacked a little of the sting it carried at the lower weights he lost no speed and he was still way capable of doing enough damage to send his opponent to the emergency room for observation.
What Hatton must have been thinking as the fight unfolded in decidedly one-sided fashion no one knows because he left the arena before De La Hoya, off to have a pint and contemplate just how he will cope with Pacquiao’s speed and aggressiveness if he’s matched with him next spring or summer.
Yet there remains no guarantee the two will meet next even though Pacquiao seemed more than happy to consider it.
“I can fight him no problem,’’ Pacquiao (48-3-2, 35 KO) said. “Anywhere they want, if the price is right.’’
It very likely will be because Hatton can all but guarantee a huge gate with as many as 100,000 people packing London’s Wembley Stadium or 55,000 or more if the fight is staged in his hometown of Manchester, England. HBO’s suits may fight the notion of taking the fight to Great Britain because of the logistical problems in broadcasting a live event at 3 a.m. British time (so it can be televised in prime time in the U.S.) but if the number is right everything else will be as well.
Yet those logistical problems, as well as the fact that the idea of matching De La Hoya and Pacquiao was never to create a Hatton-Pacquiao showdown at 140 pounds but rather a Hatton-De La Hoya match at 147, are not the most significant issues that will determine what Pacquiao does next.
Obviously, selling a De La Hoya-Hatton match is impossible now after the beat down he took and he conceded to Roach immediately after the fight was stopped that “You were right. I don’t have it any more.’’ So while Hatton waits to see what is next for him, Pacquiao and Roach must consider a host of possibilities, including possibly offering Juan Manuel Marquez a lucrative third match in their ongoing struggle at 140 pounds, give or take a few pounds.
Marquez has moved up in weight and would prefer fighting Pacquiao for the lightweight title Pacquiao won in his last fight (and first one at 135 pounds) but now that Pacquiao has experienced how much easier life is when he only has to get down to 140 pounds (he was 142 at the weigh in for De La Hoya) he might refuse to defend the WBC title he won at the expense of David Diaz earlier this year, especially against Marquez, with whom he has fought no better than dead even through 24 rounds and two fights.
What he won’t be doing next seems clearer at this early juncture than what he will be doing next, beyond the obvious long vacation after a grueling two month training camp at Roach’s Wildcard Gym in Hollywood.
“We’re not going to fight (unified welterweight champion Antonio) Margarito,’’ Roach said flatly when his name was brought up. “We would fight (Shane) Mosley if he beats Margarito but we I know our limitations. There are a lot of fights for Manny at 140 but a young Margarito? No.’’
There have already been some rumblings that former pound-for-pound champion Floyd Mayweather, Jr. may be back in boxing next year and he is someone Pacquiao might consider even though Mayweather would be considered the best fighter in boxing if he was active at the moment.
The former welterweight champion retired after winning a far more difficult split decision against De La Hoya a year ago so one could easily see a showdown with Pacquiao transformed into a major pay-per-view attraction.
Roach and Pacquiao would have no problem with that. Their only problem would be at what weight the two men would fight.
“We wouldn’t fight Mayweather (if he opts to come out of retirement) at 147,’’ Roach said. “We might be willing to do it at a catch weight (somewhere between 140 and 147) but not at 147.’’
So is Pacquiao abandoning the welterweight division he just moved into after winning the lightweight title in his last fight for the leaner world of 140? It would seem that way because despite his dominance of De La Hoya, Roach knows his fighter better than anyone and fully understands he is not a true 147 pounder. In fact, he was barely above the junior welterweight limit when he weighed in last Friday afternoon and his power did not carry up to that division as fully as Roach would have liked.
This is no surprise. It is what happens to almost every fighter as they move up in weight, whether it’s Roberto Duran leaving the lightweight division behind to De La Hoya moving up from welterweight to most anyone you can think of.
Not only does the smaller man lose power but he’s also hitting bigger, more resilient opponents and so they stand up under the pounding, as De La Hoya’s legs did even though his face did not.
“Manny can make 140 with his eyes closed,’’ Roach said, implying that perhaps that is now the division where he will end up, which brings us, and more importantly Pacquiao, back to Ricky Hatton.
As Roach discussed the future for his fighter into the wee hours of Sunday morning, Oscar De La Hoya was sitting somewhere in the dark and in a similar situation – with his future in doubt and his eye closed.
Both fighters entered the ring in Nottingham with unblemished records and unyielding self belief, but after twelve rounds Froch emerged with a unanimous decision victory to claim the World Boxing Council’s 168-pound title and assert his presence near the top of the 168-pound division.
Denmark’s Mikkel Kessler will claim recognition as the premier super middleweight after Joe Calzaghe’s departure, but Froch’s display of powerful punching and resolve must propel the English fighter toward consideration as the world’s finest.
Before Saturday, the 31-year-old Froch was unproven as a viable world-class commodity, as he breezed through his previous 23 fights, performing within his ability against over-matched opposition. But in front of 7,000 vociferous fans at the Trent FM Arena, Froch encountered a fighter with the ability to test the limits of his physical talent and mental toughness.
In a wild, free-swinging fight that remained enthralling throughout, Froch displayed greater defiance in the face of adversity to outlast Pascal and inflict the first loss on the Canadian’s professional record. Neither fighter had ever been challenged in such a hostile manner, but Froch was more adept at performing outside his comfort zone, willing to stand his ground and land a more sustained offence.
Both combatants showed admirable skills in attack and defense, but both chose to exchange powerful hooks and crosses with regularity.
“This fight lived up to some of the best super middleweight fights I’ve ever seen,” lauded former world featherweight champion Barry McGuigan. “Breathtaking stuff.”
Pascal ordinarily aims to glide around opponents, avoiding their attacks with sharp reflexes before unloading accurate strikes of his own. But on Saturday he was unable to impose his tempo on the contest as he came upon a fighter with a deceptively effective jerky defense and composed aggression.
Froch, 24-0 (19), was the antagonist early, immediately pushing Pascal to the ropes with a solid jab-right cross salvo. A bemused Pascal struggled to find his rhythm, as Froch took control of the ring’s center, unleashing powerful combinations.
Pascal managed to avoid getting hit with a succession of clean blows as he habitually moved at the waist, lowering his body towards Froch and holding when within reaching distance. But as the rounds progressed, Pascal relaxed and when Froch attacked, the Canadian fighter consistently responded with a forceful hook or uppercut.
Textbook technique did not always prevail, as Froch’s long punches were met by heavy counters from Pascal, to which the Brit responded with equally untamed blows.
A powerful left hook landed squarely on Froch’s jaw in the second round, but the Nottingham native absorbed the shot, remaining firm-legged. But as the fighters frantically exchanged fierce blows towards the end of the fifth, Pascal drilled Froch with a straight right at the bell that visibly staggered the hometown fighter, drawing a warning from referee Guido Cavalleri.
Froch showed no ill effects in the subsequent round, as the back-and-forth conflict resumed. Yet in the eight a chopping left hook from Pascal opened a cut on the edge of Froch’s right eye.
The blood seemed to distract Froch in the ninth, as he frequently dabbed at the cut, but his corner managed to stem the flow at the round’s end, helping their fighter assert his control over the final three frames. Froch’s trainer, former middleweight contender Robert McCracken, urged his charge to utilize the jab and Froch duly obliged.
Froch was more active as the contest drew to a close, landing a head-snapping lead left with increasing steadiness, while Pascal’s right eye began to swell noticeably. The Canadian was frequently holding, visibly tiring, but he gamely fought back enough to keep Froch on edge.
Both fighters battled against exhaustion in the closing moments of the bout, exchanging power shots to the delight of the partisan crowd.
The judges’ scores of 118-110, 117-111 and 116-112 didn’t reflect the competitive nature of the combat, but there were no protests from the beaten fighter.
“I thought the fight was a little bit closer, but the best man won tonight,” conceded a magnanimous Pascal, 21-1 (14). “Carl stayed strong throughout the fight.”
Despite perpetually fronting unwavering self-assurance and lofty ambitions, Froch admitted to keeping a grounded approach throughout his six year career. “To be honest, when I turned pro I never really had the WBC world title in my sights. It was always just one step at a time,” he said. “But it’s unbelievable and I’m elated. [Pascal] was here to win. I did well to outlast him. I want to unify belts now.”
The fight marked a return to major network TV for boxing in Great Britain and despite the major events in Las Vegas and Amir Khan’s blowout of Oisin Fagan in London, the spirited Froch-Pascal clash was a headline-grabbing event for all the right reasons.
“People keep saying ‘boxing is dying’,” said McGuigan. “But boxing won’t die with fights like Froch-Pascal.”
From the opening bell until trainer Nacho Beristain nodded to referee Tony Weeks after a particularly one-sided eighth round and stopped the fight with De La Hoya sitting on his stool, his left eye half closed and badly bruised and all the fight long beaten out of him, there was only one fighter in the ring at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
One fighter punching holes in a shadow of what De La Hoya once had been. One man at the height of his powers, fast, elusive, accurate and supremely confident, and another who was old, slow and without a single answer to the problems he was facing.
Although much of the pre-fight talk had been about the size difference between De La Hoya and Pacquiao, the story was speed. Pacquiao had it and De La Hoya did not.
Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, had promised as much months ago and it was evident from the first round, when De La Hoya seemed hesitant and unwilling to release what had once been a dominant jab that this would be a long night for an old man.
“After the first round I knew he had no legs,’’ Roach said of De La Hoya. “He was shot.’’
He was also taking shots, primarily big straight left hands that kept slamming into his face as if someone was covering his eyes. Pacquiao’s quick left time after time shot between the small openings between De La Hoya’s gloves and smacked him flush.
Seldom did De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KO) even attempt to mount an offensive, so concerned was he with the puzzle he could not solve. He was repeatedly hit with fast combinations and as the rounds went by Pacquiao moved closer and closer and scored more and more, yet always seeming to get back out of range before De La Hoya could react.
“I knew right away I could win,’’ Pacquiao said. “I controlled the fight. I was able to defend his jab and move.’’
What would prove to very likely the final round of De La Hoya’s career was a three-minute beating in Round 8. Time after time Pacquiao struck De La Hoya with the straight left, a punch the six-time world champion could no longer see coming because his left eye was half closed and badly discolored.
Three times Pacquiao drove him back into the ropes and strafed him with punches from forehead to chin with not the hint of anything coming back as Weeks watched closely. When that round ended, De La Hoya walked slowly back to his corner and slumped on his stool. At that point they could have changed the name of his company from Golden Boy Promotions to Swollen Boy Promotions because that’s what he was, except that he clearly was a boy no longer. He was an old man in the wrong neighborhood after dark.
“My style is to go forward but he was back on his toes all night waiting for me to make my mistakes,’’ De La Hoya said. “He was a better man tonight.’’
Pacquiao (48-3-2, 36 KO) sensed that almost immediately, seeing that De La Hoya had no answer for the speed with which he was tearing him to shreads, bit by bit. Things grew so one sided that the three judges not only gave every round to Pacquiao but also scored the seventh round 10-8. That was deserved despite the fact there was no knockdown but frankly Round 8 was even worse.
It was no way to end what had been a brilliant career but there was also no point in continuing and so Beristain told Weeks his fighter had had enough.
“I didn’t want him to leave his greatness in the ring,’’ Beristain said later.
By then it was so one-sided that even De La Hoya willingly conceded the point, walking over to Roach, who had insisted throughout the promotion that De La Hoya could no longer pull the trigger, and agreed with him.
“You’re right Freddie,’’ De La Hoya said. “I don’t have it any more.’’
Pacquiao’s speed advantage was clear through the fight as he repeatedly landed a straight left hand to the face that De La Hoya seemed confounded by and unable to avoid. Pacquiao was not only landing but also getting in and out so fast De La Hoya was troubled as to how to respond and by the time he did Pacquiao was seldom close enough to be touched by him.
The De La Hoya jab was never in evidence and the few times he tried to throw it the punch lacked snap. He looked like someone who had simply fought one fight too long and paid a heavy price for it all night long.
De La Hoya’s face had begun to flush red and swelling had formed around his eyes from the straight left hands Pacquiao kept catching him with by the fourth round and that condition only worsened. As Roach had promised size was not the deciding factor. Speed was and De La Hoya seemed to have little of it left.
The beginning of the end came midway through round 7 when Pacquiao climbed all over De La Hoya, backing him into his own corner and battering his left eye half shut with an unanswered string of rights and lefts. He wobbled De La Hoya with one stinging left that buckled him momentarily. He steadied himself but had no response except to steadfastly stand and take a beating until Beristain stepped in. By the time he did the fight itself had long been decided and frankly so had the future of Oscar De La Hoya.
Such a moment of clarity occurred to me when I was a younger sportswriter working for a newspaper down south. I observed a sophomore running back at Jackson State University named Walter Payton galloping through the other team’s defense as if he were a frisky colt, and was immediately convinced he was destined to become something truly special. Two years later, in a freelance story I wrote for The Sporting News, I offered my opinion that Payton was better – a lot better – than Ohio State’s two-time Heisman Trophy-winning running back, Archie Griffin. That prompted a deluge of hate mail from irate Buckeyes fans who questioned my vision, sanity and parentage.
That Payton’s Hall of Fame NFL career validated my first impression of him did not mean that I should have switched careers and become a pro football talent scout. (I also felt the same enthusiastic rush the first time I saw a lanky wide receiver from Mississippi Valley State named Jerry Rice.) Sometimes there’s just no way to ignore the obvious.
Ed Schuyler Jr., the longtime boxing writer for the Associated Press, recalled a time when he, too, was struck by a thunderbolt of recognition. He saw something far beyond the ordinary, he believed it to be real and history was to bear him out.
“We went up to Grossinger’s in the Catskills to watch (WBA lightweight champion) Ken Buchanan train,” Fast Eddie told me of that late-summer day in 1971 when he recognized he was onto something that the rest of the world had yet to learn. “Buchanan wasn’t in the gym yet, but in the ring was this dusky, dark-haired guy. Roberto Duran.
“He was so … so … I don’t know, like an animal. A panther. I just had this sense that this kid was born to fight.”
To that point, Duran, only 20, was 24-0, with 21 knockout victories. Twenty-one of his fights had taken place in his native Panama, the other three in Mexico. And when the force of nature who came to be known as “Hands of Stone” made his American debut in Madison Square Garden on Sept. 13, 1971, against a solid journeyman, Benny Huertas, Schuyler knew his first impression had been correct.
“Duran blew through Huertas in less than a round, and Benny could fight,” Schuyler said. “I remember thinking, `We’re all going to have to watch this guy.’”
Duran fought and won three more times after he destroyed Huertas, all in Panama, before he returned to the Garden on June 26, 1972, to challenge Buchanan for the lightweight title. And when Duran bludgeoned the gritty Scotsman into submission in 13 mostly one-sided rounds, Schuyler’s secret had become public knowledge around the globe. An all-time great had entered out midst.
It remains to be seen whether Manny Pacquiao, whose eighth-round stoppage of the gilded remnants of Oscar De La Hoya stamped him as an international superstar, has the staying power to approach the accomplishments of the legendary Duran. But I can recall my first glimpse of him, when he was an undercard fighter mostly unknown to the U.S. media, making his American debut 7½ years ago at the same venue at which he eventually would take down De La Hoya. And, like Schuyler when he first saw that dusky Panamanian panther, I was enthralled.
It was June 23, 2001, and Pacquiao – whose 32-2 record, with 23 knockout wins, had been compiled nearly exclusively in the Philippines, with the occasional appearance in Japan and Thailand – was making his American debut at the MGM Grand as the challenger to Lehlohonolo Ledwaba, the IBF super bantamweight champion from South Africa. Not that many of us on press row cared one way or the other; most of what we were going to be writing about would be restricted to the main event, in which the hugely popular Oscar De La Hoya would be challenging Spain’s Javier Castillejo, the WBC super welterweight titlist from Spain.
But almost from the opening bell, there was something about Pacquiao that commanded my attention. He moved like a jungle predator and he hit like runaway locomotive. Ledwaba didn’t have a chance. He was stopped in six rounds and the crowd, which had come to see and cheer De La Hoya, buzzed in excitement over the performance of a little Filipino most probably had never heard of before that evening.
I’m not sure if Pacquiao knows much about Walter Payton or Jerry Rice, but when referee Joe Cortez finally pulled him away from the battered Ledwaba, I knew I had another name to add to my short list of athletes to keep track of during their rocketing rises to the top.
The funny thing is, even as I believed that Pacquiao was my private discovery, I wasn’t sure if I could commit to him as totally as did Schuyler to the youthful Duran. Maybe it’s because in checking Pac-Man’s record I noticed that he had been stopped in his only two losses, by guys named Rustico Torrecamp and Medgoen Singsurat, both in three rounds. Did my new object of fascination have a glass jaw? Was I seeing more to him than there really was?
Whatever my doubts, there never was a Pacquiao fight since that night in which I didn’t pick him to win, including his wars with Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez. That’s the way it is with love affairs, right? You feel the zing to the strings of your heart, and your prevailing instinct is to remain faithful.
But then a funny thing happened in the lead-up to De La Hoya-Pacquiao. I began to question myself, to wonder if my crush on the Filipino had somehow begun to ebb. He had turned pro at 106 pounds, for chrissakes! His best performances had come at 122 and 130 pounds! And while it was true that he was superb in lifting David Diaz’s WBC lightweight title earlier this year on a ninth-round stoppage, I convinced myself that Diaz was not so much talented as tough, made-to-order for someone with skills as superior as Pacquiao’s.
When I looked at Oscar, I saw someone who was not only the naturally larger man, but a future Hall of Famer whose decisions on the choice of opponents always were carefully thought-out. De La Hoya had helped make his reputation years earlier by knocking off a succession of capable but smaller opponents who were willing to come up to him in order to secure the big payday he always represented. Wouldn’t the same formula hold true again, even if Oscar had shown signs of slippage in his points nod over Stevie Forbes on May 3?
So I turned my back on Pacquiao, a 2-1 underdog, and picked against him for the first time. Not only would he lose this one, I wrote, he wouldn’t make it to the final bell, as he didn’t in those long-ago throwdowns with Torrecampo and Singsurat, when he tasted De La Hoya’s power.
But Pacquiao’s victory was so absolute that you almost have to wonder if he really is that good, or if Oscar is that far gone. Perhaps it’s a combination of both. Only one thing is certain: as was the case when Roberto Duran’s constituency spread beyond the boundaries of Panama and Ed Schuyler Jr.’s fertile imagination, Manny Pacquiao is no one’s secret anymore. He’ll likely move down to 140 pounds for the Wembley Stadium showdown with England’s Ricky Hatton that would have gone to De La Hoya had he not been sent careening into the retirement EZPass lane.
If De La Hoya really is finished, as Roy Jones Jr. appeared to be in his beatdown by Joe Calzaghe, the list of old reliables is being whittled down fast. Calzaghe is talking retirement. Evander Holyfield, 46, is getting another title shot, against Russian giant Nikolay Valuev, the WBA heavyweight champion, but come on. The gallant Holyfield has been running on empty for how many years now?
Bernard Hopkins, at 43, still has fire in his furnace, as evidenced by his domination of the previously undefeated Kelly Pavlik, but his options appear limited at best. No one really wants to see Jones any more, and Calzaghe has implied that he’d rather undergo an unaesthetized root canal than to grant B-Hop a rematch. Boxing purists might want to see Hopkins swap punches with IBF light heavyweight champ Chad Dawson, but you have to wonder if that fight would be the sort of must-see event that would generate enough dollars to lure the Philadelphian back into the ring.
What it all means is that Manny Pacquiao is now the foremost face of boxing, the man whose every bout is so widely anticipated that he can tote the sport on his back as adroitly as did De La Hoya for so many years. And if he’s not capable of being that guy … what then?
Duran proved that a non-heavyweight from a foreign country, one who barely spoke English, could be a major hit with hard-to-please U.S. fans. But Duran had an advantage that Pacquiao doesn’t; he had Sugar Ray Leonard and Tommy Hearns and Marvin Hagler, among others, to be paired against in megafights. Whether Pacquiao can maintain that kind of popularity is the question everyone involved in boxing is waiting to be answered.
De La Hoya admitted to Pacquiao’s trainer, Freddie Roach, after Saturday’s defeat that “I just don’t have anything left,” but I wonder if he will change his mind after his bruises heal. Fighters such as he are never really convinced that they can’t mount one more comeback.
What De La Hoya-Pacquiao most reminded me of was the Feb. 9, 1991, fight between Sugar Ray Leonard and Terry Norris in Madison Square Garden. A lot of people believed that Leonard was so special that the natural laws of diminishing returns did not apply to him, and that he somehow could summon the old magic one more time. But wishing does not make it so, and Norris retained his WBC super welterweight title by beating the Sugar man silly for all 12 rounds.
Six years later, just two months shy of his 41st birthday, Leonard gave it another try, only to be stopped in five rounds by Hector Camacho.
I hope it doesn’t come to that for De La Hoya, who is too rich and too accomplished to go back in time to try to hook any big ones he believed got away.
As for those who only now are seeing Pacquiao the way I did the night he beat up Ledwaba, hey, join the club. Enjoy the rush while you can.
Puerto Rico’s Juan Manuel Lopez (24-0, 22 KOs) took on Argentine Sergio Medina (33-2), who went to the mat twice in the first half of the round. The fight was halted at the third knockdown, at 1:38 of the first. The crowd booed viciously, as it looked glaringly like Medina came just to collect a paycheck. This was the second defense of the WBO super bantamweight crown for JML. This was another embarrassing matchup, a black mark against Golden Boy, Top Rank and the matchmaker who foisted Medina upon us. His record was built in Argentina, against suspect foes. I reiterate, this is not the way to grow the sport. It is the way to grow the company bottom line in the short term, but not the way to convince a person turning in to his first PPV that they spent their money and time wisely.
Victor Ortiz, touted for giving Oscar fits in his training camp, took on Jeffrey Resto, a former NYC phenom, who is now 31. The 21-year-old Ortiz and the New Yorker both weighed 140 pounds; the California resident Ortiz (24-1) added 14 pounds, Resto (22-3) nine in a day. Resto enjoyed a two inch height advantage. He needed a strong showing, as he’d fought not at all in 2006, once in 2007, and twice already this year. The two lefties started off swiftly. Ortiz started more so. A one-two dropped Resto, who got up with good legs. Or maybe not. A straight left sent him down again. Resto slipped, and went righty, as he tried to exit the first. He did so. In the second, Resto retreated in a straight line, and went down again with 1:49 to go. The ref waved it off when Resto got up at nine, and his body language screamed No Mas. He wiped his left eye, and checked for blood that wasn’t there as he stood up. The official time, of the fight and perhaps Resto’s career, was 1:19 of round two. Another blowout, unsatisfying to the extreme. You could argue that the NABO junior welter champ Ortiz is simply a monster. OK. But then you had to know that the mentally iffy Resto wouldn’t be a suitable foe to give him a truly meaningful tussle. Bad, bad matchmaking. Sorry Eric, sorry Bruce…You guys feel free to write in, and defend yourself, or explain the matches, if you care to. There are always a couple sides to the story, I realize that.
Brooklyn’s Danny Jacobs (13-0 12 KOs) beat Victor Lares (14-3) in the TV opener. The TKO came at 2:44 of the second for “The Golden Child.” He landed 48-155 while the Texan Lares went 7-58. What a crap opener for the card. Boxing powers that be have the opportunity to grow the sport, seduce some new fans to the sweet science. Think they load up the undercard, put on compelling matches from stem to stern? Nope…because market research shows that PPV consumers really only care about the feature bout. That’s their stock answer when you ask them why they have subpar undercards. And you wonder why the sport hasn’t added more than 10,000 new fans a year in the US for the last 10 years…They could’ve spent some of those mega millions they’ll be grossing, put on a few title fights, but noooooo…GUYS, get your act together, if you want to be around for the long term.
Freddie Roach explained to Larry Merchant before the bout that Oscar tapes his hand with packing tape, a heavier tape than he says the commission allows, and also has tape ridges on his hands that could aid his punching power. Also, he said that Oscar has used a plastic guard to protect a balky thumb in the past, but that the commission was alerted to the practice and Oscar wouldn’t be allowed to use it before fighting Pacquiao. God, Freddie is a master at headgames. If he were eligible, I’d be voting for Dedham Fred for BWAA Manager of the Year just off his work going into this bout. Masterful. Masterful enough to really get into Oscar’s head, and make a difference? We shall see in a couple of hours…
Jim Lampley did a fine job, as always, filling time. He makes downtime tolerable, but really, there is no excuse, NO EXCUSE for having so much downtime in a show you are charging $55 for. I imagine Dana White, sitting watching this, and laughing his tail off. Think he’s worrying that boxing is getting its act together, and gearing up to take back some momentum from MMA? NOTE: It’s 10:11 PM, I just texted White. It turns out he was driving to the arena, and missed the undercard “action.” So he wasn’t in fact laughing.
Merchant earned his keep too. He chatted with Angie Dundee to fill time after Ortiz blasted out Resto at 10:15. I am curious to see how all you guys react to this card, apart from the headline scrap. Maybe that'll be an all-time classic, and we'll all forget the undercard debacle. Check that...even if the feature is a neo classic, this undercard will stick around in my mind. PPV standards must be raised, if the sport is to stem the tide of defections to MMA, and reverse the trend of disinterest from those under 30. But I forgot, market research shows that people only care about the feature bout.
If you need mathematical proof of the stunning nature of the upset, here it is: Manny outlanded Oscar, 224-585 to 83-402.
Adalaide Byrd, Stan Christodoulu and Dave Moretti were entrusted with judging duties. Tony Weeks got the nod to referee the non-title match.
The Californian De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs; age 36) weighed 145 pounds Friday, and 147 several hours before the Saturday clash, while the Filipino Pacquiao (48-3, 35 KOs; age 29 3/4) was 142, and then 147.
In the first, Manny landed a straight left and right hook which got the crowd jazzed. Oscar’s four inch height advantage was noticeable from the start. Oscar scored with a left hook to the body, but lost the round after eating six good straight lefts. Oscar couldn’t land the jab on the slippery Pacquiao. Freddie Roach told Manny to stay off the ropes. “be lively, assert yourself, assert your jab,” Nacho Beristain told Oscar.
In the second, Oscar didn’t invest in the jab. His left eye was a bit puffed, too. He did throw lead rights, but nothing too forceful. Manny took the round, not even close. Beristain said to Oscar, “Jab, jab, jab, throw, don’t walk in looking for him, without punching.” Roach liked what Manny was doing, making Oscar miss, making Oscar reach.
In the third, Oscar was still slow, unsure, until the 1:30 mark, when he launched a hook. But his jab was tentative, because he knew a straight left would be forthcoming. The round was closer, as Oscar got a bit busier. Manny had a 57-32 edge in punches landed through the third.
In the fourth, Manny whacked away with the left lead. His defense was superb, and Oscar’s lack of energy was helping the cause. Frankly, Oscar looked shot, done, over. Could he turn the tide? “Your best defense is to throw punches,” Beristain said. “Don’t doubt yourself. He’s just faster, that’s all. If you don’t do anything, it’s four rounds you lost.” Roach said to Manny, “He can’t handle your speed, son.” I’d say so.
In the fifth, Manny circled and pecked away. Oscar plodded forward, but didn’t pull the trigger. Freddie Roach wasn’t lying, was he? He landed a few hooks, but had to hold Manny with his other hand to get a bead on him. Manny took the round, again. “Much better, much better. Left-right-hook to the body,” Beristain said. “Don’t get lazy and play,” Roach counseled.
In the sixth, Oscar’s jab was useless, as he feared the straight left counter, or lead. The distance between the men closed in this round, but Oscar didn’t manage to exploit that.
In the seventh, Oscar ate shot after shot in the corner. He looked like a sparring partner. His face was puffed and he was in danger of getting stopped. Manny was toying with him. The ring doc came in to see if Oscar wanted to continue. “If you don’t throw punches we’re going to end the fight,” Beristain said. The ref told Oscar the same. Manny landed 47-103 punches in the round.
In the eighth, Oscar didn’t answer as he ate shots. He couldn’t and wouldn’t pull the trigger. Oh, he finally did throw a few shots at the 15 second mark, and Pacquiao clapped. PacMan basted Oscar in the corner to end the round. The doctor asked him if he had a headache, wondering if he was concussed. Beristain told him he was stopping it, if Oscar agreed. Oscar did. The Golden Boy had been slain. All hail the new Golden Boy.
After, Oscar gave Manny total props. Pacquiao told Oscar, "You are still my idol." The gracious ODLH said, "No, you are my idol." The sport's premier earner said he would consider retirement, but would not decide on the spot. Oscar told Larry Merchant that Manny was superior, and refused to blame his cut in weight for the effort. "I'm not shocked," he said, "at this stage when you face a great fighter like Manny, then it's almost expected. I worked hard and trained hard but like I told people in the gym it's a whole different story." Will he fight again? "My heart still wants to fight, that's for sure.. but when your physical doesn't respond what can you do, so I have to be smart, I have to think about my future plans."
Check back for Borges' ringside report.
SPEEDBALL MESSED UP! The three anthems took longer than half the fights on the card. In this short attention span society, this pacing and presentation does not work. Will the power brokers see this? Do they care? After all, their revenue streams are still flowing…But for how much longer? When Oscar leaves, this sport is in deeeep doo doo. Floyd coming back will help, though…Then what?
East L.A.’s De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs), a winner of world titles in six weight divisions meets lightweight champion Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs), a Filipino superstar, at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday Dec. 6. The fight will be shown on HBO pay-per-view.
De La Hoya stands five inches taller and has fought in the 160-pound middleweight division. But Pacquiao has captured world titles in the flyweight, junior featherweight, junior lightweight and lightweight divisions.
Can the smaller Pacquiao beat De La Hoya?
Since the Filipino prizefighter erupted into the American consciousness in 2001 with a one-sided beating of South Africa’s Lehlo Ledwaba in Las Vegas for the IBF junior featherweight title, he’s proven to be equal to any challenge so far.
Pacquiao, 29, has combined speed and power in his diminutive size to form a potent fighting machine that has only gotten better the past seven years.
But can he beat De La Hoya?
Since De La Hoya entered into pro boxing he’s captured the junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight, welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight titles with his own combination of polished fighting skills, speed and a deadly left hand.
At 35, the East Los Angeles prizefighter known as the Golden Boy has amassed more money from boxing than any other in the history of the sport, including Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield.
He’s a money making machine and that’s why this fight is happening.
“It's not for the money,” argues Freddie Roach, who trains Pacquiao. “It’s because I think Manny can beat him.”
The Filipino star is poised to make near $20 million. That’s more than all of his previous fights combined. For De La Hoya, it’s just another $20 million dollar payday. But it’s also a welcome fight for the health of the boxing scene and both Golden Boy Promotions and Top Rank, who are promoting the fight.
Experts say that Pacquiao is fighting De La Hoya because “if it makes dollars it makes sense.”
De La Hoya is in a class by himself when it comes to generating money. No other present day boxer commands that kind of box office appeal, whether it’s pro boxing or mixed martial arts. Against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2007 that fight attracted a record 2.2 million pay-per-views.
“Everybody wants to fight my brother,” said Joel De La Hoya, older brother and assistant trainer to Oscar De La Hoya. “They know it means a big payday.”
Others theorize that Pacquiao’s trainer Roach saw that his protégé could easily lose to the other 135-pound lightweights such as WBA titleholder Nate Campbell, former champion Juan Diaz or Joan Guzman. All have the speed and boxing prowess to give anyone problems in the ring, including Pacquiao.
“Nate would have loved to fight Pacquiao,” said John David Jackson, who trains Campbell.
Floyd Mayweather Sr., who recently prepared Great Britain’s Ricky Hatton for his victory over Paul Malignaggi, said Guzman was the perfect fighter to dethrone Pacquiao.
“Guzman would give Pacquiao fits,” said Mayweather.
Still, in the last three years, it’s been Pacquiao who has succeeded in every challenge, including a whitewash over Mexico’s featherweight triumvirate of Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales and Juan Manuel Marquez.
It’s because of these victories and his last knockout win over Chicago’s David Diaz for the lightweight title that some are calling “Pacman” one of the greatest fighters of the current era and possibly capable of doing what no other fighter has accomplished in nearly 30 years.
Duran and Armstrong
Back in 1980, then lightweight Roberto “Hands of Stone” Duran moved up to the welterweight division and beat the seemingly unbeatable Sugar Ray Leonard to capture the welterweight world championship.
Perhaps the greatest feat of all time in pro boxing occurred in the 1930s when Henry Armstrong held the featherweight, lightweight and welterweight championships simultaneously in 1938.
Is Pacquiao another Armstrong?
“I saw a lot of fighters and Henry Armstrong was one of the best of all time, including Muhammad Ali,” said Sun City, California's Bennie Georgino, who saw Armstrong fight many times at the Olympic Auditorium. “He was a perpetual machine and would throw so many punches.”
Armstrong began as a rough and tumble featherweight who would fight anywhere regardless of the opponent. He fought in dozens of fights in the nearby Olympic Auditorium against unknown but extremely tough Mexican fighters.
Pacquiao is an aggressive pressure fighter who is making a jump in weight to prove his mettle against the bigger De La Hoya.
Roach attended De La Hoya’s fight against Steve Forbes and theorized Pacquiao could win a match with the East L.A. boxer.
Forbes, who fought De La Hoya several months ago in May, said that comparing himself to Pacquiao is unwise.
“I’m a slick defensive fighter. Manny Pacquiao is an aggressive fighter who jumps in and out,” said Forbes, who lost by unanimous decision after 10 rounds. “Oscar is too big for him.”
Bob Arum, whose company Top Rank promotes Pacquiao, said in his experience he’s never seen anyone as capable of beating a bigger man.
“I can see Pacquiao beating him to the punch and just punching him at will,” said Arum. “Speed kills and Manny is definitely the faster man.”
If you ask the boxing trainers and fighters, most disagree.
“Oscar is too big, too fast, and he’s just a better fighter,” said Forbes, who has never been knocked out and wasn't dropped by De La Hoya when they fought. “De La Hoya has one of the best jabs I’ve ever seen.”
Roach, who trained De La Hoya for his fight against Mayweather, thinks his former pupil has lost much of his fighting skills.
“He can’t pull the trigger,” said Roach. “Manny will knock out Oscar.”
Many boxing fans are split down the middle on who will win the fight. Las Vegas has De La Hoya tabbed as a slight 2-1 favorite.
Georgino, who has managed many world champions in the past, including Danny “Little Red” Lopez, Jaime Garza and Alberto Davila, said there are many factors to consider.
“There has never been a good small guy that could beat a good big man, but De La Hoya has been around a little bit. It’s pretty hard to say who,” Georgino said. “There is the weight situation. That will be a big difference. If this guy is smart enough to not stand in front, then he stands a chance. But if De La Hoya catches up to him he will be in trouble.”
Can Pacquiao be that good little man that can beat the good big man?
De La Hoya said it’s a motivating factor.
“I’m oozing with motivation, that’s for sure,” De La Hoya said.
It would not seem this is the best of economic times to be trying to make such a sale but Arum sees it just the opposite.
“I think this economy is going to help the fight!’’ Arum said passionately. “In this economy people don’t go out. They stay home. The average pay-per-view fight sells to a group of eight people. So if they buy De La Hoya-Pacquiao it’s cheaper than the eight of them going out to the movies for $10 a piece.
“I think this is a good situation for this fight. It’s a marquee fight at a time when people are going to be home. That’s why it’s tracking so well.’’
How well remains to be seen. When De La Hoya fought Floyd Mayweather, Jr. a year ago their fight shattered all pay-per-view records, doing more than two million buys. Not even Arum is ready to predict that record will be challenged but while some industry insiders are reluctant to predict the fight will reach one million paying homes, Arum insisted it should do in excess of that.
But then again he’s not only a promoter but the one who once said in answer to a question pointing out a contradiction, “Yesterday I was lying. Today I’m telling the truth.’’
Among those on hand at the IBA Gym yesterday watching Manny Pacquiao being put through his paces by trainer Freddie Roach was former undisputed heavyweight champion Mike Tyson.
Once the center of a seemingly endless string of public storms, Tyson appeared a quiet and forlorn figure yesterday as he watched Pacquiao working in the middle of the day.
He stood off to the side, looking loose-bellied and far from in the fighting shape that had once terrorized so many heavyweight challengers.
Roach, who trained him for a time, came over to say hello and inquired into what he was doing these days.
“Nothing really,’’ Tyson said with characteristic honestly.
The bulk of the talk the past few days has centered on the size advantage De La Hoya seems to have against his far smaller opponent. Of all those speculating on whether De La Hoya will have superior punching power and hence be dominant, perhaps the man in the best position to know is De La Hoya’s conquorer and business partner, Bernard Hopkins.
Hopkins is the only man to stop De La Hoya, dropping him with a body shot several years ago in the ninth round of their middleweight title fight. After that night De La Hoya returned to 154 pounds and has stayed there until agreeing to come down to the 147-pound welterweight limit to entice Pacquiao into what Hopkins feels will be a similar physical mismatch to the one he and De La Hoya engaged in.
“It will take him a few rounds,’’ Hopkins said of De La Hoya, “but around the fifth or sixth round a shift will happen. That’s when Oscar is going to make Pacquiao change his style and his thinking.’’
It is no accident that that was about the time Hopkins began to close the gap on De La Hoya, finally moving more boldly on his smaller opponent and asserting his will. Hopkins believes the pattern will be much the same Saturday night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
At first Pacquiao’s speed will negate De La Hoya’s physical advantages but, Hopkins feels, as the rounds drag on and De La Hoya’s superior strength and punching power surface, Manny Pacquiao will begin to understand why people have long said a good big man beats a good little man.
“Oscar’s going to take a couple of rounds to settle in. The first few rounds are going to be speed, speed, speed. They got to establish who’s going to be on offense and who’s going to be on defense. I don’t think Manny’s going to be on offense.’’
If he’s not, then he isn’t going to be winning the fight, either. At least not in Hopkins’ opinion because he has little regard for Pacquiao’s defense.
Always aggressive, Pacquiao does often leave himself open and vulnerable in an effort to be constantly on the offensive. But as Hopkins points out, every time you go on offense you also open up your defense.
“Manny’s got a loosey-goosey defense. He’s all offense. He’ll pay for that. It’s going to be a bad year for Top Rank (Arum’s promotional company which handles both Pacquiao and Kelly Pavlik the middleweight champion Hopkins beat badly a month and a half ago.)”
De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KO) retains an unusual hold on boxing fans. Unlike most of his contemporaries it does not even seem to matter any more if he wins or not. His fans remain.
Arguably, De La Hoya has lost all of the five biggest fights of his career – by stoppage to Hopkins and points losses to Shane Mosley (twice), Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Felix Trinidad. Yet somehow his popularity has remained unaffected.
One man who is not surprised by that is rival promoter Don King, who will not be in attendance but who will be paying attention to the outcome with a professional eye.
“He was a hero of the Olympics and he’s a personable guy,’’ King said of De La Hoya. “So it don’t surprise me that he’s still a big draw.
“Every now and then he comes away with a victory but he’s got a loyal fan base where victory don’t matter. Usually you got to win those big fights but times and conditions change. Expectations change. Used to be with the networks if you lose they would not give you another date.
“Boxing is the only sport where if you lose they throw you in the incinerator. You can see teams lose eight, nine, 10 in a row. They still go. But boxing is a unique business. You don’t win you out according to them. But not with Oscar. His fans are loyal.’’
Thursday trainers Freddie Roach and Nacho Beristain, who will handle Pacquiao and De La Hoya respectively Saturday night, gathered in the media center at the MGM Thursday for a trainer’s round table to discuss the fight.
They didn’t sit at the same table.
There is no love lost between these two for some reason, Beristain taking offense that Roach claims he knows De La Hoya well after only working with him for one fight and Roach still bristling at Beristain’s unsportsmanlike reaction to Pacquiao’s close points victory over Juan Manuel Marquez, whom Beristain also trains, earlier this year.
Marquez, who is part of De La Hoya’s stable at Golden Boy Promotions, made clear yesterday during an appearance in the media center that Roach isn’t the only one who hasn’t gotten over the outcome of the second fight with Pacquiao.
“Officially I lost the fight to Pacquiao but the people know who won,’’ said Marquez, who is anxiously seeking a third fight with Pacquiao after losing a split decision and fighting him to a draw in their first two meetings.
“After they stole the win from me against Pacquaio I moved on. Beating Joel Casamayor was a big victory.’’
Marquez is among those Mexcian champions who are backing De La Hoya. Although he’d rather be backing himself in a rubber match with Pacquiao Marquez insisted that “I have other options.’’
Roach worked De La Hoya’s corner a year ago against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and thus had intimate knowledge of how Joe Chavez had been taping De La Hoya’s hands over the years and claimed he illegally put tape directly on his skin and also taped in a way between his fingers that raised small ridges around the knuckles that could not only be felt through the gloves but would create a higher likelihood of his fighter, Manny Pacquiao, being cut.
Roach also claimed Chavez used tape two inches wide on De La Hoya’s hands that would bunch up and create a ridge line along the knuckles that was both lethal and illegal.
After a heated meeting with executive director Keith Kizer and several members of the commission staff while lawyers from both camps hovered on the periphery waiting to find some way to charge a fee, the commission ruled De La Hoya could tape his hands as always with the exception of having to cut the two-inch wide tape in half.
“It’s not legal to tape that way in Nevada,’’ Roach insisted but the ruling went against him.
Pacquiao came in well below the welterweight limit yesterday at 142 pounds, but then again so did Oscar De La Hoya, who weighed 145. That is the lowest De La Hoya has been in 11 years. On Jan. 18, 1997, De La Hoya weighed 140 pounds for his fight with Miguel Angel Gonzalez. Whether that means anything or not no one will know until late tomorrow night but Roach seemed to feel it was a sign that De La Hoya may have over trained.
At least he felt that way until he began to think about his fighter coming in at 142.
“I was a little surprised by that,’’ Roach admitted. “That was a little light. But Oscar came in light too. I don’t want to imply anything was going on with the scales but maybe they weren’t calibrated right. At the end of the day, my guy was light but so was Oscar.’’
Weight is not really the issue however. The real issue will be reach, general stature and strength and Pacquiao’s fighting style, which is all about aggression. Normally that has worked to his advantage but that may not be the case Saturday night in the opinion of one man who knows a bit about aggression and the value of being the bigger man.
That is a lesson Bernard Hopkins taught to not only De La Hoya, who he stopped in nine rounds, but also to Felix Trinidad and Kelly Pavlik.
“Pacquiao is going to fight his typical fight,’’ Hopkins said. “That’s Oscar’s style. That’s made for him. If you know a guy’s coming to rob your house, you don’t go outside. No need to chase the burglar.
“You just load up the shotgun, sit in the rocker and wait for him.’’
Bad blood seemed to boil over yesterday when World Boxing Council president Jose Sulaiman arrived in the media center at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in a wheel chair and he ran into Bob Arum, the promoter of Manny Pacquiao.
Arum and Sulaiman have had many dealings over the years, some good and many not so good but their relationship hit a new low when Sulaiman reportedly tried to jam Pacquiao for a “sanctioning fee’’ for Saturday night’s showdown with Oscar De La Hoya even though no WBC title was on the line. When Pacquiao’s people refused, the WBC made menacing noise about stripping the lightweight champion of their title but eventually thought better of it.
Such extortion efforts are not quickly forgotten however. Earlier in the week Sulaiman had called Arum’s office to inform him he was coming to Las Vegas for the fight. When Arum asked why he was telling him Sulaiman was stumped for an answer.
Unabashed, Sulaiman called to Arum Friday afternoon as the 77-year-old promoter was walking past him, asking why he hadn’t stopped to say hello.
Never one to miss an opportunity, Arum said, “I got to go to the toilet.’’
End of conversation.
The weigh-in was televised on ESPN and held up nearly 15 minutes while the fighters and a crowd of around 3,000 inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena waited for the leader in sports programming to find an opening in their programming to televise two men step on the scales in their underwear.
Before they did, former middleweight and light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins, who stopped De La Hoya in a similar size mismatch several years ago, took the microphone to assure the crowd split evenly between Mexican and Filipino fans that, “Oscar De La Hoya will win this fight.’’
Hopkins also promised a knockout and then suggested the following to those Pacquiao fans who were hollering at him: “Anybody got a problem with that I’ll be outside.’’
No one followed him after he left.
As Hopkins stood in the background on the stage, comedian George Lopez kept insulting Arum, who promotes Pacquiao, until he could finally find a way to get Hopkins involved as well as insulting him at the same time.
“Bernard!’’ Lopez hollered at the 43-year-old Hopkins. “Kick Bob Arum’s ass. He’s 78.’’
Then he turned to Arum and remarked, “Bob, fight him for a new hip.’’
Tomorrow’s semi-main event will be a real coming out party for young prospect Victor Ortiz, known around Golden Boy Promotions as the “Golden Child,’’ because he’s widely perceived to be the future of De La Hoya’s promotional company.
He will face Jeffrey Resto (22-2, 13 KO) in the semi-main event, his first. Vicious Victor, as he’s known, intends to set the stage for a big win for De La Hoya but Resto has other ideas.
“Victor’s in for a big surprise,’’ Resto said. “I quit my job to train for this fight.’’
On Saturday night, if l’il Manny Pacquaio, who will be outweighed by a good dozen pounds when the bell rings at the MGM Grand, manages to take out Oscar De La Hoya, his upset win would surpass all others in the Boxing Year 2008. Is this likely? Pundits, and vocal share of derisive fight fans, think Oscar will win handily. Too big, too strong, too much reach and height for The Golden Boy. TSS has been surprised at the vehemence of fans writing in, wondering why this “Dream” match has been made, or more accurately, skewering the bout as nothing more than a cynical cash grab by the promoters and participants. They see it as a novelty pairing, something along the lines of an Evil Knievel bus jump.
But what if Pacquaio (47-3-2, 35 KOs, enjoying an eight fight win streak) manages to make Oscar (39-5, 30 KOs, 3-3 in his last six outings, 2-3 if you give Sturm the nod in their 2004 tussle) look every hour of his 35 ¾ years, and uses his handspeed edge to do the unthinkable?
What if that weight disparity is erased by a motivation edge? Manny does after all have a nation of 90 million at his back, lifting him up, serving as a catalyst to endure when the larger man’s left hooks are banging off his skull, rattling him, and making him yearn for the relative comfort of the lightweight division.
What if his southpaw stance throws Oscar off his game; that’s not a spectacular reach, since the last time ODLH met a lefty in a real scrap was back in 1997 (Hector Camacho).
Here’s how Team TSS sees the Saturday beef playing out. RON BORGES I predict De La Hoya TKO 7. Pacquiao's speed will be a problem early and there will be moments when it looks like he is in command of the fight. But each round De La Hoya will close the gap on him until and Pacquiao will not be able to resist the temptation to throw down. When he does it one time to many, he’ll go down. BERNARD FERNANDEZ Oscar's resume is full of victories over very good but smaller fighters who have come up a weight class for the big payday that he always represents. As terrific as Manny is, he's coming up two weight classes -- and maybe even three, if you think about it. Oscar by late-round stoppage. RALPH GONZALEZ Oscar will win by decision in twelve rounds with Manny winning three of those rounds. Both men will have their moments and end up pretty lumped up. Oscar has definitely faded but the weight difference will prove too much. Any way you look at it, it's a silly fight for Pac Maniacs and hard core Oscar De La Hoya fans. RONAN KEENAN Judging by recent workouts, Pacquiao seems to be carrying the additional weight well, looking strong yet lean. Conversely, De La Hoya may be struggling to get to 147, and judging by his lackluster performance versus Steve Forbes, shedding those extra pounds could damage him. If Forbes can crack Oscar's cheekbone then Manny should be able to bust him up too, but I expect De La Hoya to use his reach and catch Pacquiao with enough power shots to take a competitive decision.
MIKE LYNCH Count me among the group that considered this bout a farce when it was first announced. The idea of Pacquiao jumping up 2 (or 3) weight classes to challenge an aging man that hadn't seen 147 pounds on the scale in 7 years did not particularly appeal to me. But as the fight approaches, I can't help but be intrigued. Part of what actually makes this fight work (in the build-up at least) is that the 147 lbs issue makes for a great debate. Which fighter is more negatively impacted? I'm banking on the older man, Oscar, having a more difficult time adapting. It's easy to imagine De La Hoya cruising to an easy win over the smaller Pacquiao and 147 isn't too radically different from 150. However, I'd prefer to imagine the younger, hungrier, more aggressive Pacquiao showing up stronger than ever and pulling off the upset. Give me Pacman by any means necessary. And give me a rebate if DLH wins a snoozer.
RAYMOND MARKARIAN This fight will go one of two ways, a De la Hoya win by knockout or a Pacquiao victory by decision. Do not believe the hype, De la Hoya will not get stopped by the smaller man. Even though the Golden Boy is long on the tooth, he has still taken a much stronger punch than Pacquiao will throw at him on Saturday night. For instance, De la Hoya withstood the punches of Shane Mosley and Tito Trinidad at 147 when the Golden Boy was much more hungry, younger, and faster than he is today. The problem for Oscar is that he has trouble with the smaller quick guys, like Whitaker and Mayweather; therefore I think Pacquiao will have the edge. In retrospect, since the Ike Quartey fight, De la Hoya has only won one big fight and that was against Fernando Vargas in 2002, a slow methodical type of boxer. Pacquiao is fierce and relentless. Nothing against Oscar De la Hoya, I’d hate to see him retire, but it is just Manny Pacquiao’s time. Manny Pacquiao by close decision. JOHN NGUYEN Those who think this will be a mismatch are wrong. Manny's speed and aggressiveness will definitely bother Oscar. If little Stevie Forbes could mark him up, Manny will do damage. However, this will ultimately come down to styles. Oscar has never really had problems with fighters who come straight at him. He's always been bothered by slick, clever technicians (Hopkins, Mosley, Mayweather), descriptions that have never been applied to always forward-rushing Pacquiao. On the other hand, Manny has been proven vulnerable against boxer/punchers who know how to manage the pace of a fight (see first fight with Morales and both fights against Marquez). Factor in the bad style matchup with the size advantage, and the edge has to go to Oscar. I love Manny, but I have to lean toward De La Hoya by late-stoppage or close, unanimous decision in an exciting, competitive fight. MICHAEL WOODS Got to go with the pack here. Oscar will be much bigger than PacMan on Saturday. The only thing I wonder is, how much energy will ODLH have in Vegas after paring down that weight, and keeping at around 150? He’s a tall man, and wasn’t able to eat more than 2400 calories a day, so it’s possible Manny pulls off a mad upset on a depleted Golden Boy. Possible, I say, not close to probable. I foresee Manny being effective early, in the first two rounds, and after Oscar feels his power--or lack thereof--he will advance on the Filipino with impunity, and start to crack him with hooks. ODLH will be eating straight rights, sharp ones that will impress the crowd, and they will puff his face up some. Oscar will bang with the jab, and be frustrated that he gets countered with that straight right. He will get PO’d, and swarm on Pacquiao, rough him up, use his bulk advantage. Oscar’s face will look the worse for wear at the end of the night, but he will take the decision, and I see Manny hitting the deck once enroute. The difficulty ODLH has with the smaller man will have pundits like yours truly wondering if he should even bother gloving up anymore. PHIL WOOLEVER Getting PacMan at 2-1 odds isn't the worst bet you could make, especially after Oscar's uninspiring performance versus Forbes, possible weight loss issues, and how good Manny looked moving up versus Diaz. Still, I've learned to trust casino handicappers. If Oscar the businessman is thinking big buck legacy and Hatton in a soccer stadium, think De la Hoya - Gatti, but it will most likely be the Golden Boy by 5 or 6 points.
OK, the writers have had their say. Now it’s your time, TSS Universe. How will it go down in Vegas? Will David slay Goliath? Or will we see a gruesome mismatch? Weigh in!