Next time you feel like slamming Oscar De La Hoya, remember Sept. 18, 2004. Write the date down. Put it to memory. Stick it on your bedroom wall where it's easy to see and read, a quiet reminder that the Golden Boy suddenly believes he's a Man of Steel.

Barring a relapse, it's the day the fight game is expected to be resurrected from the dead.

What De La Hoya is doing to bring the sport back to life is agreeing to put his reputation, his health and his franchise smile on the line. He recently cocked his hat back, rolled up his sleeves, drew a line in the dirt and said he's ready to call out the Big Cheese.

He didn't kick sand in his face, didn't call him any names and didn't poke fun at his dog. But he might as well have.

Picking a fight with middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins is like asking Freddy Krueger to show you his scars. It's volunteering to jump off a cliff, requesting that your root canal take twice as long as planned.

“Hey Doc, forget the Novocain. And could you drag this thing out a little?”

Hopkins is to the fight game what Atilla the Hun was to plundering. No one pillaged better than Atilla, and no one beats up guys better than Bernard. He's defended his title 17 times, an impressive number when you figure the average life span of a world championship seems to be somewhere between now and your next fight.

Seventeen times. That's not a typo, it's history.

De La Hoya and Hopkins are tentatively scheduled to meet Sept. 18 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas for Hopkins' fancy belt collection. It could be the biggest fight in pay-per-view history, and they have seven months to promote it to the world.

It should be an easy sell.

Of course, there is one small hurdle that needs to be jumped. Both Hopkins and De La Hoya have scheduled appointments for June 5. They will share the same stage and spotlight that night at the MGM Grand when Oscar fights WBO middleweight champ Felix Sturm of Germany and Hopkins takes on top contender Robert Allen.

Sturm and Allen aren't considered deal busters. They are secondary players shoved into the fight world's background, minor details written in small print on the bottom of the contract.

June 5 is a scrimmage before the big game on Sept. 18. It's a practice round before you tee it up for the club championship.

It's putting all your eggs in two baskets and hoping no one trips and spills them. Even a cut over the eye of either Oscar or Hopkins would ruin the big plans.

Sturm and Allen probably aren't too concerned with the lack of respect. They're both getting great exposure and both are making some big money. And if Hopkins and De La Hoya look too far ahead, well, it's to Sturm and Allen's advantage.

Still, something feels wrong about the whole deal. It's showing a lack of respect to the fighters who have earned the right to fight for the championship of the world (Allen) or – in the case of Sturm – to beat one of the most popular fighters of our time.

It's the biggest fight of their lives and everyone is talking about Sept. 16.

Maybe it's just that De La Hoya and Hopkins are that good.

We used to think Mike Tyson was that good until he went to Tokyo, Japan.