The De La Hoya – Hopkins super-fight on September 18 carries with it all the ingredients of a legendary confrontation, with one unusual twist. The underdog is also the favourite.
Given his size, strength and ring generalship, there should be no contemplation of Hopkins losing to De La Hoya, but there is. The manner in which Hopkins exposed the great Felix Trinidad as a one-dimensional fighter and strategically took him to school must send shivers down the backs of all of De La Hoya’s supporters. Especially since Trinidad had their hero on the brink of a knockout – had he not chosen to run the last few rounds of their fight.
The fact remains, however, Oscar De La Hoya is the Golden Boy and in every Hollywood script penned he would be victorious over the “Executioner”. He is the handsome hero who rises above the sullied reputation of boxing. He fights for everyman. One flash of that smile and the world seems a better place. Even if the odds are against him, and maybe even more so because they are, he is the favourite to win. He is a symbolic champion for many and because of that, a victory for De La Hoya means a whole lot more than another line in the history books.
For all Hopkins’ talents, abilities and achievements, he cannot compete with the popularity of the golden one. Then again, there isn’t anybody out there who can. If De La Hoya was a heavyweight he would probably even transcend “the greatest one,” Muhammad Ali himself. There’s been a lot of talk about this one not going the distance from both camps. Pending on strategy, it could theoretically end by knockout either way.
A big question, which will determine the outcome of this fight, more so than anything De La Hoya does, is whether at 39 Hopkins can still get up for the fight. He was cautious in his last outing, but I would wager a guess that he won’t be able to raise his game more than 5%. De La Hoya, on the other hand, could realistically raise his game by 20%. Given his current condition, compared to the Sturm fight, he’s already up 10%. While they are both legends in their own rights, in truth neither have anything to prove and a loss would not hurt either boxer’s standing. A victory would of course enhance it.
A victory for De La Hoya would be highly proclaimed and perhaps a great high for the man to hang up his gloves, although temptation to stick around for the Trinidad rematch would be a strong motivator. A victory by Hopkins, on the other hand, would be great for his reputation, but Shane Mosley did it twice and didn’t get much mileage out of it, so why would anything be different this time round?
De La Hoya’s venture into reality TV may be an ironic one as this fight will definitely be a reality check for him. He still has the guns, and while he admitted to have been out of shape in the Sturm fight, he also had that look in his eyes a fighter gets when he starts wondering what he’s still doing in the ring. I would give Hopkins the edge to win on a late round knockout – against the flow of the fight. But if De La Hoya can pull this one off, hats off to him.