The fighter napping inside Oscar De La Hoya appears to have been rudely awakened from a 30-month slumber by a wild man poking him with a stick.
Maybe that’s why De La Hoya sounded a little puzzled on a recent conference call. He can’t figure out this Ricardo “El Crazy” Mayorga fellow, who is just a stunt or two short of a long stay in the loony bin.
“He got under my skin,” De La Hoya said. “But he didn’t get in my head.”
There’s an important difference there. It means De La Hoya is motivated, but not psyched out.
“No, I don’t hate him,” De La Hoya said. “I don’t even know the guy.”
That’s the kicker. De La Hoya doesn‘t know why Mayorga suddenly went off on him when they first shook hands, insulting De La Hoya’s family and heritage.
If it was a carefully conceived plot to get De La Hoya’s mind off his training for their WBC super-welterweight title fight May 6 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (HBO, pay-per-view), it doesn’t appear to have worked. But after listening to Mayorga’s ranting and raving, you begin to think it’s not a trick, it’s just Mayorga being Mayorga. Maybe it’s his own personal way of getting psyched up for the fight.
“When we first met (at an HBO filming to promote their fight), we shook hands and everything,” De La Hoya said. “And then all of a sudden, he like flipped. It was weird. He started revving himself up, saying he was going to knock me out and all this and that, and I was like, whoa, this guy has some problems.”
De La Hoya (37-4, 29 KOs) said when they started shooting the commercial, Mayorga (28-5-1, 23 KOs) slapped him across the head.
“Show some respect,” De La Hoya said.
Name calling and insults are part of the fight game, a way to do a little mental manipulating of a guy’s fragile fight plan. You can call him an idiot, a sissy or a pretender. You can shove him at the press conference, flip him the bird at the weigh-in and spit at his trainer. You can question his manhood, kick his dog or laugh at his clothes. But you leave his family out of it. Kids, wives, mothers. they’re untouchables. Or should be.
Which is the line Mayorga crossed, hinting that he’d like to spend some quality time with De La Hoya‘s wife in exchange for his WBC title belt.
“It’s motivation that gets me going,” De La Hoya said. “And Mayorga has sparked that in me. He lit that fire in my belly, and I‘m full speed ahead. I know it will be a tough fight. He can take a punch and he hits hard.
“I want to teach this guy a lesson really bad. It’s going to be one long night for him.”
For De La Hoya, the fight is a trip into his past. He’s fighting again at 154 pounds, down from the middleweight class where he lost to Bernard Hopkins. He expects to weigh-in at 151 or 152 pounds next Friday.
“That’s where I belong,” he said.
If De La Hoya beats Mayorga, he has a farewell megafight planned for Sept. 16, when he’d like to fight Winky Wright, Felix Trinidad or Floyd Mayweather Jr.
If the fight with Mayorga is close and there is enough of a demand for a rematch, he’d consider a second fight with Mayorga on that date.
“If everything goes well, come Sept. 16, I will lace up the gloves for the last time and hopefully retire as champion,” he said. “I’ll be very content with my career and what I’ve done.”
The Sept. 16 date was picked because De La Hoya has had some of his biggest matches in the middle of September, including fights against Julio Cesar Chavez, Trinidad, Shane Mosley and Fernando Vargas.
But Mayorga could be a party crasher.
“This fighter is going to make me so aware and keep me on my toes and make me fight as hard as I can,” De La Hoya said. “He’s going to bring out the best in me, which I‘m looking forward to.”
How was your nap?