With the mega-fight between the “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya and Ricardo “El Matador” Mayorga just a few sleeps away, here is a breakdown of the fighters and a look at how I think things may play out in the ring.
First off, I do think that Mayorga has been successful in getting under the skin of De la Hoya, and while that may be a mental victory for him, I believe it will work against the Nicaraguan. When Oscar is focused on the task at hand he is one of the most superior boxers we have seen in recent years. If Oscar had been distracted by his business endeavors outside the ring it could have been a detriment coming into this bout. Mayorga, however, has done the “Golden Boy” a favor by getting his attention on the fight, and keeping it there. I truly feel that Oscar has a genuine dislike for Mayorga now for the disrespect he has shown, for getting personal and crossing the line between traditional trash-talk and insulting a man and his family. Mayorga’s verbal diarrhea may actually be more for his own benefit in that he may need that type of energy going to be at his best.
Secondly, I think that this should be the last pro bout in the great career of Oscar De La Hoya if he wins this fight – not necessarily that it will be. There has been talk of a bout in mid-September as his final pro fight but Oscar has also maintained that he wanted to leave on a winning note and as champion. Should he win on Saturday he becomes champion and I don’t know why he would risk it all once more later this year. Right now De La Hoya may be training as if it is the most important bout of his career, and his legacy may depend on it. The California native has lost two of his past three fights and can’t afford to go 1 out of 4. Mayorga is the type of fighter Oscar is supposed to beat – if a “boxer” beats a “puncher” as our forefathers have taught us, then De La Hoya should beat Mayorga every time. If successful against the WBC Junior Middleweight champion on Saturday night in Las Vegas, Oscar will be able to leave the sport on a winning note, and as a champion, if he decided to make an exit.
Ricardo Mayorga (28-5-1, 23 KOs – 1 No Contest)
If “heavy-handed free swinger” is a “style” then that is what Mayorga is. Neither “boxer” nor “puncher” adequately sum up the way Mayorga has been able to win 28 of 35 bouts and stop 23 of those opponents. With shots that come from every angle, he steps up the tee, addresses the ball and brings out his Driver every time as if there is no other club in his bag, around the green he hits it as hard as he does from the fairway and there is no gray area in between the two. As tough as they come and undisciplined to go with along it, his unpredictability and power become allies. Being strong willed and hard headed – and I’m not just referring to merely being stubborn here, the guy has a chin of granite – allow the 32-year-old to throw caution, and defense, out the window. Psychologically he was able to get inside the head of Vernon Forrest and then took his chin. In their first bout in 2003, he rocked the technically superior Forrest and then drew him into a brawl that only Mayorga could, and did, win. Forrest allowed Mayorga to dictate the style of the fight – a slugfest for three rounds – and the rematch saw “The Viper” outbox Mayorga but lose on the cards as the judges favored the stalking pace of “El Matador” with Don King at his back.
Mayorga was overmatched and outgunned against Felix “Tito” Trinidad in 2004 when he succumbed to a measured attack that saw the Managua native stopped in the eighth round of a fight he was never in. Trinidad broke him down head and body like nobody had. Prior to that, Cory Spinks put the jinx on Mayorga in their welterweight title bout in December 2003 using slick boxing skills to frustrate the mad bomber. Spinks doesn’t have the pop to keep anyone off him, yet his ability to box-and-move, coupled with Mayorga’s lack of discipline and fouling, paved the way to victory.
Oscar De La Hoya (37-4-0, 29 KOs)
A classic “boxer-puncher,” De La Hoya has possessed one of the most accurate left hooks in recent memory and the precision with which he throws it adds to its power. Not a particularly huge hitter, Oscar finds the mark and puts combinations together as if he had been doing so since the womb. He is basically a stand-up fighter that uses solid movement and patience to stalk or counter his enemy. Intelligent and experienced, Oscar has been able to rip opponents with his left jab to set up searing rights down the pipe and the wicked hooks that flow off of it.
Most recently, if you consider his last bout in September of 2004 as “recent”, De La Hoya was halted in the ninth round by middleweight king Bernard Hopkins. A nasty left hook to the ribs stopped Oscar in his tracks as he went down from the well-placed shot to the liver. He was on the short end of two bouts with “Sugar” Shane Mosley and lost a controversial majority decision to Trinidad in 1999. In that bout, De L Hoya gave away the last few rounds and lost the fight as a result, he thought the bout was in the bag, when they read the decision he learned that it wasn’t.
In addition to battling the stubborn strong fighter in the opposite corner, Oscar De La Hoya will also have to shake off 20-months of ring rust. Early in the fight Mayorga will be most dangerous, and De La Hoya is likely to be his most susceptible. Once the pattern of the fight develops however, expect Mayorga to stalk his opponent winging wild overhand rights followed by left hooks that start from his hip pocket. Oscar should see those bombs coming well in advance, step inside and beat Mayorga to the punch in between hammering his left jab down the middle and hooking off of it at a distance. Facing an opponent with a chin of granite and a rock-hard head, De La Hoya would be wise to follow the lead set by Trinidad and work diligently downstairs to take some steam out the cigarette smoking, beer swilling Mayorga. However, several times in his career De La Hoya has made fights more difficult than they had to be by turning to a brawler and trading leather rather than use his superior boxing ability.
Against a crude banger with a solid set of whiskers the “Golden Boy” will pile up style points after weathering the early Mayorga “bum-rush” that is likely to come even before the bell officially sounds. A few point deductions for hitting behind the head and after the break would be no surprise as “El Matador” becomes continually frustrated from missing his mark and tasting leather for his empty-handed efforts. As the fight wears on and Mayorga tires I look for De La Hoya to back up his opponent with textbook 1-2-3’s until the bell sounds the end of a fight that turns one-sided after the sixth round.
Both inside and outside of the ring Mayorga is all “Bull” and very little part “Matador”.
Feeling the magnitude of the moment I expect Oscar De La Hoya to put on a solid boxing display interrupted by just a few tense moments. Despite the bad sentiment felt for his opponent, Oscar De La Hoya will do what it takes to win, because in the end, only to the victor go the spoils.