Oscar De La Hoya ain’t like most fighters.
Maybe it’s his nature, or maybe nature’s blessings, but De La Hoya looks to retire from competition with a bigger pile of paydirt and more profitable wits intact than any fighter in history. From Olympic politics to promotional piggies, he’s just about seen it all.
Not, maybe or maybe not, if Ricardo Mayorga has anything to say about it.
De La Hoya had already dealt with plenty of scuffling from Mayorga, in everything from curses and insulting mind games to blind side head slaps. Now, in a last minute tantrum, Mayorga pulled another shift in his bait, switch, and swat. Addressing the final pre-fight press conference assembly in an MGM theatre, Mayorga threatened to pull out of the contest if his purse wasn’t increased.
It didn’t look like the scheduled defending WBC super welterweight titlist was kidding. Co-promoter Don King, less vocal than usual, did not look amused.
It became clearer what back stage business bickering caused a delay of over ninety minutes.
For De La Hoya, it was another of the many scenes to unfold in his expanding empire, a process that has lead to the summit of the sport, inside the strands and out. Anyone who hasn’t noticed Oscar’s personal growth in recent years hasn’t been looking, clearly.
“Nothing is going to change my focus on this fight,” assured an unruffled De La Hoya. “I know this fight is going to happen. I feel completely ready, very fast and very strong. It’s a matter of mental preparation.”
In the final hours before the match, De La Hoya appeared light years ahead in the psyche department, but he knows it could all be another ruse. He also seems to understand that it can always be his turn to get old in the ring.
De La Hoya and his Golden Boy team kept the promotional show on track and deferred complications regarding his rival as the other side’s affair. In fact, Mayorga had actually approached De La Hoya to apologize for cheap shots and see if Oscar might be willing to share the wealth. Mayorga claimed Felix Trinidad got “all the money” when they met.
De La Hoya listened but kept a distance, saying later the scene was “unbelievable.”
It should lead De La Hoya to believe in the strategy of staying away from the trenches until a desperate Mayorga unravels. For a while, the over under on that mental proposition became a line on the first bell.
For all the attention centered around the upcoming rumble, a lot of folks had already looked past Saturday night’s result, in win or lose scenarios for either guy and their prospective opponents.
Mayorga and De La Hoya should both have their gloved hands full for at least a few frames, so better to concentrate on the task immediately ahead.
Both men claimed to be in special training mode. De La Hoya spoke of how his adopted hometown Guaynabo digs made ab sculpting more comfortable. Mayorga said he stayed off the suds and only puffed a couple butts a day.
That number may go up in the ring as Mayorga, not known as a particularly fouling fighter, has already shown he’ll probably use any tactic necessary in his most important fight.
De La Hoya opened around a three to one betting favorite, but many knowledgeable observers pointed to possible problems for the challenger, coming in as a top-shelf-life unknown commodity after being stopped by Bernard Hopkins in 2004.
The biggest problem for De La Hoya will be taming Mayorga’s wild charges with enough sting to deter the frenzied Nicaraguan’s version of a bum’s rush. Trinidad had a few rough moments against Mayorga’s determination, chin, and juevos. Things could get mighty interesting if Mayorga controls the early tempo without tiring.
If the underlying aura of similarity between De La Hoya-Mayorga and the first Roberto Duran-Sugar Ray Leonard fight becomes a tangible plot line, this could be the Fight of the Year.
It could also quickly degenerate into another clip for the low-light reel of boxing debacles.
Most likely, it will add to the recent streak of Vegas big fights. Plenty of action, plenty of controversy. Either way, Mayorga played his part to the hilt. How much is hype and how much is hate is a blur of press conference chaos and curses.
“This guy has some serious problems,” De La Hoya said previously. “He disrespected me and he’s disrespected boxing. I thought about it for a long time before I picked him as my opponent. I knew he’d get me revved up. He’s the type fighter to come straight to me. I’m positive I’ll stay in front of him and exchange. This is my chance to retire as a champion.”
“Oscar’s biggest challenge is going to be stick to the game plan and pick him apart,” said trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. “It’s going to be very tempting to go toe-to-toe early.”
It’s about a 60-40 chance the fight ends early. The odds on who’s likely to score a stoppage tilt the equation slightly Mayorga’s way, with the implication that if he gets inside with damage it will be early. There’s almost an equal chance De La Hoya could tear up Mayorga with counter flurries the same way he did against Julio Cesar Chavez, for who Mayorga claims he seeks to avenge.
A decision result favors De La Hoya almost 80 per cent if he elects to follow Cory Spinks’s example of how to dodge and keep Mayorga rushing by. Spinks barely got touched. If De La Hoya finds Mayorga’s initial firepower too risky, he’s displayed the skills to stay away in a similar fashion.
Mayorga is scouted as uncommonly strong, even for elite athletes. The fight will depend on who gets shoved around. De La Hoya might want to score a KO, but he’s smart enough to stay cool until the moment arrives.
Either man could take a pounding. Nothing a cut, low blow, or other intentional foul can’t change.
While it’s hard to imagine De La Hoya sticking around for further headaches should he end up getting thumped, there’s a decent chance Mayorga could propel himself into the driver’s seat for a big rematch should he prove a suitable foil that produces results.
Mayweather’s fight against Zab Judah and Shane Mosley-Fernando Vargas produced surprisingly strong pay per view numbers that showed there’s still a big, bankable audience for big, bet-able stars. De La Hoya-Mayorga has the potential to go through the satellite dish covered roof. A rematch could be a natural, Leonard-Duran type rivalry.
Most likely though, Sunday morning finds De La Hoya musing about other potential foes for the September swansong. It should be bloody fun to see how he gets there.
The fight will happen. What will happen in the fight is anyone’s hot ticket guess.