LAS VEGAS –Boxing business is often the ultimate risk-reward situation. That's not even counting the life, death, or fame and fortune extremes.
So it was for Oscar De La Hoya, who returned to boxing and looked quite strong scoring a 6th round blast out against unpredictable Ricardo Mayorga before a frenzied sellout swarm of 13,076 at the MGM Grand Garden.
“I told him I forgave him for everything he did before the fight,” said De La Hoya, who positioned himself for a proposed grand finale fight on September 16th, possibly against Floyd Mayweather Jr,, who was ringside in hopes of closing the megabuck deal.
“He tried to fight me recklessly. My message was, I was going to stand up to the bully. This guy was perfect for the defense I've been working on. I was blocking all his punches. I knew I had some power.”
“Oscar is a very hard puncher,” said Mayorga, whose head must have really been ringing, “I am not hurt, I'm just heartbroken.”
Nothing was for certain regarding Mayorga until the fight began. He continued to look intense but troubled.
A solid win was the last step toward his gala exit, but if De La Hoya found himself in the inevitable position of all fighters who hung around too long, the main question would become how he decided to go out.
Nobody could say for sure how De La Hoya would show up, coming off twenty months in a comfortable family circle since his last bout. Judging from some fierce exchanges, he still has plenty left.
For De La Hoya, now 38-4 (30), it was a chance to replace the image of his stoppage loss to Bernard Hopkins in a result where many questioned De La Hoya's heart, despite his history of facing top opponents.
Mayorga, 28-6-1 (23), exhibited plenty of reservations about getting a fair market share for his performance with a threatened pull-out. He showed up in solid shape, presumably enticed by the potential spoils of victory. As the whirlwind action began, it became clear he had indeed come to win.
De La Hoya, 153½, and Mayorga, 153½, took the evening spotlight on a Kentucky Derby weekend where the Strip and its nearby satellite sideshows made the central tourist area a seemingly endless Cinco de Mayo party zone that extended for miles. Major stunt cycle jumps and casino expansion block parties added to the open-air, multi-ringed circus.
Inside the arena, the ring that counted most was the measured square, adorned with a wider variety of sponsors than usual. For the fans, premier ticket and pay-per-view fees ended up as very cost efficient entertainment.
De La Hoya, decked out in blue with gold trim, proved he was still a top attraction.
Mayorga roared out behind wild swings that were neutralized by De La Hoya's well composed jab and follow up rights. A left hook blur dropped Mayorga in the first frame and it was further downhill for the defending WBC Super Welterweight titlist from there.
Mayorga didn't go gently. He landed many overhand conks, often to the back of De La Hoya's head, but he also showed the renowned chin and emotional fury that made him a dangerous fighter until he was stopped.
Mayorga was staggered many times, but he still cranked it up and threw back as they stood on the Bacardi canvas logo and brought the crowd to their feet. De La Hoya backed Mayorga into the bright red ropes, but Mayorga hung tougher and tougher during the third and fourth frames.
De La Hoya seemed to sweep the scorecards, but it was no easy task. Actually, two judges gave Mayorga the third round. Otherwise it was all Golden.
In the sixth, De La Hoya made Mayorga do a drunken shuffle from four right hands. A half a dozen more dropped Mayorga in De La Hoya's corner. De La Hoya swarmed in with a classic extended flurry and ref Jay Nady waved it off at 1:25.
For De La Hoya, the victory means a lot more chips to play or walk away with, for one more big fiesta in the Fall.
Speculation remains to whether Mayorga's personal fall was premature, a significant accomplishment, or easy to see coming.
In the fight game, like many sporting gambles, perspective is often obscured.
Tonight, De La Hoya still saw glory in his gloved hands. Mayorga saw stars, and not just “Rocky” at ringside.
“The fact that he talked so much really motivated me. We'll have to wait and see what I'll do. I have to be by myself and really think about some things. I have to see if it's worth fighting again.”
See you in September.
For De La Hoya, the venture posted significant gains in his earning power and historical standing.
As it turned out for the humbled Mayorga, whatever his earnings, the price of victory was too high, and too far out of his reach.