You’ve maybe heard from a source or two that boxing is dying?
Well, the sport may not be in the prime of its life, but it ain’t ready for a permanent dirt nap either.
The first press conference for the Super Bowl of the 2007 boxing season, the Oscar De La Hoya/Floyd Mayweather Golden Boy vs. Pretty Boy “The World Awaits” showdown, took place at the opulent Waldorf Astoria Hotel in midtown Manhattan on Tuesday. And it was made glaringly apparent that this bout, to take place at the MGM Grand, will break records in viewership and money generated.
If this sport is dead, someone please alert De La Hoya, Mayweather, HBO and all the parties involved in the marketing and promotion of the May 5 Las Vegas tussle. Because the checks they are all going to be cashing as people tune in to watch this “dead” sport indicate the sweet science’s demise has been greatly exaggerated.
The initial hypefest to tout the showdown for the pound-for-pound crown, and perhaps a symbolic baton pass from the sport’s current focal point, was an affair filled with ample pomp and pageantry.
Writers and other media sorts knew this event was of a different caliber as they were held behind a velvet rope for a spell, before security personnel checked press badges and allowed entrance. Around 750 presspersons and fans crowded the Waldorf ballroom to take in PBF’s confident assertions that he’d do to Oscar what he’d done to the 36 other opponents who thought they could handle his superlative hand speed and ring generalship. Mayweather didn’t disappoint, as he strode down a catwalk and shook the hands of adoring fans of Floyd.
Oscar came next and Mayweather was ready for him; he took of his t-shirt, and flexed his flabless form. Oscar, looking CEO sharp in an impeccably tailored suit, contemplated yanking off his jacket, shirt and tie, but instead yanked up his shirt to reveal an impressive set of abs. Clearly, he’s been getting his cardio in to form before he takes off for Puerto Rico to begin prepping with Freddie Roach.
Richard Schaefer, the CEO of Golden Boy, acted as emcee. The Swiss born head of Golden Boy gave out some stats that testified to the stance that the sport still has a beating heart, even if some of the arteries are clogged. Over 1,200 venues will be showing the ODLH/PBF card on closed-circuit, which would surpass the number offering the Lennox Lewis/Mike Tyson 2002 fight. Also, Schaefer said, he expects over $3 million worth of ODLH/PBF gear will be sold, and that output would break the boxing merchandising record set by De La Hoya, when he faced off with Shane Mosley in 2003. Need further proof that this bout is the fight game’s Super Bowl? The card will be shown, Schaefer said, in 176 different countries, establishing another record.
I’d venture to say the marketing oomph behind this event will also surpass anything we’ve seen before; Tecate will be manufacturing commemorative packaging for their beer and HBO will unveil their ODLH/PBF reality show on April 15, after premieres of The Sopranos and Entourage are shown.
For all the hype, fans’ expectations will be high as Nikolay Valuev’s eye, so many are wondering what sort of bout Oscar and Junior will unspool. We can hope that it will get feisty in there, and Mayweather’s advisor Leonard Ellerbe got things rolling in that department when he got on the mike.
“This ain’t Bernard Hopkins, this ain’t Pernell, this is the truth,” he said. “We know Oscar’s heart can be tested because he’s laid down before in a fight. It’s going to be the same result on May 5.”
That smackdown brought forth appreciative oohhhs and ahhhhs from the peanut gallery. De La Hoya simply stared straight ahead, and you could see his jaw muscles working, clinching, as he absorbed the indignities.
Mayweather then took the floor after Roach spoke, and promptly batted down a heckler.
“Heart beats talent every time,” someone yelled.
“Thirty-seven guys have had heart and all of them came up short,” PBF stated in response.
“I’m the top dog in the sport,” Mayweather crowed. “He can have heart, he can hit harder, he can be stronger, faster…but no fighter out there is mentally smarter than me. He’s straight up and down, no special effects.”
The peanut gallery gave another thumbs up when PBF bore in.
“Sh– happens, I gave it to you raw and uncut. You want fake sh–, there it is. (Points at De La Hoya). Hot offense always beats cold defense, just ask Peyton Manning and the Colts against the Bears.”
Mayweather mimicked De La Hoya’s voice, and in Oscar-ese, said: ‘My names Oscar and I’m going to do this and that.’ “You ain’t gonna do sh–,” he said.
All in all, it was an impressive smack talk sesh from PBF, who got under Oscar’s skin during Super Bowl week when he invaded a De La Hoya radio interview, and sent a slightly flustered Oscar packing from the session.
De La Hoya promised he would indeed be effective on May 5. “Come May 5th, I will give you something to cry about,” he promised.
Mayweather kept the pedal to the metal on the Smack Talk Express. “He got Golden Girls Promotions.” And then: “I can be 130 and he can be 160, I can still beat you.”
Oscar fired back in Spanish, and then made reference to the belief held by some pundits and fans that Floyd won’t be interested in trading come May 5, as he’d promised.
“It’s going to be a fight,” Oscar said. “I’ll make it a rough, tough fight come May 5th.”
As photogs gathered for a staredown shot, Floyd did his Billy Martin ump bumping imitation, and backed De La Hoya up. He even gave De La Hoya a small shove, and the mogul/boxer held his temper in check.
This promotional effort moves to Detroit on Thursday, and the posturing will be on display in Philly, DC, Chicago, Miami, Houston, Dallas, Frisco, Vegas and El Lay. I’ll be surprised if De La Hoya can hold his emotions at bay throughout the junket. Then again, no fighter has grasped that this is the boxing business more so than De La Hoya, and as a sword-sharp businessman, he well knows that it doesn’t make sense to fight for free.