The photo concerned me.
That photo, up above, it got me thinking.
Not that it really should have. Not that Stevie Forbes has ever shown himself to be a dog. Not that he's ever given an indication that he'd be prone to giving anything less than his best effort come May 3, when he is handed the most massive opportunity of his fighting life, a scratch-off lottery ticket named Oscar De la Hoya. As with one of those scratch-offs, the odds against Forbes, fighting many pounds north of his preferred and most sensible fighting weight, are long.
He is not expected to win. He was not chosen by Oscar to win. He was chosen to put up a good fight, give viewers a good show, and to bring some of the same skills that Floyd Mayweather owns, into the ring.
He was chosen to exhibit some hand and foot speed, the ability to use angles, get in, get out.
He was chosen because he doesn't own the sort of power that could give Oscar a scare if he doesn't see a shot coming, and gets tapped on the chin.
He was chosen because he's been part of the “Contender” franchise, so there is a built in recognition factor that will help sell the fight.
I am hoping, and I am almost 100% certain, that he was not chosen to be a designated loser, to be a cooperative ally in The Plan.
The Plan, of course, is a rematch for Oscar with Money Mayweather. The Plan means major league money, bushels of it. The Plan means Oscar must beat Forbes, preferably in conclusive, and even impressive fashion, on May 3, so he can own some momentum going into another match with Mayweather.
I reached out to Forbes because there is a tiny sliver of doubt, of wretched cynicism, that lodged itself in my head when I saw that photo. The photo with Forbes, wearing a tiny grin, as if he'd already scratched that lottery ticket, and he'd already seen three symbols of a kind, and he'd already gone to the convenience store to pick up his winnings.
The photo shows Forbes, and Floyd Mayweather Sr. and De La Hoya. Nobody really has their game face on. Hey, the fight was far off, about six weeks away, when the photo was taken. Maybe it was too early for gamefaces.
But I wanted to know, needed some reassurance. So I got on the phone with Forbes, to ask him if he would truly be in it to win it on May 3.
“I'm coming in to win,” said the 31-year-old former IBF super feather champion. “I am prepared to win. The event will not swallow me up. I envisioned myself in a megafight. I didn't think it'd be Oscar. But I will come in calm as usual, but a little more juiced.”
But that photo. That pose with Floyd Senior. That longstanding relationship with all those Mayweathers. Senior, and Roger and Jeff have all trained Forbes, and he's boxed with Floyd so much.
Are you sure, I asked Stevie, if you are not, even subconsciously, going to go along for the ride, and not try like hell to screw up the plans for The Plan?
Bless Forbes, he didn't get offended at my line of thinking.
“Absolutely not,” he said. “I have pride as an old school fighter. I didn't have to fight Demetrius Hopkins or Panchito Bojado. I'm not just going in there May 3rd to go in there.”
Beyond that professional pride, Forbes has other considerations. His eight month old son, Kayden. His wife, Valerie. He has another child, age 10, Sentierra, from a previous relationship. There are clothes to buy, food to feed, college to save for.
When Oscar chose Forbes to impersonate Money, he screwed up, according to Forbes. “Oscar made the wrong choice,” he said. “It's the right choice for me. I want to become a star myself.”
No, Forbes said, he wasn't too irked when Floyd put his foot down, and forced his Uncle Roger to step away as Forbes' cornerman, saying that it was a conflict of interest. Another Uncle, Uncle Jeff, will instead work with Forbes to try and beat Oscar, and screw up The Plan, the September rematch between Oscar and Floyd.
“I wasn't pissed at all,” he said. “It's not a problem. I think it should have been handled differently. But once it happened, it took two minutes to solve. I'm not upset with Floyd or Roger.”
Forbes is actually counting on people like me thinking what I'm thinking. He's hoping we all think the event will swallow him up, that fans and experts dismiss him as another Contender pretender, that he's more aligned with the Mayweathers and is content to make a mill, and let Oscar and Floyd go about their business.
“I love,” Steve Forbes tells me, “for people to think I'm just a tuneup. I'm nobody's stepping-stone. Hell, I'm coming to win.”