Whenever I hear boxing fans or experts say a fighter has no chance it makes me hesitate, especially when both fighters are former world champions.
Oscar De La Hoya steps into the ring for a final time in Southern California to face former junior lightweight world champion Steve Forbes at the Home Depot Center on Saturday. The fight set for 149 pounds plus one, is called “Homecoming” and will be televised on regular HBO.
De La Hoya is a huge favorite among odds-makers but they’ve made plenty of mistakes in the past.
Sure the East Los Angeles boxer who captured gold in the 1992 Olympics and won world titles in six weight divisions is the physically bigger guy, but under dogs do win.
Lets return 34 years ago when the MGM Grand in Las Vegas was located where Bally’s currently is situated and when the Jackson Five were hitting their stride. I was a young forklift driver with amateur boxing experience and all the talk was about the big fight coming up.
It was big, bad George Foreman the unbeatable behemoth who clubbed fighters down like so many rag dolls facing an ageing Muhammad Ali in Africa.
“I like Ali,” said this then 18-year-old to one dockworker.
Before you could say Joe Frazier there were 25 other warehouse workers running toward me to make $20 bets. I hesitated, then, thought about it in my head Ali beat Sonny Liston, why can’t he beat Foreman?
“Ok,” was my answer and the rest is history.
Ali beat Foreman and I didn’t have to quit work and move to another state. Ali was a huge underdog especially after Foreman destroyed Frazier to take the heavyweight title. The so-called boxing experts said Ali had no chance.
That’s not enough proof?
Let’s do another heavyweight fight because people seem to remember them more.
It’s 1988 and Evander Holyfield beats Carlos De Leon to unify the cruiserweight world titles. A friend of mine, a boxing expert watching the fight with me, says Holyfield could not fight at heavyweight. I make a bet with him that he cannot only fight at heavyweight, but he can beat Mike Tyson if they ever fight. About 20 people laugh out loud so I casually bet four of them right then and there. I also take their names down.
But before that fight happens, it’s 1990 and Tyson is about to fight Buster Douglas. The odds are staggering. Douglas has no chance say the odds-makers. Of course, we all know that Douglas knocked out Tyson.
A few years later, Holyfield does beat Tyson. I get my money from the one guy I can find. Actually, he finds me and scratches his head.
“You called it,” he says.
Upsets are not always predictable. But when one fighter is a defensive wizard and has never been knocked out, you got to give that guy his props.
Forbes lacks the power punch but that doesn’t mean he can’t beat De La Hoya.
“I’m a decision fighter,” Forbes says. “My game is being smart and being a boxer.”
If you’re a true boxing fan, then you really want to see the fight that has “huge upset” written all over it. How many boxing fans have seen the Ali-Foreman fight?
Don’t listen to anyone who writes or says, “don’t watch this fight it’s a waste of time.”
Boxing is full of upsets. You don’t want to miss them.
Anybody ever hear of Billy Backus? How about Carlos Baldomir beating Zab Judah? Heck, even Israel Vazquez, yes the same Vazquez who recently fought three titanic clashes with Rafael Marquez, was a big 5-1 under dog against Oscar Larios in their third fight in Las Vegas.
The odds guys don’t always get it right and that goes for the boxing writers too.
You have to fight the fights.
And when those upsets come, man, they’re satisfying.
Who can say Carlos Quintana-Paul Williams?
If you want to go further back, I wonder what the odds were for diminutive Jack Dempsey to beat the giant Jess Willard?
It only takes one punch to change the outcome.