The venerable Ring Magazine, through its Yahoo-overhauled new comprehensive website, has just featured Oscar De la Hoya with a list for his next ideal opponent. It’s been almost a month since his annihilation at the hands (or say, fists) of Manny Pacquiao and we haven’t heard from his camp yet about a plan for his possible golden exit this year.
We all know that De la Hoya didn’t look so golden in his last fight against new superstar and still pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao in their “Dream Match” that many people now think he’s done and he should be done for good. More than a few even believe that the sight of him surrendering on his stool will forever tarnish his legacy.
“The Golden Boy” stopped short of declaring his retirement, but did concede that he has to “be smart”. Does being smart mean he has to retire? Or does being smart mean he has to be even more careful in picking his next opponent?
Yes, De la Hoya looked pretty shot against “PacMan”, and not to take anything away from the brilliant performance and win of the Filipino fighter, I happen to think that the weight drain contributed a lot on the Mexican-American’s poor showing. As one ages, it’s also much more difficult to lose weight than to gain weight, so his 35-year old body didn’t help himself cope up with the weight loss either.
To top it all off, the unprecedented explosion of Pacquiao against De la Hoya exclaimed that De la Hoya’s camp erred in the selection of opponent. So the lesson to be learned would either be that De la Hoya should retire, as experts and many fans in consensus believe, or be even more careful in selecting his next opponent, as I imagine. If the latter may be the case, the accusation of fans that De la Hoya’s opponents throughout his career was handpicked for him to beat finally backfired on him on the surprising outcome of the Dream Match. I most certainly don’t buy that, as I see De la Hoya as a tough fighter who have fought the best competition available to him, and has always put on a gallant performance, in a win or a loss. The current no. 1 pound-for-pound boxer in the world, Pacquiao, is an example of a top opponent, but we all know by now that he is an exemption to my claim.
But again, that’s in part due to De la Hoya’s apparent discomfort in the 147 lb. Weight class, as well as with Pac’s blinding speed above all else.
It was a matchmaking logical error, in addition to the tactical mistake by his team about his weight coming into the fight. Excuses or not, maybe there’s still reason for Oscar De la Hoya to continue. And if they somehow sense that, here’s my idea of what could be sensible: Vernon “the Viper” Forrest.
Selecting his opponents will still be easy for ODLH, and already there’s a pool laid out there for Oscar to pick his opponent even at this point in his career. Boxing fans may not trust him anymore like they did before his match with Pacquiao, but boxers within weight reach still want to get a shot at him, because the money is likely to still be there, and De la Hoya is at his most vulnerable state as a fighter in his career. Right now, he wouldn't be pitted against most young fighters like Pacquiao, but fans would have no problem if he were matched with another veteran. Oscar is good, still good, and he looked to be a fighter who will avoid the bumpy road to the exit until he looked helpless at the ropes in round 7 looking at Pacquiao pummeling him in their bout last month. He has fought the wrong guys, it seems, and now it's time to settle for guys near his age, rather than go southward towards an Ivan Calderon.
Fight the old, because he can't fight the small? One can put it that way.
Why would it make sense to fight Vernon Forrest? Vernon Forrest is one of those few "oldies" who still has "it". Well, the Viper has only defeated his twice-tormentor Shane Mosley also twice, coupled with the fact that Mosley is fighting at welterweight, De la Hoya does not have to fight Mosley anymore. Forrest is also a champion, and rated no. 1 by the Ring Magazine in a weight class De la Hoya is more comfortable with. At his rating, people don’t think of Forrest as a washed-up fighter, unlike Felix Trinidad (De la Hoya would love to have revenge and we do too, so this may count), another boxer lined up in the De la Hoya sweepstakes, or raffle, right now. Julio Cesar Chavez, Jr. is another young gun offering intrigue with a match-up with De la Hoya, but the son of the legendary Chavez Sr. is still an unproven commodity with still unfurnished talent and skills. That bout would have stirred a lot of plotlines, but plotlines alone which may not satisfy audiences when it comes to De la Hoya’s fights. Don’t get me wrong but if this were to happen, I think Oscar wins. Decisively. Plus, people criticized De la Hoya for not taking on Antonio Margarito instead when he fought Pacquiao, saying he's a coward or something to that effect by avoiding men his own size. Let's not forget that Oscar showed interest - and consideration - in facing Miguel Cotto, a natural welterweight, but he lost to Margarito. As I remember clearly, De la Hoya refused to fight Mexicans for his last fight, so "The Tijuana Tornado" was cut off. My point? Chavez Jr., with all the rivalries and stories they have between them, is a Mexican.
If De la Hoya could defeat Forrest, he would get both a championship and glory, enough to warrant him a “golden exit” and escape the usual route of aging fighters who leave the sport at the mercy of a younger fighter in destroyed fashion. Forget the money. Anyway, it might still be there (just a smile from Oscar, if nothing else).
It is clear that Oscar De la Hoya does not have a career left for him like his heart wants, but one fight can and will prove that he’s a true champion like those others who still have “one big fight” in him.
The gut here is that he will still fight again, and with smarter decisions in and out of the ring this time, he can still win.