|The last time we saw Oscar in the ring, he battered Ricardo Mayorga in six rounds. He faces a whole different battle on Saturday.
It's easy to forget that Oscar turned pro in 1992. Through all of boxing's ups and downs in the last 15 years, Oscar de la Hoya has been there, and for most of his career, he's been one of boxing's biggest stars. He's been a reliable go-to guy to bring positive attention to the sport, the sport's best goodwill ambassador.
He's fought the best. Mosley, Hopkins, Trinidad, Chavez, Quartey, Camacho, Carr, Vargas, and many others. But has he beaten the truly great fighters he's fought? Julio Cesar Chavez was on the downward slope in their first fight, and clearly so in their second. Camacho had been on the old man circuit. Carr is a legit win. Quartey was a questionable decision. Oscar fought a war and dropped Fernando Vargas, but time has told us that Vargas was never the fighter he was hyped to be.
Mosley beat Oscar twice. Hopkins pounded de la Hoya, leaving us with the unforgettable image of a gasping Oscar losing the fight to get to his feet. Trinidad just plain beat him, a fight that I still think was scored a lot closer than it deserved to be.
If you get right down to it, Oscar has fought three fighters that will live on as being top-of-the-line: Trinidad, Mosley, and Hopkins. He's 0-4 in those fights. At 34, Oscar isn't going to get more chances to establish his legacy. In fact, if he can't beat Mayweather -- and it's a longshot -- then he's probably going to end his career having lost to every elite fighter he's ever fought.
Mayweather is too fast for Oscar at this point -- much, much too fast. Floyd's also a very savvy fighter, which is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of his game. He's not just amazingly skilled, he's also incredibly intelligent. He knows how to win his fights, and he knows how he could lose them, which he has thus far successfully avoided.
Oscar's last fight was also a year ago, and that had been his first fight in a year and a half, following his punishing loss to Hopkins. Ricardo Mayorga was a force marketing de la Hoya's comeback, casting himself as the ultimate villain. Mayweather has adopted a similar role for this fight, admittedly stepping up his trash-talking so that he could sell the fight as the "bad guy," allowing the hugely popular Oscar to maintain his position as boxing's ultimate "good guy."
The promotion at the press conferences was somewhat corny, but the recovery of the real personalities of both fighters came on HBO's 24/7 series. It captured Mayweather as less of a jerk and more of a supremely confident, good-natured person. Oscar's always been the same, but what we got to see was a determined, very focused, very serious Oscar de la Hoya.
You can ask Fernando Vargas and Ricardo Mayorga if it's a good idea to rile Oscar.
An effective statement, really. "Ask Vargas and Mayorga." Both were knocked out by an angry Oscar who felt as though his manhood and his skill was being challenged. He may feel that way again this time, but the problem is, Floyd Mayweather is not Fernando Vargas, and he's not Ricardo Mayorga. He's the best fighter in the world, and Oscar hasn't fought someone on this level in years. Mayorga isn't even a relatively close comparison.
|de la Hoya's last fight against an elite opponent came in 2004. Bernard Hopkins left him writhing.
How can de la Hoya beat Floyd? While he's not quite in the same position, I turn to the wisdom of Duke in Rocky Balboa:
"What we'll be calling on is good ol' fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower. Heavy-duty, cast-iron, piledriving punches that will have to hurt so much they'll rattle his ancestors. Every time you hit him with a shot, it's gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train. Yeah! Let's start building some hurtin' bombs!"
In short, Oscar needs to take advantage of the fact that he's the naturally bigger man, has experience fighting at 154, and is almost assuredly the stronger puncher. He has to make his left hook lethal again. And he has to pressure Mayweather and make the younger, speedier fighter engage him in heavy artillery warfare. If he can't do that, Oscar is doomed.
Now, if he can, Floyd could be in real trouble. Mayweather has faced good punchers before, but at this weight, there's a good chance that Oscar will be throwing the heaviest bombs he's ever faced. If de la Hoya can hurt Floyd early, one of two things could happen. He could rattle Mayweather into fighting stupidly, or he could rattle Mayweather into fighting the smartest, most boring fight he can. The latter is a formula for an easy, if dull, Mayweather victory.
Truth be told, Oscar de la Hoya will have to dig down deeper in this fight than he ever has before if he wants to win. Frankly, he may have to do that if he even wants to make it close. There are lots of advantages that he has over Mayweather on paper, but they don't count for Mayweather's one huge advantage, which is pure skill and speed. Oscar can't fight Floyd's fight and win. Floyd might be able to fight Oscar's and win.
While de la Hoya has had some heroic battles in his time, he's just never beaten someone on the level of the current Floyd Mayweather. If he pulls out the win on Saturday, it's a huge upset.
Count me in for the underdog. Not just because it's a fun rooting interest, and not just because I'm a bigger fan of Oscar's than I am of Floyd's. It's because of the atmosphere that this fight is creating. de la Hoya, the old pro who's probably on his last legs, taking on the cocky, ultimately gifted champion, a guy who has mowed down everyone in his path and knows he can do it again on Saturday if he just keeps himself out of Oscar's wheelhouse in there.
Doesn't it just write itself? Wouldn't it be a hell of a story?
Inspirational sports movies rarely come to life, but it's not unheard of. There's probably a 90% chance Mayweather wins the fight, and probably a 50-50 shot that he seriously embarrasses and outclasses Oscar. But that 10% shot that Oscar could win this fight throwing bone-shaking left hooks is what makes it intriguing. If he's truly great, it can happen.