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The rising intrigue of Oscar de la Hoya v. Steve Forbes

If you have yet to see HBO's Countdown to de la Hoya-Forbes, I highly recommend it. The network generally does a marvelous job with this series, but they went above and beyond making this fight seem like more than what it is on paper. From the opening and closing of a garage door to the use of Aerosmith's epic "Dream On" over video of the two fighters, the three Mayweathers, and Forbes' wife and child, HBO hit all the right buttons.

And this fight is now one that I can't wait to see.

On paper, this is a mismatch. Oscar is bigger, he's stronger, he's fought much better fighters than Forbes has, and he's Oscar de la Hoya. Steve Forbes is an ex-titlist, a great guy, and a damn good boxer. But he's no welterweight.

But what if, you know? What if?

Photo © Sky Sports

Stevie Forbes is obviously going to come to fight. But it allows me to just get my timing back, have a fight where I can practice on different things, and still be in a tough fight, because this kid is no pushover. -- Oscar de la Hoya

The above comment by Oscar came off quite poorly, I thought. While wearing his Houston Dynamo polo, Oscar sat in a room, I presume, in his home, surrounded with beautiful, expensive things, his family, etc. He was in his comfort zone.

I'm not saying a fighter needs to be struggling to make ends meet to be a great, ferocious fighter. That's not it at all.

But "have a fight where I can practice on different things"? A fight that "allows me to just get my timing back"? He seemed to pick up on what he was saying, and tried to cover it with, "and still be a tough fight," then called Forbes a kid.

Steve Forbes is no kid. He's a 31-year old man who has won a super featherweight title, competed very well on "The Contender" against guys who were much, much bigger than him, and has proven many times over that even with disadvantages, the man can take shots and hang in there. He's also a good boxer -- there's nothing about him that is fundamentally bad, even considering his lack of punching power.

The last time we saw the Golden Boy in the ring, he should have scored what would have been a fine upset of Floyd Mayweather, Jr., in Las Vegas, in the richest fight in the history of the sport. I will say that again -- Oscar should have won that fight.

He worked well off the jab, had enough natural speed to at least not get embarrassed the way so many Floyd opponents have, and was hitting Mayweather hard. He was working the body. He was cutting Floyd off.

Then, whatever happened happened. The jab left the building. Floyd started being Floyd, but it was because Oscar, either through poor preparation, age, or budding overconfidence in what he was accomplishing, let Floyd do what he does. The weight was too much for Mayweather to be an effective puncher as far as power goes. Oscar was bigger, stronger, and so on and so forth.

Steve Forbes isn't Floyd Mayweather. Oscar is hoping that Forbes can be a close enough approximation that he'll be able to use this fight as that stepping stone.

Oscar went on to talk about his still-controversial decision win over Felix Sturm, the last time he was using a lesser-regarded fighter as a tune-up to a showdown against a great. Oscar fought Sturm to get ready for Bernard Hopkins. As Jim Lampley put it, he looked fat. Not fat like I'm fat, but fat for a world class athlete. And Sturm won that fight. No matter what the record books say, Felix Sturm beat Oscar de la Hoya that night. He was better-prepared and just plain flat-out beat Oscar de la Hoya.

Oscar says he'll never let that happen again. That he's learned his lesson. Has he? Or is this "practice" fight going to turn into a nightmare for him? Forbes doesn't have to knock Oscar out to win rounds, and I don't think Oscar has the left hook anymore that's going to knock Forbes out.

One other thing during the Sturm stuff that related to the Mayweather stuff bothered me. When talking about the Mayweather fight, Oscar used that antiquated, old fogey stand-by about how you need to "really beat" the champion to take his title, and he didn't think Mayweather did that. Yet he talks about the Sturm fight in a rather candid manner.

Felix Sturm came into that fight as the reigning WBO middleweight champion. Did Oscar "really beat" Sturm to take his title? This entire idea is ridiculous, and not really important, but I've always hated that line.

Photo © AP

This is the fight I've been dreaming my whole life. This is the perfect opportunity, the perfect stage. And I think he is looking past me. Any time you have a fight set before you have dealt with the man in front of you, I don't care what he says, he's looking past me. -- Steve Forbes

Steve Forbes isn't like Oscar de la Hoya. He's not trying to sell this fight to you or me. He's not going to tell you that Oscar's a "tough kid" or note his opponent's heart or determination. He won't tell you about his past fights, even.

Steve Forbes is trying to alter the landscape of boxing as we know it. Like it or not, Mayweather-Oscar II is the biggest fight on the horizon. Not the best, not the most intriguing for diehard fans or those that value action over name value, but absolutely the biggest. As great as we all expect Cotto-Margarito will be, it will not do half the pay-per-view buys that the rematch between Money Mayweather and the Golden Boy will.

If it happens, that is. Should Steve Forbes upset Oscar de la Hoya, that fight won't come off. Mayweather couldn't possibly justify it. And given that I don't think Floyd would want to spend the rest of 2008 not pocketing a few more million bones (don't believe a word of what Floyd says, he's not going to retire any time soon), that'd leave the Pretty Boy with some interesting career choices.

Would he fight Forbes and justify it as giving "2 Pound" a shot he's earned by beating Oscar? Would he try to rush a mega millions rematch with Ricky Hatton at Wembley Stadium? Would he actually fight Miguel Cotto, should Cotto get past Margarito? Would he fight Shane Mosley, should Mosley get past Zab Judah?

Should Steve Forbes beat Oscar de la Hoya, a lot of domino effect sort of stuff starts happening. Floyd's schedule opens up. Cotto and Mosley start looking more attractive if both win their next fight. Forbes himself is suddenly a superstar, no matter how short-lived that might ultimately be. And Oscar de la Hoya's grand plan of three fights before the end of 2008 to say farewell to the sport gets a giant wrench thrown into the gears.

Steve Forbes is getting a good payday, and good for him. He's getting the biggest fight of his career, and good for him. But more than that, he's getting a chance to throw the boxing world into a state of disarray.

I've said it before, I think Forbes has maybe a five, ten percent chance of beating Oscar. But there have been a lot of those guys that have stunned the world in this sport. Every man has a bad night. Many inferior fighters have a great night and shake it all up. James J. Braddock, Buster Douglas, Carlos Baldomir, Corrie Sanders, Hasim Rahman, you can go back as far as Jim Corbett in 1892. Even think about fights like Hamed-Barrera or Tszyu-Hatton -- those were not supposed to happen.

And Steve Forbes is not supposed to beat Oscar de la Hoya. I don't think he will. Anyone that really thinks so and would put dollar one on it is living pretty damn dangerously. But never say never. Count me as one that will tune in mostly for what could happen.

Nothing comes close to having your hands raised when you were not supposed to -- when it's not supposed to be. -- Sugar Ray Leonard

(Steve Forbes) can walk in there two ways. He can walk in that ring and say, 'Well, shit, man. I'm getting paid.' Or he can walk in that motherfucker like Buster Douglas and say, 'I'm gonna whoop this motherfucker's ass.' -- Roger Mayweather

The headline has already been written. Everybody expects de la Hoya to win. And if he don't? Wow. -- Jeff Mayweather

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