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Don’t Bet Against The Golden Boy

Don’t Bet Against The Golden Boy

Oscar De La Hoya Vs Floyd Mayweather JR: Don’t Bet Against The Golden Boy
By Russ Greenspan-April 22, 2007

Saturday May 5th of this year provides us with a boxing rarity, when the sport’s current pound for pound dominar “Pretty Boy” Floyd Mayweather, locks horns with its most popular star and biggest money maker, 6-Division Champion Oscar De La Hoya, on HBO PPV. Mayweather is moving up from welterweight to junior middleweight for this occasion, but while De La Hoya’s belt is on the line, that bejeweled leather strap is merely incidental to this fistianic tale. Truth be known, this contest is all about talent, egos and money.

Mayweather is unquestionably the betting favorite, and why shouldn’t be? He is younger, faster and undefeated. De La Hoya has held more titles and faced by far the better opposition, but appeared vulnerable in 3 of his last 4 fights, getting stopped in one of those. In recent years, Oscar’s also spent more time out of the ring running “Golden Boy Promotions” than he has inside of it, while Pretty Boy has been somewhat more active in the former venue.

In my own informal poll, the vast majority of people I’ve spoken with about this fight, believe that Mayweather will easily defeat De La Hoya, if not by knockout, than by a one sided and quite possibly humiliating decision. To these people I say, not so fast.

In a professional boxing career now entering its 15th year, Oscar De La Hoya remains the sports’ biggest non-heavyweight attraction, and has defeated 17 current or former world’s champions, one of them on 2 occasions. Mayweather is in his 10th year as a professional, has earned 4 titles of his own, and also vanquished a small armada of titlists present and past. However, come May 5th, neither man’s accolades, histories or popularity is going to mean a tinker’s dam when they face each other in that Vegas ring. What’s going to make the difference is skill and will.

The June, 2007 issue of The Ring Extra lists a 20 point comparison of Mayweather and De La Hoya, wherein check marks are placed under the name of the fighter believed to be superior in various categories, those being ones you would anticipate when evaluating such matters. I acknowledge shamelessly borrowing the aforementioned concept when writing this article (Thanks fellas), but have changed the rules of the game, by varying the topics somewhat and opining on each, with said viewpoints not necessarily coinciding with those presented in “The Bible of Boxing”.

Jab: A great many boxing experts rightly consider this to be boxing’s most important weapon, either used offensively to set ones opponent up for additional combination punches, or as a defense, to keep foes at bay. In my opinion, a fighter without a jab is a painter lacking a brush. De La Hoya has a good, strong jab, and his natural size and weight advantages may prove invaluable against Mayweather, if he remembers or is able to use it this punch as often as he should. Mayweather’s jab is hummingbird quick, accurate and damaging, and Pretty Boy Floyd has the memory of an elephant inside the squared circle.

Clear edge goes to Mayweather.

Hook: An invaluable offensive tool in the fight game, but only a precious few are able to use it to devastating effect. Those who can and do, are often referred to as “hookers”, and not in the pejorative sense. De La Hoya is a hooker who can get you out of there with one well placed left hand. Mayweather isn’t, and to quote Forrest Gump, “that’s all I have to say about that.”

De La Hoya has the edge here, and it’s a big one.

Right Hand: Neither man’s most deadly weapon in their respective arsenals, but nothing to sneeze at either. Oscar has superior right hand power, Mayweather far superior speed…at 147 pounds. I expect that Pretty Boy’s dominant mitt will remain the swifter of the two at junior middleweight, albeit by not quite as much, and potentially carry some more pop with the additional poundage.

I give the slight edge in this category to Mayweather.

Uppercut: Another big time, fight ending piece of business in the proper hands. Pay close attention to the Lennox Lewis–Michael Grant heavyweight title fight for a brutal, textbook example of this particular punch, and see if you don’t find yourself sympathetically wincing, then grabbing hold of your lower jaw thereafter. Mayweather gets the checkmark in Ring Magazine Extra, assumedly based on fights like his wins over Arturo Gatti and Jesus Chavez. However, the uppercut is a power shot, and Oscar’s a bigger puncher than is Floyd.

I have to give the edge to De La Hoya, based on damage potential.

Bodypunching: A good clout to the head mercifully puts its recipient to sleep, but a well placed body shot lingers on and on. One recent expert practitioner of this pugilistic art form is former light welterweight contender Micky Ward, whose scythe-like left hook to the liver, left more than one breathless foe watching the referee’s ten-count from the canvas. Oscar De La Hoya gave Ricardo Mayorga’s midsection quite a workout in their May, 2005 contest, but Mayweather is far more elusive than the made to order Nicaraguan, and has much tighter defense. De La Hoya is two fights removed from a body punch knock out loss to Bernard Hopkins, and was hurt downstairs in other recent fights, of which Mayweather is unquestionably, keenly aware.

De La Hoya received Ring Extra’s vote, but in my book, the advantage goes to Mayweather.

Combination punching: De La Hoya certainly knows how to group his blows for maximum effect; the man didn’t become a 6 division champ because of his good looks and singing voice. However, there have view been few if any fighters in recent memory and then some, who can throw meaningful punches in bunches like Floyd Mayweather. Pretty Boy is not a knockout artist, but he’s an artist nonetheless.

Advantage belongs to Mayweather.

Defense: De La Hoya has never been a defensive master, but looked particularly easy to hit against Felix Sturm, and was beaten up by Bernard Hopkins. Oscar dominated the one dimensional Ricardo Mayorga, but even “El Matador” jolted De La Hoya with an uppercut in round 3 of their fight. Mayweather is simply unhittable at his best, and difficult to reach the rest of the time.

Clear advantage here goes to Mayweather.

Hand and Foot Speed: This topic has been pretty much asked and answered in the topics above, so let’s keep it brief; Mayweather is has much faster hands and moves more quickly than De La Hoya.

Advantage here belongs to Mayweather.

Physical Strength: De La Hoya is the naturally bigger and stronger man, who almost certainly walks around well in excess of 154 pounds. Mayweather can move up in weight and may prove himself to be quite comfortable there, but he’s not going to bully Oscar, or push him around the ring.

Advantage in this category belongs to De La Hoya.

Ring Generalship: Ring Extra’s selection is Mayweather, but De La Hoya’s been with a better class of opponent, and taken them to school. Mayweather is faster and more mobile than Oscar, but this is a big money fight, and De La Hoya is one of this generation’s best big money fighters. The big question here is whether De La Hoya has what it takes to corner Mayweather, trap him against the ropes, or at least get him moving where he wants. I hate even rounds, so I’m going to buck the odds and give this one to the Golden Boy.

Iffy advantage goes to De La Hoya.

Versatility: At this stage in their respective careers, Mayweather can do more things than De La Hoya can, and do them better. We have the excellent but arguably somewhat faded bigger guy against the excellent smaller guy at the peak of his career.

No question about it, the advantage here goes to Mayweather.

Chin: This is a tough one, since neither Mayweather nor De La Hoya have been stopped with a head shot. The difference maker for me is that De La Hoya’s faced bigger punchers and more of them than Mayweather, and survived to tell the tale.

The edge in this category is De La Hoya’s.

Stamina: De La Hoya’s shown a disturbing tendency to fade in the later rounds of a bout throughout his career, but not Mayweather. May 5th would not be a good time for this situation to recur. If Oscar’s tank shows empty before the close of business against Pretty Boy Floyd, chances are that he’s going to get his ticket punched.

Mayweather has the advantage here.

Motivation: Ring Extra’s of the opinion that Mayweather is the fighter with greater incentive heading into this bout. I disagree. The popular question regarding this topic seems to be, “Since “The Golden Boy” is financially set for life and his place in boxing history is secure, why is he fighting Mayweather?” One answer is that despite having lots of money, De La Hoya is certainly not averse to earning more….much, much more in this case. Another reason is that De La Hoya still enjoys fighting, and his ego, pride, or what have you tells him that he can defeat the younger, quicker Mayweather, further cementing his fistic legacy. Mayweather is also undoubtedly motivated by money and ego, but beating a near legend like De La Hoya would be a tremendous feather in his cap, and would further establish Mayweather’s own place in boxing annals.

Sure, critics might say that Mayweather whipped a fighter who was past his prime, but those same folks will be the ones whining that a De La Hoya victory came against a naturally smaller opponent who finally overstepped his weight class. You can’t please everybody.

De La Hoya gets my vote in this category.

Finishing Ability: Another close call here. Mayweather has demonstrated that he’s able to take people out when he’s got them hurt; De La Hoya has done so more often at the elite level, although less so in recent years. But Oscar has that left hook.

De La Hoya by a squeaker here.

Intangibles: Mayweather’s a guy with a lot of attitude in the ring and out. I’ve never seen him seriously hurt in a fight, but he’s battled on with fragile, damaged hands. I’ve also never really seen him with his back even close to the proverbial wall, save for the first JL Castillo fight. Perhaps we never will, because the man is just too damn good, but I used to say the same thing about Roy Jones. De La Hoya’s been up against it on numerous occasions, and has virtually always fought back with the heart of a champion. One question mark was his decision setback against Felix Trinidad, but let’s chalk that one up to temporary insanity. The other was his KO at the hands of Bernard Hopkins, wherein many observers claimed that Oscar could have beaten the 10 count. I providentially was not on the receiving end of that punch, so I cannot attest to its force. However, there’s absolutely no reason to suspect or believe that De La Hoya would ever take a ten count without trying to rise unless he physically could not do so.

De La Hoya has also been in many more “super fight” type situations than Mayweather, and is unquestionably less highly strung than the “Pretty Boy”. Of course, Mayweather’s never come close to a melt down while participating in a boxing match, and I don’t anticipate that he will here…but please though, no crying Floyd, win or lose.

Advantage in the intangibles category goes to De La Hoya, and makes the final tally 8 points for De La Hoya, 8 for Mayweather. Interestingly enough, I believe De La Hoya–Mayweather to be a pick ‘em fight, whereas both The Ring Extra’s comparison chart and expert poll favored Mayweather 60% - 40%, figures not all that unlike my own, but incongruent enough to promote healthy discourse. I look forward to it.

The boxing world is waiting to see whether an old lion from Los Angeles still has his teeth, or a young lion from Las Vegas will be able to enforce the law of the jungle. Everyone will have their answer soon enough….as for me….win, lose or draw, I predict that Oscar De La Hoya will acquit himself commendably, and demonstrate the mettle that has made him one of the most celebrated, accomplished fighters of his era.

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