It had been four years since De La Hoya was in a fight like this. A "so-called tune-up," as he called it. Back then, De La Hoya nearly lost to Felix Strum before winning a controversial decision that would set up his next fight, a loss to Bernard Hopkins that would be his last fight for nearly two years.
While there was little controversy or intrigue in De La Hoya's unanimous decision win against Steve Forbes, a mostly one-sided affair that De La Hoya controlled from the opening bell, things could very well pan out like they did in 2004 with "The Golden Boy" fading off into the sunset after his next fight with Mayweather, tentatively scheduled for Sept. 20. De La Hoya, of course, hopes to avenge his loss to Mayweather from a year ago and fight one last time in December before retiring.
De La Hoya's "Homecoming" against Forbes in front of 27,000 mostly De La Hoya supporters at Home Depot Center -- his first fight in California in eight years -- wasn't so much about fighting in front of his home fans again as it was preparing for Mayweather. Forbes, who has been trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Roger Mayweather, came into the fight with Jeff Mayweather in his corner and attempted to beat De La Hoya with the same quickness that Mayweather Jr. used last year -- although it was apparent early on that the former "Contender" contestant was nowhere near as skilled as the undefeated WBC welterweight champion.
At the same time, anyone who expected De La Hoya to make quick work of Forbes hadn't been briefed on his career. Forbes had never been knocked down during his 38 fights and won only nine of his matches by knockout. Judging from De La Hoya's past performances (four of his last six fights have gone the distance) and Forbes' style, this seemed destined to end in a De La Hoya decision from the moment the match was announced.
While De la Hoya dominated the fight, winning each round except for possibly the eighth, Forbes never backed down. Often dancing and strutting around the ring after De La Hoya landed combos, Forbes showed that even if he wasn't going to win he would at least make De La Hoya's homecoming far more entertaining than most expected.
De La Hoya controlled the fight by following a game plan implemented by Floyd Mayweather Sr., who returned as De La Hoya's trainer after leaving his camp before his fight against Mayweather Jr., and it will serve as the same blueprint De La Hoya uses against Mayweather Jr. four months from now.
"The idea was to fight straight up, stay on my toes, use my jab and be aggressive. That's my old style, that's the style I'm going to use when I fight Mayweather," said a visibly swollen and bruised De La Hoya at the in-ring post-fight press conference. "That was the plan, and that's how I envisioned the fight to go -- that was the plan. I'm a little disappointed that I didn't knock Forbes out, but I knew he was going to fight that way. He's not 'Two-Pound' Forbes, he's the '800-Pound' Forbes."
De La Hoya was far more aggressive against Forbes than he was against Mayweather, as he was ahead in every significant CompuBox statistic, landing 253-of-810 punches to Forbes' 152-of-776; and Forbes believes that if De La Hoya uses the same style against Mayweather, the result could very well be the same as it was Saturday.
"He's a very intelligent fight and I think if he faces Mayweather one more time, he's going to do better," said Forbes, wearing sunglasses to the press conference. "He's a hell of fighter, and I left my heart and soul out there tonight and he beat me."
Now, De La Hoya's attention shifts to Mayweather Jr., even though he admits that's where it's been since last year. Despite losing that fight by only one point in a split decision, few outside of De La Hoya's camp believe De La Hoya ever threatened Mayweather's undefeated record and doubt he will be much of a challenge, one year later and more importantly one year older.