OSCAR DE LA HOYA didn't deserve this, not even after engineering the single most cynical promotion of his era. Certainly he was due a comeuppance. This pay-per-view pandering, arranging a pointless match with regard to nothing more than monetary gain, was outrageous, for sure. To jump Manny Pacquiao all those weight classes just to satisfy the requirements of name recognition? And charge nearly $60? That was taking advantage of fan loyalty.
This is an article from the Dec. 15, 2008 issue
But even for these sins against boxing—which, to be fair, are not unique to De La Hoya—he didn't have this coming. Last Saturday night in Las Vegas, he was beaten, outclassed, humiliated through eight rounds, his corner stopping the fight before he would almost definitely have been laid out. The great Oscar De La Hoya, the Golden Boy, a 10-time champion, battered from post to post, unable to get off even a single damaging flurry. It wasn't only that he was beaten, it was that he was rendered entirely unrecognizable.
This does not diminish the achievement of the 29-year-old Pacquiao (48-3-2, with 36 KOs), who had established his credentials as the world's best pound-for-pound boxer while campaigning at 130 pounds. He carried his speed intact through 15 more pounds, darting in and out to pepper a mystified De La Hoya (who fell to 39--6) at will, ramping up his confidence until he was just whaling away in the final two rounds. He was able to take away De La Hoya's powerful left hook, not to mention nullify a six-inch reach advantage, with snapping left leads, following those later with thudding right hooks.
The strange twist of all this is that Pacquiao was essentially a substitute attraction, lured in when Floyd Mayweather Jr. retired from boxing after beating De La Hoya in the sport's richest fight ever, in May 2007. The idea that Pacquiao might be competitive, at a four-inch height disadvantage, struck even him as preposterous at first. There had been no clamor for a fight between such physical unequals. Only a purse of at least $11 million overcame Pacquiao's good sense, and a wall-to-wall p.r. campaign by HBO overcame ours.
In retrospect, it should be noted, nobody else has put on so much weight for money, not in boxing, since Robert De Niro played Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. It's fair to note as well that both, cholesterol problems aside, got their Oscar.
De La Hoya hasn't really been competitive for some time—he is 3--3 in his last six fights. Now 35, he has fought only four times in three years. But he's been calculating, lending his name to HBO now and then, ensuring a rich connection between boxing's only real broadcaster and his own promotional company. Everybody made money, if not history.
For this fight, though, it seemed his ambition, otherwise admirable, verged on arrogance. It's not his fault; the only metric that matters in boxing anymore is pay-per-view buys, and a promoter owes it to himself to go for maximum dollar extraction. But he's Oscar De La Hoya! Didn't we deserve better from him? Didn't he deserve better, after all he gave the game? The fact that such pure surprise came out of such crass commercialism is the serendipity that continues to float boxing, if not, alas, De La Hoya. It's over for him. It wasn't quite a disgrace but, as it is for all who stay too long, it was unnecessary.
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Chris Mannix's fight coverage and news and notes.