Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Wait is Nearly Over

As we draw closer and closer to the penultimate boxing match of the last dozen years, give-or-take, the world’s wait is almost over. Junior Middleweight Champion “Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya [38-4, 30 KOs] is all set to take on (insert your favorite nickname, mine is “Pretty Boy”) Floyd Mayweather, Jr. [37-0, 24 KOs].

Credit: HBO

The tagline reads like a stoic novel: the people’s champ versus the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Or maybe, you prefer: the baby-faced, quiet, stoic Olympic champion against the brash, arrogant, cash-wielding undefeated, self-perceived mega-superstar.

You could trade nicknames, monikers, and praise for each of the fighters for days on end. You could drool over the money too ($25-million for Oscar & $10-million for Floyd Jr.). It’s an insane amount of dough, especially for a non-heavyweight bout.

Some are already predicting this fight will be the highest-grossing non-Heavyweight Pay Per View (PPV) fight. The record was set at 1.4 million when De La Hoya lost to Tito Trinidad and the heavyweight record, probably not in serious jeopardy tonight, was at 1.99 million [Holyfield v. Tyson II: The Ear Biting]. Some say the fight may garner over $125-million, another record.

More importantly, sometime after midnight tonight, courtesy of HBO PPV, we will have a champion…for the belt and perhaps for the people.

More than any other fight in recent memory, this bout really does seem to have the world talking. Even non-boxing fans have had their interest sparked. Whether its through cover pages on ESPN, HBO’s incredibly in-depth insider series on the fight, or the barrage of commercials through various forms of media…this fight will be the major storyline from an otherwise crowded sporting weekend.

The undercard seems a promising, especially with Pilipino Rey “Boom Boom” Bautista stepping into the national spotlight with an unblemished career thus far. [You may know his fellow countryman Manny Pacquiao, perhaps #2 in the unofficial pound-for-pound rankings to Floyd Jr.]

As for the experts, they’re a little more skeptical than most boxing promoters and supporters like to admit. In fact, it’s almost impossible to spot a prediction for De La Hoya that isn’t coming from his camp, a sympathetic sportswriter just rooting for him/hating on Floyd, or those who aren’t willing to put any cash on the fight and want to take Oscar just to call it (on the small percentage he upsets Pretty Boy). Most boxing experts, or even novices, seem to plug Mayweather as the easy pick, even if the fight isn’t a breeze for Mayweather.

Whether it’s as a result of Mayweather’s bruising speed, brutal tactician-fighting style, or simply his I-can’t-lose-attitude, most experts concur Mayweather should have no real troubles in this fight. Yet, even Floyd admits he’s never had a fight quite like the six-division world champion.

What would be agreed upon by everyone from the Mayweather camp is that Floyd has awaited a fight – and a payday – like this his entire career. There’s nothing really waiting for him after this fight either (Miguel Cotto needs to take down Judah in June emphatically to have a prayer to see Floyd early next year). It wouldn’t come as a surprise, at least for a year or two, if this was Floyd’s last victory in the ring. He’d sprint into the boxing Hall of Fame with this victory and go down as one of the better fighters the sport had ever seen.

Oscar is good at retiring, just not for longer than 18-24 months. However, a re-match with Floyd (especially if he wins or its controversial, which is never absent from big-time boxing these days) may net him an indescribable amount of cash. I believe that De La Hoya would certainly retire on a hands-down victory. As for in the case of a loss, empathic or not, there are always one or two more fights left for the 33-year old superstar (especially since he is trying desperately, and succeeding more often than not, to promote his Golden Boy Promotions company).

Not since a potential Lewis/Tyson-fight (pre-incarceration) has the boxing world salivated this much for a fight to happen. If only we could’ve had it with Oscar at 26 and Floyd at 29 years old, could this have been better. Perhaps the lighting and brilliant commentary seen in Rocky Balboa might help as well.

Fortunately, the studio team [James Brown, Max Kellerman, and Lennox Lewis] is only outclassed for HBO by their in-ring trio [Jim Lampley, Larry “I HATE Mayweather” Merchant, and Emmanuel Lewis.]

I forked over the cash, amidst some other people who are at my parent’s basement enjoying the big-screen, to watch this fight. The first I’ve paid for to see Oscar since Bernard Hopkins knocked him stone-cold in the 9th-round in 2004 and the first for Floyd since the massacre he put Arturo Gatti through in 2005 (aka 6 Rounds in Hell). Don’t feel too bad for the Golden Boy though; he netted a cool $30-million for the fight. [Hopkins saw $10-million, much more than he usual $1-2.5 million per fight draw at that point.]

As for my thoughts? While I’ll root like crazy for Oscar, I know Floyd is the man to beat. I detect Oscar may even be ahead on a few score-cards early-on in the fight; yet, Floyd is too quick and too determined to lose this fight. The perceived advantages De La Hoya has with size, familiarity with the weight-class and experiences are, in fact, perceived.

Unfortunately, the fight could honestly end up being quite-lopsided if it does in fact go all 12 rounds. Although I have to admit, seeing Floyd knocked out may be a potential top 2 or 3 boxing moment in my lifetime.

Fortunately, nothing still gets me up like a big-time fight.

I’ll have brief reactions after the bout. Yet, I wonder that – as if the case in countless sporting events – the hype may end up being more fun than the moment, in this case the fight, itself. Will the hope of a modern-classic (ala this generation’s Hagler-Hearns) live up to the dreams when faced with stark reality?

Whether the question is yes, no, or maybe, it will have to wait to be answered completely.

All I want are fair scorecards and plenty of drama. Only then does boxing win.

Until next time…

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