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Baddest Man On The Planet
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By Brent Matteo Alderson

Don’t underestimate Oscar in this fight. Even though he’s been relatively inactive, he looked great in his last fight against Ricardo Mayorga. Although Mayorga isn’t the reincarnation of Sugar Ray Robinson, he was a world class fighter with a big punch and had brawled on even terms with the likes of Cory Spinks and Vernon Forrest, two guys that today, are top contenders in the 154-pound division. Throw in the fact that Oscar frequently used his right hand in the bout, a punch that he neglected during the first half of his career and it still appears as though Oscar is a very dangerous fighter who is near the top of his game.

Don’t get me wrong, I still think Pretty Boy Floyd is the best fighter in the world and feel as though he is so fundamentally solid and has so much speed that he should be favored to win the fight. But, I just feel like people are counting the Golden Boy out with out pondering the match-up.

The fundamental question going into the fight isn’t if Oscar is still in prime or if Mayweather is a better fighter than Oscar. The real question surrounding this fight is, “Can De La Hoya’s advantage in size compensate for Mayweather’s advantages in speed and boxing ability?” That’s the underlining question.

Think about it, in twenty-seven of Floyd’s thirty seven bouts, he weighed in under the lightweight limit of 135-pounds. And even though he has been successful at the higher weights he hasn’t established a significant championship legacy like he did when he was the most dominant Junior Lightweight Champion in history. Floyd has only fought six bouts above the lightweight limit, three at 140-pound and three at 147-pounds and now he is moving up yet again to fight Oscar De La Hoya at 154-pounds. That’s an incredible jump and even though it’s been done, more fighters have failed in their championship quests at higher weights than have been successful.

Most of the fighters that have won major titles at higher weights have done so against mediocre titlists. Sugar Ray Leonard didn’t beat Michael Spinks or an even a Virgil Hill for his WBC 168 and 175-pound titles, he beat Donny Lalonde, a man who was so eager to make his first and only multi-million dollar payday that he agreed to come in at 168 pounds so the fight could also be contested for the newly created WBC 168-pound title as well as his 175-pound title. This was also advantageous to the Sugar Man because Donny Lalonde had to cut so much weight that he was severely weakened and even though he put Sugar Ray down for just the second time in his career, he was too weakened to put up a sustained effort and was brutally knocked out in the 9th round.

Again we’re not talking about Donny Lalonde; we’re talking about Oscar De La Hoya. We are talking about an Olympic Gold Medalist who has beaten more world champions than any active fighter today. We are talking about a man who fought Bernard Hopkins for the middleweight title two and a half years ago. Even Emanuel Steward, who trained Oscar for a stint in 1997, thinks highly of Oscar’s fighting ability.

When asked if he thought if Oscar would have been able to compete with the great welterweights of the 80’s, Emanuel commented, “I don’t know if Oscar would have beaten those guys because Tommy and Ray Leonard were really special, but I do believe that with his combination of speed and boxing fundamentals that he would have been able to compete with any of them.”

Some fans might bring up the fact that Oscar also fought at a lower weight similar to Floyd, but he only fought beneath 140-pounds for the first three years of his career. Since 1996 he has fought at or above 140-pounds and has been fighting at Junior Middleweight since June of 2001.

This size disparity between the two will dramatically impact the evolution of the fight. Mayweather was already just an average puncher at the lower weights and his punching power at 154 pounds will diminish considerably and his punches will have less of an impact on De La Hoya than they did on previous smaller opponents.

Even though Oscar was stopped for the first time in his career against Hopkins, I don’t think that performance was a realistic indicator of the quality of Oscar’s chin because to this day I still feel like De La Hoya took a dive due to the fact that for the first time in his career he found himself in a fight that he couldn’t possibly win. Thrown in the fact that Hopkins is probably one the top six or seven middleweights champs of all-time, a huge 160-pounder who moved up to win the World Light-Heavyweight Championship, and it makes you realize that Oscar must have one hell of a chin. And If Hopkins couldn’t legitimately put De La Hoya down through nine rounds then Floyd Mayweather definitely won’t be able to accomplish the task.

The second way in which the size difference will affect the fight is that even though Oscar’s power has also diminished as he moved up in weight, he is still a dynamic puncher and has the definitive edge in power. Although more size doesn’t always mean more power, in this instant it rings true. De La Hoya has always been a better puncher than Floyd and the disparity in size is going to magnify the difference in power.

If Floyd had been offered 10-million dollars to fight Ricky Hatton at 140, he would have still made the Junior-Welterweight limit. Conversely in his last fight, De La Hoya looked at though that he finally filled out into a genuine 154-pounder. He was solid and didn’t look like he could drop down to welterweight.

The speed of the fighters is the third way in which their weight disparity will affect the fight. Smaller fighters are usually faster than larger fighters and this axiom will be exemplified during the course of the fight. Mayweather is smaller and faster while De La Hoya is larger and more powerful. Surprisingly, I envision a bout similar to the 1987 classic between Ray Leonard and Marvin Hagler. With Floyd on his toes landing light flashy punches with De La Hoya following him around the ring trying to land his power shots to no avail. Still even in his bout with Hagler, there were times when Ray had to gut it out and fight with the man, and we are going to see if Floyd has the guts to engage. We never got to see Roy Jones pushed in his prime, but I think we will get the chance to see Floyd pushed.

Another very plausible scenario is that De La Hoya comes out and his strength, enormous size, and vast physical advantages to overwhelm Mayweather in the same way that Terry Norris overwhelmed Meldrick Taylor in their 1992 match up. Oscar will knock out Floyd in a fashion similar to how he beat Arturo Gatti.

You could bring up the fact that Shane Mosley moved up from Lightweight to Welterweight and then to Junior Middleweight to beat Oscar and theorize that if Mosley could do it then Floyd will be able to as well. But, the problem with that rationalization is that Mosley was a huge lightweight. In fact he fought as an amateur at 139 pounds in a class seven pounds above Oscar’s Olympic weight so there wasn’t that much of a size disparity when the two fought in comparison to Floyd who fought in the 1996 Olympics at 119 pounds.

Joe Louis coined the phrase, “He can run, but he can’t hide,” and this phrase rings true when the Golden Boy meets the Pretty Boy on May 5 at the MGM Grand in a bout where Oscar’s size shouldn’t be underestimated.
 
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