Saturday, December 6, 2008

De La Hoya - Pacquiao preview

By Rick Morris

The biggest boxing bout of the year takes place tonight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas as the legendary Oscar De La Hoya squares off against a fighter commonly regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world in Manny Pacquiao. As is the case for most big boxing or MMA cards, AOL Fanhouse will have a liveblog going for the benefit of those of you who will not be catching this on HBO PPV. I believe that this link will be the operative one; if it is not, merely head to the front page of AOL Fanhouse at the appropriate time at this link and the right one should be very apparent.

The weight limit of 147 represents a convergence of two extremes for these superlative boxers, as De La Hoya had to shed a lot of weight to get to his official number for the fight (145), while Pac Man had to come way up to get to his tally of 142. Considering that he was at 134 1/2 for his previous fight, his heaviest ever (hat tip to AOL's Michael David Smith for the info), this speaks volumes about the nature of the weight issue as it relates to both men. Pac's frame is used to carrying much less weight, Oscar's is used to much more, so the Golden Boy is really still significantly "bigger" than the three-pound difference.

Pacquiao has elite power for a fighter of his size, but again, De La Hoya is a naturally larger man with the proportionate power that represents. Both men are absolutely elite in the use of strategy to harness their awesome skills.

The "X-factor" in the eyes of many observers is the ability of Oscar to pull out another big-time performance at age 36 when he has lost at least a half-step. For a man who has had quite a procession of big-time fights (not all of which he has lost, contrary to Teddy Atlas' opinion), he has always seemed to have another one lined up right around the corner, another opportunity to come back against another big name if this fight goes sour. But it looks like that's not the case anymore; a loss to Pac Man means that there are no more fights of this magnitude left (barring a rematch in the case of a close and/or controversial loss), especially in a bad economy. De La Hoya is a top-notch businessman on top of everything else, so his professional motivation should be at an all-time high.

The guess here? Oscar lands enough blows to an offense-oriented Pacquiao to steal a few rounds and the fight goes to the judges -- and the Golden Boy doesn't lose decisions in Vegas. De La Hoya by split decision as Filipino fight fans everywhere are left disappointed.

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