Like a chicken without a head, let me now praise Oscar de la Hoya. At the same time, use caution betting on him against the wild, unorthodox Ricardo Mayorga — a fighter several levels below the Golden Boy’s stature.
Yes, even I would like to see the fighter I dubbed "Chicken de la Hoya" shut the big mouth that is his opponent May 6 at the MGM Grand. De la Hoya, for the most part, has been a major player on the side of the good guys since he struck Olympic gold in 1992. Mayorga has been a loud-mouthed lout, in perfect harmony with his promoter, Don King.
De la Hoya figures to have little trouble against the amateurish Nicaraguan. But that’s the old Oscar. What we have here may be an older Oscar. Technically, he should have no problem with the wide-swinging Mayorga, who was butchered by Felix Trinidad Jr. a year ago.
But Oscar’s fight with Trinidad was too long ago to invite comparisons and, of course, styles make fights. De la Hoya never carried his punch to 147 let alone 154, where this fight will take place. He will have to land early and often to keep the tough-chinned Mayorga away.
In his prime, Oscar was never known as someone who carried his speed deep into the stretch. No late foot was often the trouble line after his performances (see Trinidad, John John Molina, Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Bernard Hopkins et al). If he can’t cut up Mayorga early, he could be in danger late. He is certainly, in my humbled opinion, not worth -330, though you’d have to put a bagel to my head for me to take +270 on his opponent.
Mayorga says his training has been so serious that he has given up drinking beer and cut down to maybe three cigarettes a day. He claims to be chasing live chickens around to get acclimated. Oscar says Mayorga has "not gotten into my head, but he has gotten under my skin." He promises to make chicken salad out of the chicken spitter.
De la Hoya is no Chicken. I dubbed him that when, listening to his then promoter, Bob Arum, he crossed the road to get away from giving Pernell Whitaker a warranted rematch. However, there was no hesitancy to repeat his blood-letting of the faded Julio Cesar Chavez.
Eventually, de la Hoya began to demand tougher fights (Ike Quartey, Trinidad, Sugar Shane Mosley, Fernando Vargas and just about everyone this side of Roy Jones Jr.). Eventually, the "chicken" who laid the golden eggs took off his Top Rank suspenders and put on a he-man’s belt — along with several that belonged to the alphabet soup.
Since rolling around on the canvas after a Bernard Hopkins body shot, de la Hoya has been more on the champagne circuit than anywhere near a ring. We have every right to question his dedication at this stage of his Hall of Game career. As Marvelous Marvin Hagler used to say, it’s tough getting out of bed in the morning to run when you’re sleeping in silk.
De la Hoya has become more promoter than fighter. Undoubtedly he’ll say all the right things about still being hungry, about wanting to close with a bang. He always could sound sincere.
The stars do not seem aligned for de la Hoya. Oscar was one of three Olympic medalists for the United States in Barcelona — Chris Byrd got a silver, Tim Austin a bronze. Last month, both Byrd and Austin suffered knockouts. It is not a good sign.
The fight is for some cockamamie junior middleweight title. Pay no attention. The winner of this contest could, if he so chooses, get a shot at the guy who should be boxing’s undisputed best, Floyd Mayweather Jr. Pretty Boy vs. Golden Boy could be the biggest grossing fight in history. But then, Pretty Boy vs. Mayorga would still be a bigger attraction than Arum’s idea of a good time — a Mayweather-Antonio Margarito match.
We’re not supposed to root, us objective reporters. But even without a wager, I think my heart will be with Oscar on May 6. I really would like to see him, with Floyd Mayweather Sr. in his corner, take on Floyd Jr. Now that would be a wonderful way to leave the ring. When Pretty Boy first mentioned this match a couple of years ago, everyone laughed at him. Now he would probably be the prohibitive favorite to take the baton from de la Hoya as the game’s top star.