Oscar De La Hoya is a huge favorite for Saturday’s fight against Arturo Gatti.

Mar 20, 2001 6:43 AM

By: Keith Freeman

Arturo Gatti is catching Oscar De La Hoya in a rare and unenviable situation.

In his first match after his second setback in 34 fights, De La Hoya faces former International Boxing Federation (IBF) champion Gatti in a 12-round welterweight main event at MGM Grand Hotel/Casino this Saturday.

For "Oscar Night" — the name MGM Grand has given the fight — De La Hoya is a –2600 favorite. Gatti is +1800. There is a $3,000 wagering limit.

MGM Grand is expected to open proposition wagering this week, according to Robert Walker, race and sports book director for MGM MIRAGE properties.

"We’ll have a round prop, but we’re not sure about a knockout proposition," Walker said.

De La Hoya (32-2, 26 KOs) has won five world titles in four different weight classes — junior lightweight, lightweight, junior welterweight and welterweight. His most recent fight was a 12-round split decision loss to undefeated WBC champion Shane Mosley last June.

Gatti (33-4, 27 KOs) captured the IBF 130-pound title by out-pointing Tracy Harris Patterson across 12 rounds in Dec. 1995. He retained his title three times — against Wilson Rodriguez, Patterson in a rematch, and Gabriel Ruelas.

Gatti said during a teleconference last week he wasn’t worried about the odds and he never thought about them.

Also on the card is an IBF cruiserweight championship match between Vassiliy Jirov (27-0) and challenger O’Neil Bell (14-1) and a key welterweight bout between Oba Carr (52-3-1) and Santos Cardona (39-9).

The other matches, which start at 7 p.m., pit Paolo Vidoz (1-0) vs. Marcus Johnson (7-8-1); Ricardo Williams (1-0) vs. Joey Bullock (4-0); and Jose Navarro (1-0) vs. a foe to be announced.

Tickets ($700, $400, $200 and $100) can be purchased at TicketMaster locations as well as the MGM Grand box office. HBO will broadcast the De La Hoya vs. Gatti match live.

Tua at Texas Station

David Tua and Dannell Nicholson hope to copy a boxer they both defeated!

The strategy may sound odd, but Tua and Nicholson hope to revive their careers in the same manner in which John Ruiz did earlier this month when he upset Evander Holyfield for the WBA heavyweight championship.

Tua and Nicholson, who are trying to catch up with Ruiz, have their paths cross in a 12-round bout Friday night at the Texas Station Gambling Hall in North Las Vegas. Tua was installed as a 9-1 favorite by Station Casinos March 12.

The fight, televised by Showtime, will determine the No. 1 contender for the International Boxing Federation title. Nicholson is the IBF’s No. 3 contender. Tua is ranked No. 5. This is an elimination bout, with the winner becoming the IBF’s new No. 1 mandatory contender (currently vacant).

So far, both Tua and Nicholson have fallen short of their heavyweight title dreams.

Tua dropped a lopsided decision to Lennox Lewis in his first shot at the world heavyweight title last November. Nicholson lost by a second-round KO from Jeremy Williams in his 11th pro fight in 1993 and later suffered back-to-back setbacks to Andrew Golota (an eight-round technical stoppage) and to Kirk Johnson (a 10-round decision) in 1996.

But since his loss to Johnson, Nicholson has won 15 fights in a row (12 by KO) against mediocre opponents. A victory over Tua would point Nicholson to a title, something Ruiz owns. In 1994, Nicholson out-pointed Ruiz in a close contest. Then, Ruiz was seemingly written off after he was KO’d by Tua in 19 seconds in 1996.

Two other heavyweights, Clifford Etienne and Fres Oquendo, will kick off the televised portion of the card in a non-title 10-rounder. Both have won 19 fights in a row. Etienne, the WBC’s No. 4 contender, has 13 KOs. Oquendo, the 1993 national Golden Gloves champion, has 10 KOs. Station Casinos has Etienne the 6-1 favorite.

The other matches on the card are: Lechaunce Shepherd (3-0) vs. TBA; Teaunce Shepherd (1-0) vs. TBA; and Ray Seffo vs. TBA.

Tickets ($200, $150, $75 and $35) are on sale at all Station Casinos and www.tickets.com outlets or call (888) 464-2468.

Botha knocks out Guy

Heavyweight contender Frans Botha (42-3-1, 27 KOs) knocked out Joey Guy (27-6-0, 15 KOs) at 2:40 of the first round at The Orleans Hotel and Casino on Friday night. There was no wagering available on the fight.

Prior to the bout, manager Sterling McPherson had his own reason for scheduling Botha in a non-TV venue against Guy.

"It’s about keeping Botha busy and bringing him back to fight better fighters," McPherson said. "We hope the fight against Joey Guy catapults him (into a major fight).

"Botha was not proud about his performance against Lennox Lewis (who knocked him out). He said he was embarrassed, but that he was not through. He has rededicated himself and made himself worthy enough to challenge for the heavyweight championship of the world," he added.

McPherson also noted that Botha was leading Mike Tyson after four rounds before being knocked out in the fifth round of a 1999 fight.

In the co-main event, Dagoberto Najera (13-2-0, 4 KOs) scored two knockdowns and went on to gain a split decision win over Javier Valadez (15-11-1, 13 KOs).

Collegians holding Championship event

In the amateurs, the Collegiate Boxing Western Championship will be Friday (semifinals at 7 p.m. PST) and March 24 (finals at 2 p.m.) at The Sporting House, 3025 Industrial Road.

Teams expected to compete are UNLV, UNR, San Jose, Santa Clara, Air Force Academy and Cal-Berkeley. The winners advance to the Finals in Reno on April 5-7.

Golden Gloves in LV

The Golden Gloves Regional Championships will be at The Orleans and Tropicana Resort and Casino March 24-25. The competition includes boxers from Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Oregon and California.

De La Hoya huge chalk in return

In his first match after his second setback in 34 fights, Oscar De La Hoya, ranked No. 1 welterweight challenger by the World Boxing Council, faces former IBF champion Arturo Gatti, ranked No. 2 by the World Boxing Association. Their 12-round fight is at MGM Grand Hotel/Casino on Saturday night. The winner will claim the vacant title.

De La Hoya (32-2, 26 KOs) is a –2600 favorite. Gatti (33-4, 27 KOs) is +1800. There is a $3,000 wagering limit. MGM Grand was expected to open proposition wagering this week.

At Texas Station Gambling Hall in North Las Vegas on Friday night, heavyweights David Tua and Dannell Nicholson will square off for a 12-round bout. Tua was installed as a –900 favorite. Nicholson was a +600 underdog at Station Casinos.

The fight will determine the No. 1 contender for the IBF title. Nicholson is the IBF’s No. 3 contender. Tua is ranked No. 5.