De la Hoya tries to turn back time vs Pacquiao

Dec 2, 2008 5:08 PM

Pulling No Punches by Michael Katz |

It’s being called "The Dream Match," though it is nothing more than a somewhat intriguing circus sideshow act concocted by Larry Merchant.

It’s not exactly as ugly a matchup as some critics have cried, citing the size differential between Oscar de la Hoya and Manny Pacquiao. Neither is it a "dream" unless you’ve been having trouble sleeping.

The game’s biggest star – the accent is on "big" – against its brightest practitioner. It still sounds like a handicap race, one contestant giving away huge size differentials (de la Hoya, at 5-10½ is four inches taller and has a six-inch reach advantage), the other spotting six years in age.

It proves nothing, except the rich get richer, even in this economy. De la Hoya will make at least $15 million, Pacquiao at least $10 million in the HBO pay-per-view extravaganza ($55 for Jim Lampley and Merchant, $1,500 to skip Harold Lederman and be at the MGM ringside in Las Vegas).

The winner, or loser, probably has a date with Ricky Hatton in the near future. No one is talking about championships. The Super Bowl and World Series may get a Tampa Bay in the action, but boxing at its heart is not a sport where the best compete against the best. It has become shlock – the two-headed man and the bearded lady, not the acrobats or lion-tamers.

Frankly, I don’t give a damn who wins, except it’s my task here to offer financial advice to those hurt by Lehman Brothers or AIG. I’m almost tempted to suggest investing in the market rather than touch this bric-á-brac.

Pacquiao started his career in 1995 as a junior flyweight. He has won titles at 112, 122, 130 and 135. Now he is fighting at 147 against someone who began at 130 and, in his collection somewhere has a 160-pound belt. Yes, de la Hoya is not what he used to be (in my humble opinion, he never was what he used to be), but would you take Pacquiao against say a 46-year-old Evander Holyfield?

I don’t belittle de la Hoya for agreeing to fight a small person when he can be paid $15 million. He has invested enough in this brutal game and it is always nice to see at least one guy make a decent living in this business.

I do object, of course, that he tries to make it sound as if he’s fighting King Kong, which is what he always does to sell his fights. He has fought enough Whitakers, Trinidads, Hopkins, Mosleys, Quarteys and the like to get a free pass on all the Patrick Charpentiers, Arturo Gattis and David Kamaus that dot his record.

And the funny thing is that he could easily lose to the little man here. As his old trainer – and Pacquiao’s mentor – says, "Oscar is 35 and a part-time fighter." Freddie Roach is just one of many trainers de la Hoya has gone through.

Now Oscar, for the first time, is with the great Mexican cornerman, Nacho Beristain. As is his wont, de la Hoya calls his current guy the best trainer he’s ever had, which is not only insulting to Roach, but to Floyd Mayweather Sr., Emanuel Steward, Gil Clancy and the Old Professor, Luis Rivero.

Laying 2-1 on de la Hoya is not like shooting small fry in the barrel. The 8-5 buyback rate on Pacquiao is tempting here because at 29 he’s in his prime. (Okay, Manny will be 30 on Dec. 17, but that was my mom’s birthday and besides, de la Hoya turns 36 in two months!)

Roach says his guy has put on muscle and is walking around heavier than de la Hoya. I’m not sure he can knock out de la Hoya, but he can hurt him. And, from Oscar’s appearance in May against Steve Forbes, the skin may be going, making cuts a possible problem.

Pacquiao will of course have to go to de la Hoya to minimize the reach disadvantage. De la Hoya has had trouble with boxers, but he thinks he can handle anyone going at him. Maybe.

It is interesting to note that Pacquiao is the first southpaw de la Hoya has faced since Hector Camacho in 1997 and remember he had a bit of trouble earlier that year against Pernell Whitaker, another lefty.

De la Hoya says if he doesn’t knock out Pacquiao, "it will be a total disaster for me."

But while size matters, it’s not everything. Speed may be more important here; Oscar may be shocked at how much slower he is than his opponent. And under Roach, Pacquiao has improved his footwork immensely so side-to-side movement may have de la Hoya a half-step behind all night.

Bottom line: This "dream match" pits man against boy and here it’s Pac Man vs. Golden Boy. If you have to have a rooting interest, go with the Man.