In the predictable war of words, Javier Castillejo said Oscar De La Hoya "didn’t impress him," and that he would retain his WBC super welterweight belt on Saturday night at the MGM Grand.
Early bettors don’t agree. They’ve already bet De La Hoya up to a -1400 favorite after he opened at -900. The take back on Castillejo was +1000, according to Robert Walker, director of the MGM MIRAGE sports books.
Some professional gamblers feel the 10-1 odds on the champ is a trap. One of them is Herb Lambeck, the foremost boxing oddsmaker in North America.
"I thought they put up a terrible price on this fight," Lambeck said. "I laid 9-1. I think it should be 20-1. It’s stealing money.
"This should be easy for Oscar. This guy (Castillejo) is nothing."
Those who lost money wagering on De La Hoya against Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley, may be getting ready to trust Oscar again.
After losing by decision to Mosley a year ago, De La Hoya didn’t fight for nine months.
Unsure of his motivation and his mental state, gamblers went against De La Hoya when he resumed his boxing career three months ago against Arturo Gatti.
Walker said the ratio of betting tickets on Gatti at The Mirage was 10-1.
But Gatti was no Hasim Rahman. De La Hoya destroyed him, taking Gatti out in the fourth round.
"The Gatti fight was a set up," Lambeck said. "It was made to order for him. I don’t understand why the price kept going down. I thought it was a 100-1 shot."
Until his losses to Trinidad and Mosley, De La Hoya was on pace to being rated perhaps the greatest welterweight of all time.
The question now is can he ever regain that lofty status?
"I don’t know if Oscar can ever get it back," Lambeck said. "You don’t learn anything at this stage."
That’s certainly up for debate. Maybe De La Hoya has a little more style than substance: He has been anything but golden lately.
Lawsuits, palimony suits, racist comments, an unflattering profile in a major magazine and second-guessed for the way he’s lost a fight, has tarnished his image.
Who does Oscar think he is, Mike Tyson?
Nevertheless, Oscar says all that is behind him. He’s training hard now, and is completely focused on his boxing career.
Don’t look for him to be belting out tunes, or doing Livin’ La Vida Loca, at a lounge near you anytime soon. New trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. has De La Hoya chopping wood and running with weighted boots for the first time.
In fact, look for De La Hoya to become more of a two-handed fighter, throwing more right hands.
All this should put De La Hoya on the cutting edge for Saturday’s fight at the MGM Grand Garden.
Lambeck, however, isn’t sold on De La Hoya’s prospects beyond Saturday’s fight. The long-time Las Vegas line-maker would make both Mosley and Trinidad 2-1 favorites if they were to fight De La Hoya again.
"Trinidad ruins everybody he fights," Lambeck said.
Keep in mind, though, many people believed De La Hoya defeated Trinidad. Few were sympathetic, however, even those who wagered on Oscar, when Trinidad was awarded the decision.
That’s because De La Hoya tried to protect his lead by sprinting from Trinidad. Running away from somebody makes sense when you’re on a football field or competing in a track meet.
Doing it during a world-class boxing match is shameful and dishonorable. But don’t expect it to happen with Mayweather Sr. running the show.
In any case, Oscar beating Castillejo and becoming only the third boxer in history to win five world championships in five weight divisions is not the big issue.
Oscar’s true place in boxing’s pantheon will be decided on how he fares fighting Mosley, Vargas and Trinidad. Saturday’s fight is just for the bettors.