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Oh boy: Pretty Boy vs. Golden Boy

Apr 17, 2003 3:50 AM

After eight weeks, you should know by now that my last winner was Dewey in 1948. But as my guru Pat Putnam, the former Sports Illustrated great, taught me, "You don’t get paid to pick’em right, you get paid to pick’em."

Well, even three WBC judges should be able to get the next two big fights right. You don’t need to tell me April 19, in Fresno, that Floyd Mayweather Jr. should handle the competent Victoriano Sosa in a lightweight title bout or that Oscar de la Hoya should have an easier time against Yory Boy Campas in Vegas the following Saturday.

Pretty Boy Floyd and the Golden Boy against each other, though, that is what we’re here to talk about.

It’s premature. Mayweather’s career hangs on the ligaments and tendons in his chronically sore hands. After ­­Campas, de la Hoya has a Sept. 13 bout with his only clear-cut conqueror Sugar Shane Mosley. It is not against the law for Mosley to win again.

Mayweather, who like de la Hoya won his first title at 130 pounds, is now talking about jumping up to 154 to face Oscar. My first reaction ”” more jerk than knee-jerk ”” was that this was not Roy Jones Jr.-John Ruiz II.

Oscar is no Ruiz, though Mayweather Jr. may be talentwise the closest thing boxing has to RJJ. The late great Eddie Futch used to tell me that young Mayweather "does things I haven’t seen done in years."

Technically, in fact, he is superior to Jones. But he doesn’t have Roy-type power and that’s going to be a problem as he climbs the divisions. In his first lightweight bout, he moved up and closely defeated the 135-pound division’s best, Jose Luis Castillo, who after a few rounds, began to realize he could walk through Mayweather’s bad-hand punches.

Mayweather, a true battler, said if the world wasn’t satisfied with the decision giving him the title, he’d give Castillo a rematch. He beat him more convincingly this time, but still couldn’t hurt the tough former champion.

How then can he hurt de la Hoya? At first, I thought it was laughable to even try, that Mayweather had big fish to fry before going up against the shark of all sharks. But at 135, who would care if he fought the winner of Paul Spadafora and Leon Dorin, two other undefeated "champions."

At 140, Little Floyd is astute enough to realize a match against the junior welter king, Kostya Tszyu, would be difficult to arrange since Pretty Boy is with HBO and the Russian with Showtime. At 147, there’s another oil-and-water mixture. Floyd is promoted by Bob Arum. Tszyu is directed by Don King.

On the other hand, Arum promotes both of boxing’s "Boys" ”” Golden Boy and Pretty Boy. And Arum loves the idea of this matchup. He sees not only big bucks, but also a comparatively safe fight for his money machine, de la Hoya, who would probably opt instead to go after Bernard Hopkins.

In addition, Arum has let it be known he has grown tired of the mercurial Mayweather. His promotional contract is up soon and by promising de la Hoya next year ”” Arum says around Cinco de Mayo ”” maybe he can keep Pretty Boy in line. Arum wouldn’t mind seeing this boy get spanked by Golden Boy.

See, no matter how much of a mismatch this fight might appear at first glance, Arum has a hook to sell it, a "storyline" as he calls it. He is more Steven Spielberg than most promoters and he sees young Mayweather looking across the ring at his estranged father, who just happens to be de la Hoya’s trainer.

Arum, like no other promoter, knows sadism sells. This is the man who brought us Muhammad Ali against the kicking Japanese wrestler, who almost ruined the legs of The Greatest. He promoted Evel Knievel and the Snake River Canyon jump, selling tickets to a possible death.

He says it’s never been done before, a fighter facing his father, at least not on pay-per-view. Oh, it’ll sell. But here’s the kicker: Little Floyd has a chance.

Remember, at the time Mosley jumped from 135 to 147 to challenge de la Hoya, there were those who thought Sugar Shane was running to escape Little Floyd, who was ready to move up to 135. We all saw what Mosley did to de la Hoya. It was close, but clear: he was the better fighter in their showdown of 2000.

Young Mayweather thinks he has an edge "because no one can out-think me in the ring." That is one of de la Hoya’s big weaknesses. He has speed, a vicious hook, a fine jab and good chin, plus a fighter’s heart. But he is not as instinctive as Mayweather.

When things do not go well, he needs to get back to his corner and receive some fresh advice. I remember him being lost against John John Molina, using bad strategy against Felix Trinidad Jr. He was confused by Pernell Whitaker. He is vulnerable.

If Mayweather Sr. was not in his corner, it still could be a fight worth watching just because it would feature two of boxing’s best. And, at the odds, young Mayweather would probably be worth a plunge.