Sugar looking sweet at +220

Sep 9, 2003 12:35 AM

   It's not true I once picked a pickle jar to beat Oscar de la Hoya. But I must issue a caveat here before you jump in with your kids' college tuition and bet on Sugar Shane Mosley just because I think the underdog is a terrific bet. 

   The other day, Mosley was plus $2.20 against a guy he beat nine rounds to three on my card three years ago. 

   There are those who would suggest I am not the president of the de la Hoya fan club, who might remember that I originated his most famous nickname, Chicken de la Hoya. 

   Fact is, when I first saw him, in the amateurs in 1990, I thought he was the second best young fighter I had ever witnessed (Tony Ayala Jr. was first). His left hook to the side was magnificent. I think he's developed into a terrific fighter, and there was a natural reticence not to take him too seriously because of his movie star looks. Same way it took a long time to realize Sugar Ray Leonard was more than another pretty face. 

   But while he was one of the best of his era, de la Hoya should not be confused with the greats of the past. Oh, he would have given them fights, no doubt. But I just can't see him beating Leonard or Hearns and never mind Roberto Duran, Jose Napoles, Kid Gavilan or, dare I mention, Sugar Ray Robinson. 

   That's hardly a knock on Oscar. Like I say, he would have been no pushover for any of them (maybe Hearns, if Thomas cracked him early). 

   This is not an anti-Oscar selection, money fans. This is pro-Sugar Shane. And believe me, I am not alone. I still have the best in my corner, Eddie Futch. 

   I miss my guru of gurus. But not long before his 90th birthday, Eddie startled me by saying not only could Mosley have beaten Ray Leonard, he might have handled the best of all the Sugars, Ray Robinson. 

   Before you think Eddie was past his prime, in the course of the same conversation, he warned that he thought Vernon Forrest could beat Mosley. 

   Some argue that de la Hoya has some kind of edge at 154 he didn't have at 147. As the Brits would say, "Bollocks." Why? Mosley, in the brief look we had at him at 154 against Raoul Marquez, impressed me with the ease in which he pushed the bigger man around the ring. He will always be faster than de la Hoya, he will always have a numerical edge - two hands to one. 

   Oh, and Oscar is throwing more right hands now that Floyd Mayweather Sr. is his trainer? So what? He still can't punch with his "off" hand, though by using it more he has gained a tactical advantage over the 2000 version of Oscar. He sets up his left hand better by using the right (the same way a fighter from a southpaw stance, and remember, de la Hoya is a natural left-hander, leads with his right jab to set up his left). 

   But in using the right and adapting to Mayweather's low-hand defense, with chin tucked in behind the shoulder, Oscar has taken away from his left hook (it was only when he abandoned the Mayweather stance against the fading Fernando Vargas that he was able to land his left hook). He has become rather easy to hit. 

   I am not of the belief that somehow de la Hoya is a much better fighter than he was three years ago. Yes, he might be better conditioned under Mayweather. And he does use the right hand more. But who has he beaten with Mayweather? 

   Arturo Gatti and Javier Castillejo? Please. Vargas? I was the only one of 21 writers polled by Royce Feour of the Review-Journal to pick Vargas, and that was a joke (I had earlier selected de la Hoya on, but when Oscar's lackeys kicked me out of his room, I figured if he were afraid of me, he had little chance against Vargas). The same guys who were writing that Vargas was damaged goods since Felix Trinidad Jr. knocked him out suddenly thought it was a major accomplishment to beat him. 

   But again, there is hesitancy in the selection of Mosley. That is because although I've spoken to him on the phone, I haven't yet seen him up close to take a guess on how the two losses to Forrest have affected his confidence. 

   If Mosley truly believes he will win, I truly believe he WILL win. Before their first meeting, three years ago, I couldn't imagine picking Mosley until I saw him in Los Angeles the week before the fight. His confidence oozed out of every pore. 

   I am impressed that de la Hoya overruled Bob Arum to make this fight, impressed that he was willing to take $500,000 from his own purse to entice Mosley into the rematch. I have little doubt that (a) he wants his victory badly and (b) thinks he's going to get it. 

   I am more impressed, however, by Eddie Futch thinking Mosley could have beaten the Sugar Rays (Leonard and Robinson). That should make him a big favorite against de la Hoya, not a big dog.