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Oscar looking better
as showings decline

Jun 15, 2004 2:00 AM

No, Oscar de la Hoya did not call for an investigation into the scoring of his latest close and controversial decision.

He did not cite CompuBox’s punch stats, the way he did against Sugar Shane Mosley. It may have been for "the good of boxing" then, but for now, for the good of a $30 million payday, Oscar just took his lumps, said he had a bad night and went home, presumably to train for Bernard Hopkins.

Good, I say.

Despite looking like a rank amateur against Felix (Imperfect) Sturm, Oscar still has a chance Sept. 18 against the long-reigning king of the middleweights. But now, heh, heh, the odds figure to be a lot higher.

Now, I am not going to add my scoring expertise to those that have already polluted the world. First, I still haven’t had a chance to watch the fight. I mean, I was there, but I was on deadline for some rag of a newspaper, meaning I was trying to write about Hopkins’s victory over Robert Allen.

I managed to keep an eye on Oscar for four rounds and he seemed in charge. The fact is, the ringside press mostly felt the fight was a draw. A couple of psycho fans in the media had Oscar well ahead. There were more scorecards with the non-aggressive German on top.

Whatever, there is no reason to assume that the three judges, if they had been at Belmont earlier in the day, would have disqualified Birdstone and given the Triple Crown to Smarty Jones. Of course, the judges knew about the bonanza boxing will claim if de la Hoya challenges Hopkins in September. But I doubt if it was as big a ripoff as is currently portrayed.

Whatever, from four rounds it was easy to tell de la Hoya was not fighting Sturm the same way he will fight Hopkins.

It would be a bit premature to compare apples and oranges and say de la Hoya has no choice if he truly goes ahead with his plans to cap his career with a major upset.

Yes, we could tell some things about his performance, but I think we knew some of these before:

De la Hoya does not have the punch to seriously hurt a middleweight.

De la Hoya does not have the strength to fight inside at 160 pounds.

De la Hoya still has superior hand speed.

What we couldn’t tell was whether his foot speed was still good at age 31. Obviously, he was overweight at a fluffy 160 pounds. He should come in as close to 155 as he can (if he gets lower than 154, he is ineligible to win the middleweight title) to be as light on his feet as he can be. That’s the only way he can beat Hopkins, a hit-and-run attack that does not allow him to stick around and get countered.

Allen, as soon as his strangely inanimate effort against Hopkins was over, said "Oscar will beat him." Later, after watching de la Hoya struggle with the light-hitting, one-punch-at-a-time Sturm, Allen said de la Hoya could still beat him, that he won’t fight Hopkins the same way, and besides, Bernard doesn’t hit as hard as he used to.

Allen should know. He was stopped in seven rounds by Hopkins three years earlier. Hopkins did not look that good, either. Of course, he was being very, very cautious, afraid to jeopardize his biggest payday against a guy, Allen, who can indeed punch. He’ll be less cautious against the light-hitting de la Hoya.

It is always amazing to watch Hopkins on those spindly legs outmaneuver opponent after opponent. But truth of the matter is, he is much better at going laterally or even backwards than he is trying to hunt down an elusive foe. One word of wisdom was that de la Hoya could take something out of those 39-year-old legs by walking Hopkins backwards when they get in clinches.

I’m not sure Oscar is strong enough to do that, however. His only way of winning is to move laterally, attack suddenly with one, two or three punches, and either get out or tie up Hopkins. There is some room for error. Hopkins was never a great puncher and de la Hoya has a good chin. He should be able to take a shot or two, but he can not allow himself to be pounded.

Promoter Bob Arum likes to compare Hopkins-de la Hoya to Sugar Ray Leonard’s audacious comeback to face Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Of course, de la Hoya is no Leonard, but let’s not forget, Hopkins is no Hagler, either. Bernard just came along at a time when the last real group of talent in the middleweight division (Roy Jones Jr., James Toney and Michael Nunn) had all moved up in weight.

Go back the last nine years, and outside of Hopkins himself, a wonderful throwback to earlier ages, the middleweight division has been bereft of talent as the heavyweight. No, I don’t think Hopkins-de la Hoya is as one-sided as some of my colleagues. Hopkins "should" win, but the price may be right on Oscar.