Counting Down To De La Hoya – Mayweather

mayweather26.03.07 - By Matthew Hurley: As May 5th approaches I’ve found myself yawing a bit behind my hand in a marked lack of anticipation for the upcoming, so-called “biggest fight ever” – Oscar De La Hoya vs. Floyd Mayweather. Not in any way because I dislike either fighter. In fact I’m a big fan of both – well, Mayweather defines “egomania”, believe me and that can really grate on one’s patience. It’s because I can’t help but envision a serious letdown when the bell finally rings. Particularly in regards to all the hype the bout is generating. There is a feeling, in this corner, that we have another De La Hoya – Felix Trinidad on our hands, only with Oscar in the aggressive boxing mode.

I hope I’m wrong. This is a fight that will find coverage in newspaper sports pages, not just websites. Vegas will be abuzz with anticipation, as if Elvis and Sinatra were performing on the same night, and the stars will be out in force. I’m sure I’ll be looking to get close to Angelina Jolie, if she’s not busy that night adopting another kid. Actually, when it comes to boxing matches the only thing that can distract me from the fighters and trainers and other boxing scribes are the scantily clad ring card girls that parade about between rounds. And even those beauties take a backseat when the cut men climb into the ring to stop the flow of blood.

Perhaps I’m being a bit too harsh of the Oscar – Floyd clash because I’ve been preparing myself for the punishing work ahead in terms of articles I will have to dedicate to this fight. I find myself, for whatever reason, pining for the first big bout I covered – the rematch between Thomas Hearns and Sugar Ray Leonard. Now that was something special! Or maybe it was just special to me (all boxing writers have those moments). As Ray Leonard recently opined, we tend to view past fighters and rivalries that were part of our generation as head-and-shoulders above anything offered up nowadays. And I’m guilty of that, I admit. Although Erik Morales, Marco Antonio Barrera, Manny Pacquaio and Juan Manuel Marquez came about as close to Marvin Hagler, Roberto Duran, Hearns and Leonard as one could hope.

I remember, back in 1989 at Fanueil Hall in Boston, sitting with Thomas Hearns and watching him clench his jaw in frustration as Leonard, on the other side of the room, commanded more attention from the press. I remember Hearns looking over his shoulder at Emanuel Steward and then looking at me as he shook my hand and saying quietly, as if to himself, “I’m going to put him on his ass.” As polite as he was, the “Hitman” never cracked a smile.

I remember members of the Petronelli boxing Gym, along with Goody and Pat Petronelli, trainer and manager of the “Marvelous” one, embracing Hearns and his camp – this in the wake of Hagler’s loss to Leonard – and completely ignoring Sugar Ray, and Leonard, with that cocked right eyebrow, smiling at them just knowing that he drove them and Marvin nuts. I remember a local fighter, long since forgotten, mocking Hearns’ drawl and Leonard pointing at Tommy and laughing. And then there was Sugar Ray. Make no mistake, he was the Oscar De La Hoya of his time. If you’re a youngster and don’t know where this “Golden Boy” nonsense originated (and Ray was a better fighter) it began with Ray, and there was the man who dared called himself “Sugar” hugging and kissing every woman or kid he could like a rallying politician, while Tommy glared at him from across the room. And yet the “Sugar Man” put his arm around me and gave me my time. He definitely knew how to work a crowd.

Then there was promoter Bob Arum who, without hesitation, told me to “fuck off!” I was taken aback by his tone and basically did what he said, although if he said that to me now I’d do to him what Hearns did to Leonard in the third and eleventh rounds. But that confrontation will have to wait for another day as Bob has already said that not only won’t he be in Vegas on May 5th, he won’t even watch the fight. The bad blood between the two fighters he helped build up into superstars, and having both of them abandon him, rankles the old coot to the core.

Which brings us back to De La Hoya – Mayweather. I do hope, as we all do, that it’s a classic. I might change my opinion as the fight creeps up and the excitement builds. I usually do because I’m a fan as well as a journalist. I want what’s best for the sport and the best thing that could happen is that we’re treated to a version of Leonard – Hearns (either one) or, heaven help us, Hagler – Hearns. Whatever happens, let’s all just hope that the fight itself at least comes close to living up to the boxing hype.

Article posted on 27.03.2007

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