What IF De La Hoya Was Fighting Hagler Instead Of Hopkins?

03.09.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - With slightly over two weeks before the much anticipated Hopkins-De La Hoya Middleweight title bout, it seems as if it's already been analyzed from every angle. Another thing that's been a constant surrounding Hopkins-De La Hoya, is the similarities it shares with the Hagler-Leonard Middleweight title fight in April of 1987. I've even heard Hopkins-De La Hoya referred to as Hagler-Leonard lite, the inference being that Hagler and Leonard were better fighters and outrank Hopkins and De La Hoya.

In my opinion, Hagler and Leonard do outrank Hopkins and De La Hoya. It seems that when making comparisons between these two fights, the question or debate that arises most is between Hagler and Hopkins. It seems an overwhelming majority are in agreement that Leonard significantly outranks De La Hoya, and would've beat him had they fought at their peak. It seems Hagler-Hopkins is a little more disputed. Although Hagler is viewed by a majority as outranking and being a better fighter than Hopkins, it isn't as one sided as Leonard over De La Hoya.

I too think speculating on Hagler vs. Hopkins is a closer and tougher call than Leonard vs. De La Hoya. Since the Hagler vs. Hopkins debate seems to be more hotly disputed, I thought I look at it from a different angle. Instead of matching them up side-by-side, I thought of a different angle, just to get a different perception. But first I'll briefly weigh in on Leonard and De La Hoya.

In May of 2003, I wrote a What IF: Leonard vs. De La Hoya. At the end of the article I stated that I had no reservation at all saying that the best Sugar Ray Leonard would've defeated the best Oscar De La Hoya. That is a position I still hold. I know nothing can be said with absolute certainty when forecasting a fight, but I think Leonard over De La Hoya is one of the easier hypothetical fights to conclude.

When matching them up as fighters, Leonard was better than De La Hoya in just about every category one fighter can be over another. He was without a doubt a better boxer with faster hands and feet. Leonard had better stamina, was a better puncher with either hand to the head and body, and also put his punches together better in combination. The only offensive weapon De La Hoya possessed better than Leonard was his jab. But the jab is De La Hoya's best punch, and a major part of his offense.

De La Hoya has shown that he has an outstanding chin, but I don't think it's as good as Leonard's was. Other than Trinidad, De La Hoya hasn't fought any real punchers, and Trinidad never really nailed Oscar flush. Leonard also fought and beat better fighters than De La Hoya. Anyone who would try and suggest that De La Hoya faced better opposition than Leonard, couldn't be more wrong. On top of that, with the exception of Hagler, Leonard won his fights versus the best he fought more convincingly than De La Hoya. Some may say he lost to Hearns the second time. Fine, but when they fought at their peak, Leonard won in a fashion that left no unanswered questions.

Other than Fernando Vargas, De La Hoya didn't separate himself from the best fighters he's faced. Even if you think he deserved the decision against Trinidad and Mosley II, those fights left many questions unanswered as to who was the better fighter. I could continue building the case for Leonard over De La Hoya, but it won't change anyones mind who sees it the other way. It's just my opinion, but I believe Sugar Ray Leonard is a class above Oscar De La Hoya, and would've have clearly beat him had they fought on their best night.

Recently, I've seen a lot of debate on some Internet forums comparing Marvin Hagler and Bernard Hopkins. A majority of the exchanges are centered around who would've won had Hagler and Hopkins fought in their respective prime. Personally, I think it's a pretty intriguing fight to speculate about.

The only thing I see as being absolutely irrefutable, is the fact that Hagler definitely fought many more outstanding/great fighters than Hopkins, before he won the title and while defending the title. Even if you include De La Hoya among Hopkins opponents, his body of work still doesn't measure up to Hagler's. In a hypothetical fight matching prime Hagler vs prime Hopkins, I would favor Hagler. However, I don't think Hopkins would be stopped or dominated.

Instead of matching Hagler and Hopkins, how about matching Hagler and De La Hoya for a comparison-contrast correlation? What if De La Hoya was challenging the Marvin Hagler that Sugar Ray Leonard fought. Many forget that Hagler was coming off three great fights heading into his fight with Leonard. In late 1984, Hagler destroyed Mustafa Hamsho in three rounds. Hamsho had never been off his feet until his rematch with Hagler, something Hagler accomplished twice. In their first fight, Hagler chopped Hamsho up and the fight was stopped due to Hamsho being cut to ribbons. In the rematch, the fight was stopped because Hagler was on the verge of killing Hamsho.

Six months after taking Hamsho apart, Hagler fought Thomas Hearns. In the fight with Hearns, Hagler was a monster and stopped Hearns in the third round. Against Hearns, Hagler was on a mission and fought like a man possessed, if he was ever more formidable in a fight, I must've missed that one. After dispatching Hearns, Hagler defended the title against the undefeated John "The Beast" Mugabi, who was truly a Beast at the time. In what would be one of the toughest fights of his career, Hagler methodically broke Mugabi down and stopped him in the 11th round.

Against Mugabi, Hagler absorbed some monstrous bombs and showed a little slippage. But, nobody questioned afterward that Marvin Hagler was still the best Middleweight in the World. Heading into his next fight with Sugar Ray Leonard, Hagler was still thought of as being unbeatable. So much so that he was a 4-1 Favorite on the night of the fight. Leonard went onto win a split decision over Hagler and claimed the Middleweight Championship. The decision rendered in the Hagler-Leonard bout is still being argued 17 years later.

Instead of sizing up De La Hoya against Hopkins, how about sizing him up against Hagler? Suppose De La Hoya was fighting Hagler of 1987 in two weeks instead of Hopkins. What would De La Hoya's chances against Hagler be perceived as being. I've read where some writers and fans believe De La Hoya is very capable of upsetting Hopkins. I wonder how those same writers and fans who feel De La Hoya can possibly beat Hopkins, think De La Hoya would fare versus Hagler.

If De La Hoya of September 2004 was facing Hagler of 1987, is there any case that can be made where De La Hoya comes out the winner? If there is a scenario that can be made for De La Hoya beating Hagler, I sure as hell can't come up with it. What does De La Hoya have in his arsenal to trouble or neutralize Hagler? I can't in a million years envision De La Hoya holding Hagler off while trying to out box him. If Quartey, Trinidad, and Mosley could get to Oscar, how much trouble would Hagler have?

If De La Hoya couldn't hold Hagler off, he'd have to fight him like Hearns did. Hearns punches in another zip code at 160 compared to De La Hoya. Even if you think De La Hoya has a better chin than Hearns, how long would he last fighting Hagler. De La Hoya has never really been nailed with consecutive bombs the way Hagler would as the fight progressed. On top of that, mentally, Hagler would not have any doubt going against De La Hoya. I don't think the same can be said the other way.

When it comes to strength, it's not even close. Hagler is stronger, hits harder, and has much better stamina. In regards to durability, it's all Hagler. Is it even fathomable that De La Hoya could hurt Hagler? Not in my mind. The way I see it, De La Hoya of 2004 wouldn't have Prayer-one against Hagler of 1987.

It's funny, but when I match Hagler against Hopkins, I think it's a close call. I definitely favor Hagler and would pick him to beat Hopkins, but I see it going the distance and being competitive. However, when I match De La Hoya up against them, I see a huge disparity.

In the up coming Hopkins-De La Hoya fight, I definitely like Hopkins to win. But I don't think he'll destroy De La Hoya. I actually think De La Hoya will be in the fight, he just won't win. However, when I match De La Hoya against Hagler, I don't see any scenario where he could win. If De La Hoya was fighting Hagler on September 18th 2004, I think he would be soundly defeated and stopped. No way can I see De La Hoya going the distance with Hagler.

When matching Hagler and Hopkins, I see a closely contested fight. Yet I think Hagler would literally go through De La Hoya, but I can see De La Hoya competing with Hopkins. When using De La Hoya as the barometer for Hagler and Hopkins, Hagler comes out way ahead.

The fact that Hagler would seem to fare much better against De La Hoya on paper compared to Hopkins, means absolutely nothing. As everybody is well aware, styles make fights. I just thought it was an interesting and different way to evaluate Hagler and Hopkins. The perception of Hagler-De La Hoya is decidedly different to me than the perception of Hopkins-De La Hoya.

Article posted on 03.09.2004

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