Hopkins-De La Hoya: Going With My First Instinct

17.09.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - What's that saying, "Never go against your first thought and Instinct, despite the ground swell of those going the other way". It's been said that your first thoughts and feelings are usually right. A year ago it was thought by many that a Hopkins-De La Hoya fight would probably never happen. The underlying thought being De La Hoya wanted no part of Hopkins.

With the Hopkins-De La Hoya fight slightly more than a day away, there's been an unbelievable momentum shift. It's impossible not to notice the overwhelming De La Hoya sentiment that's exploded in the last 10 days. If I didn't know better, I'd think he was the favorite among the Boxing press and fans. The question I have is why? Is it because he accepted the fight with Hopkins, or maybe that he's declared he never worked harder or been in better shape for a fight in his life? Or just maybe some sense that the clock is about to strike midnight on the 39 year old Hopkins, and Father-time will finally catch him on the night of September 18th 2004?

When the Hopkins-De La Hoya bout was first announced, my initial thoughts were De La Hoya couldn't win. The only case I could make for De La Hoya was Hopkins' age, being that he's eight years older than Oscar. And possibly from a style vantage point, De La Hoya could present a few problems for Hopkins.

However, I looked at De La Hoya as having too many obstacles to overcome. Hopkins being the natural Middleweight is stronger and has better stamina. Unlike De La Hoya, I've never seen Hopkins fade down the stretch in any fight. Also, like De La Hoya, Hopkins is a versatile fighter and can adapt to varying styles. He could go after De La Hoya and try to make it a War since he's a better and sharper puncher, or he could fight methodically and break De La Hoya down. Not to mention Hopkins has a cast iron chin and is not likely to be stopped by De La Hoya.

It's well known that Hopkins is at his brilliant best when his opponent comes to him. As Felix Trinidad found out, it's suicide for a fighter who may not be as physically strong as Hopkins to push the fight. I seriously doubt De La Hoya will attempt bringing the fight to Hopkins. One thing being overlooked regarding Hopkins, is that he's an underrated Boxer, and can be very effective moving in behind his jab.

De La Hoya can only fight Hopkins one way. He must try and box him using the ring and forcing Hopkins to use his 39 year old legs. The problem is, De La Hoya doesn't have the hand and foot speed that Sugar Ray Leonard used in taking the bullets out of Marvin Hagler's guns in April of 1987. The thought that De La Hoya can just turn it on and Box non-stop for 12 rounds isn't realistic. He's never done it before.

De La Hoya's conditioning has been another factor swinging sentiment his way. It's been reported that Oscar has never trained harder. That's great, but a fighter can only train so hard. De La Hoya is what he is, a fighter who sometimes fades down the stretch when pushed. I think it's safe to say that he probably killed himself getting ready for Trinidad and the second Mosley fight. If De La Hoya was ever going to be at his best, prior to the upcoming fight with Hopkins, it had to be for his rematch with Mosley. Just for the fact that Shane beat him as an amateur, and then as a pro took his Welterweight Title in a fight that nobody thought De La Hoya won. Can there be any doubt that he killed himself preparing for their rematch? Not in my mind. And he still faded in that fight allowing Mosley to steal it down the stretch. And Mosley hadn't really started pressuring him until about the eighth round.

In De La Hoya's last two fights against Shane Mosley and Felix Sturm, he never hurt either of them once. I know he wasn't in top shape versus Sturm, but even early when he went for the quick knockout, he didn't move or shake at all. Conversely, Mosley had Oscar buzzed pretty good in the 9th round of their rematch and was hurting him to the body.

A good case can be made that De La Hoya is 0-2 in his last 2 fights, just as it can be said he pulled both of them out and is 2-0 in them. What cannot be disputed is that in the last 24 rounds he's fought, De La Hoya was never in control of either fight physically. Most of the time he broke off the exchanges and was forced to retreat.

Now he is fighting Bernard Hopkins in what is the biggest fight of both of their careers. You better believe Hopkins is on a mission? The difference is Hopkins legacy is at stake, he can't lose to De La Hoya and ever hope to go down as an all-time great. No way do I believe Hopkins may have taken De La Hoya lightly based off his fight with Felix Sturm. Believe me, if Hopkins loses to De La Hoya, you'll never hear his name mentioned with the likes of Monzon and Hagler again. Although that isn't fair, it's just the cold hard truth. And Bernard knows it.

De La Hoya doesn't have to beat Hopkins to justify his standing, his legacy is pretty much in tact. De La Hoya will get much high praise if he is competitive in the fight and doesn't get taken apart. That being said, I have no doubt that De La Hoya wants this fight as badly as Hopkins.

Oscar De La Hoya is a fighter who I respect very much, and if he won I wouldn't be completely shocked. However, in the 7 fights against the biggest and best opponents he's ever fought, (Whitaker, Quartey, Trinidad, Mosley twice, Vargas, and Sturm) he only beat one of them in a fashion that left no doubt as to who was the better fighter, Fernando Vargas. Regardless of how you feel the decisions should have gone versus the before mentioned fighters, Vargas is the only one he beat leaving no doubt about him being the better fighter. On top of that, with the exception of Trinidad and Sturm, De La Hoya was the bigger fighter in all of his other fights.

What does De La Hoya bring to the ring that can beat Hopkins other than youth? Speed? Yes he's faster than Hopkins, but it's not like he has Leonard or Jones type speed that will totally bewilder him. He can't hurt Hopkins. De La Hoya has not shown that he is a puncher above 140. He can't outwork him over twelve rounds, he can't win a street fight, he can't even out box Hopkins if Hopkins chooses to Box. Too add to his problems, Oscar busts up and swells.

That being said, I expect De La Hoya to be a warrior on September 18th. He'll definitely give Hopkins a very tough fight, most likely for twelve rounds. But I can't pick him to come out on top. I'm sticking with what I first thought despite De La Hoya being the trendy and Sheik pick. Although I must confess that I've been tempted by the ground swell of Boxing observers now picking De La Hoya, but I won't be swayed.

This is the first time I have ever picked against De La Hoya. I picked him over Whitaker, Quartey, Trinidad, both fights with Mosley, Vargas, and Sturm. With the exception of the Vargas fight, I came away from all the other ones thinking that I overrate him. I guess it's now safe to assume Hopkins will look 39 on September 18th. I said when the fight was announced, the only way De La Hoya wins is if Hopkins ages dramatically before and during it. I believe De La Hoya's performance will enhance his career stature. But Hopkins Wins.

Article posted on 17.09.2004

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