Pacquiao De La Hoya: Whose "Dream Match"?

Eric R. Sloan: What is a "dream match"? It's a fantasy fight between two fighters in their prime who were never able to fight. Sugar Ray Robinson versus Roy Jones, Jr. comes to mind. How about Marciano versus Ali? Check. The list of impossible dream matchups is as expansive as our individual opinions as to how such fights would end. As boxing fans, this is what we do. We can't help ourselves. The fight tonight, however, does not qualify as such in the traditional sense, but it may be a dream of sorts to one man. Oscar De La Hoya has always dreamed of being loved by Mexico..

The Golden Boy is an American with a Mexican bloodline, but Mexicans have never really accepted him as one of their own. They have supported him, but they never loved him the same way that they love Chavez, Morales, Barrera, and Marquez. Forget the obvious, that Oscar is an American, because many factors contributed to Oscar's fragile relationship with Mexican boxing fans. The breaking point was the way he lost to Puerto Rico's Felix Trinidad that caused the permanent fracture. De La Hoya tried to run to the scorecards, a blatant anti-Mexican tactic, and they have never forgiven him.

Oscar's selection of Manny Pacquiao as his next opponent made no sense when the fight was originally announced. Looking at it in hindsight, it does now. Oscar claims that he wants to fight the best. At the weight divisions where the Golden Boy normally looms, the best fighters are Antonio Margarito (147), Vernon Forrest (154), and Kelly Pavlik (160). Margarito is out because Oscar has said publically that he will not fight a Mexican at this stage of his career. Forrest is out because there isn't enough money in it. Pavlik is out because Oscar is not Bernard Hopkins. Ricky Hatton may have been an option, but his loss against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and lukewarm victory over Juan Lazcano lowered his stock. Enter Manny Pacquiao.

Pacquiao is known as "the Mexican killer." Marquez, Barrera, Morales have fallen to him in some of the most violent boxing encounters of the last ten years. It may well mean that Oscar's dream, therefore, is to kill the killer and finally win over the Mexican fan base that has treated him more like a David or Juan Diaz than a Rafael or Juan Manuel Marquez. This is not to say that he is disliked, he isn't, but it is fairly obvious who Mexicans would have supported if De La Hoya was fighting Antonio Margarito tonight instead of Manny Pacquiao.

If Oscar is one thing other than golden, he is the pound-for-pound king of marketing and he is going all out on this one. First, he hired Nacho Beristain, Mexico's favorite trainer. This move appears logical since Nacho is familiar with Pacquiao. Realistically, however, Nacho isn't the defensive genius that Floyd Mayweather, Sr. is. If anyone knows De La Hoya it is Mayweather, Sr., and against Pacman's thirty-six minute offense, a premium will be placed tonight on sharp defensive skills. Further, the addition of Angelo Dundee as a De La Hoya "consultant" may well emphasize the point that Nacho Beristain is there for marketing purposes only.

Second, HBO's 24/7 series focused on Oscar's seemingly close family ties to Mexico and the trips he made there as a boy. Forget about the fact that his primary residence is in Puerto Rico and he is "from" Los Angeles. For some reason it was this fight where it was important for HBO to document Oscar's connection to Tecate, Mexico. Perhaps it was just a coincidence. Perhaps it was marketing the dream. Either way, it is unclear why these "distant memories" of Oscar's were worthy of air time.

If this truly is a kill the killer fight, then Oscar's plan appears to have backfired. Oscar may be Mexico's distant cousin, but Manny Pacquiao is its adopted son. Bob Arum recently said that Antonio Margarito and Erik Morales may walk Manny into the ring tonight. If this is true, it would not be surprising to see a Chavez or two as part of the entourage. If this is true, then Oscar's "dream" will end before the opening bell. Some things just can't be bought.

Article posted on 06.12.2008

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