The Political Stakes of Pacquiao, De la Hoya and Mayweather

Oscar De La HoyaBy Michael Klimes: When you have a strong conviction about an issue and your opinion is undercut by events, it can be a frustrating experience. Bernard Hopkins achieved a coup d’état against my prediction as he mastered Kelly Pavlik gracefully over the course of twelve rounds. I might as well never gamble against the man again. Manny Pacquiao did the same as he slaughtered Oscar de la Hoya. Putting my hurt feelings aside is not easy but the second bout has a number of political implications.

Firstly, it is refreshing to think that the burden of de la Hoya retiring sooner or later has been lifted off his shoulders by the comprehensive beating he endured. It was becoming boring playing the guessing game of when this once great force would resign his post. De la Hoya’s possible departure could be extremely significant for boxing and invigorate the sport. It has been clear for many years that de la Hoya was boxing’s biggest star, even as a semi-retired one, and was only better than Sugar Ray Leonard in one sense: Leonard could not generate the profits de la Hoya could. However, it is a sign of chronic illness if boxing’s premier television network HBO and Oscar de la Hoya have a convenient marriage than can dictate what happens in the boxing world. It is too much of a monopoly.

With de la Hoya’s reputation as a fighter invariably harmed, it will force HBO to look away from marketing de la Hoya as the face of extortionate PPVs. Similarly, de la Hoya can now start thinking of being a promoter instead of dividing his time between that and fighting. It is true that there was a very considerable financial incentive for him to keep being an active boxer as it raised the profile of Golden Boy Promotions. Nevertheless, it may have actually hurt his business as de la Hoya was and is an all absorbing presence. I always felt he drew attention away from the younger fighters under his wing. The evidence for this was present in the super fight with Floyd Mayweather Junior where the undercard was substandard. De la Hoya used none of his famous charm to promote the new generation. Now, if he turns his whole focus to promoting, which I hope he does, he can take the lead talking role away from Richard Schaefer and let some of his charisma rub off on the younger men. Bernard Hopkins could help as well. The victory of Pacquiao against de la Hoya means that the balance between Top Rank Promotions and Golden Boy Promotions has been restored after Pavlik’s humbling defeat.

Make no mistake that although they do business together, they are also keen rivals. Schaefer’s outburst against Antonio Margarito when at first he did not want to fight Sugar Shane Mosley is indicative of this point. Bob Arum and Oscar de la Hoya do not have a relationship without history either. Still with the current economic downturn it seems there will be less PPV fights in Las Vegas and more local events. This is one of the main reasons why the Antonio Margarito versus Sugar Shane Mosley showdown is taking place in Los Angeles as they have fan bases there. The fact there is less money for fans to spend on lavish PPVs means that the power brokers in the industry will have to be more dynamic and I think fairer in the prices which they charge for tickets and PPVs.

Conversely, one fight I think which has to materialise and is a legitimate PPV event is Manny Pacquiao versus Floyd Mayweather Jr. Why should this happen? The fact is that Pacquiao is the best offensive fighter in the world. His feinting, slipping, power, speed and technical acumen has made him into, I daresay it, the modern Roberto Duran. It’s a huge statement to make I know but Pacquiao has an intensity which reminds me of the Panamanian. He not might possess quite the same scowl or joy at beating his opponents but the energy is undeniable. Ray Arcel was the magnificent trainer that converted Duran from a one dimensional slugger into a boxer-puncher par excellence over a long period of time. Freddie Roach is Pacquiao’s Arcel. In confronting Mayweather, Pacquiao would be taking on the most formidable pure boxer that he’s ever faced. Mayweather is undefeated and is one of the best counter-punchers in history. His talent, intelligence, strategy and tactical brilliance are unsurpassed. Pacquaio might just have the correct mix of experience, natural athleticism, discipline and pressure to beat Mayweather.

It is too tempting not to imagine. Mayweather’s speciality is dismantling offensive fighters. The list includes Ricky Hatton, Jesus Chavez, Philip N’Dou, Diego Corrales and José Luis Castillo. However, has he ever been in the ring with a fighter like Pacquiao? I don’t think so.

Mayweather versus Pacquiao could the Sugar Ray Leonard versus Roberto Duran or Alexis Argüello versus Aaron Pryor of this generation. It will be the exceptionally gifted boxer fighting the most aggressive yet controlled puncher in boxing. It all depends if Mayweather comes out of retirement.

If he does not, Pacquiao has a variety of options open to him. He could take on Joan Guzman, Nate Campbell, Ricky Hatton, Juan Manuel Marquez or Edwin Valero. These are not bad match ups but the Mayweather-Pacquiao would be career and era defining. For now we can only dream but dreaming is better than nothing.

Article posted on 17.12.2008

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