Tuesday, May 8, 2007


LAS VEGAS - Oscar De La Hoya was the last one to arrive at Saturday’s post fight press conference held inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Richard Schaefer, CEO of Golden Boy Promotions was on the dais and he interrupted Floyd Mayweather, Jr. to introduce De La Hoya. In his thick and heavy Swiss accent, the boyish faced Schaefer announced: “Ladiez and zentlemen, pleeze give a big hand for zee Golden Boy, Oscor Dee La Hoya!”

Only an hour earlier, De La Hoya had been out-pointed again in another blockbuster fight, and already the deep lines of disappointment had etched themselves into his handsome face. It was all finally over and after several months of promotion, many long weeks spent in training camp and after answering thousands of questions this odyssey was near its end.

De La Hoya and Schaefer knew now that if this was to be the fight that was going to save boxing it was going to have to do so with Oscar De La Hoya as the loser by split-decision.

Flanked by business partners and former foes Bernard Hopkins and Shane Mosley, and attired in a gray, pinstripe suit and off white shirt, a tie-less De La Hoya addressed the assembled media. His face showed the red scrapes of the twelve rounds he had just spent in the ring with “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

De La Hoya slowly made his way to the microphone and solemnly declared; “I don’t feel like a loser, because I came to do what I had to do.”

His words were measured due to the fact that he and Schaefer’s stated mission is to clean up boxing, make it appealing again to long absent corporate sponsors and remove the bad taste that is usually left in the mouths of many fans after controversial decisions rendered by Las Vegas judges. As a result, De La Hoya didn’t want to call into question the decision of the officials that went against him. “They are professionals and you just have to respect the judges at this point,” said an obviously peeved De La Hoya through pursed lips.

It ended up being a very close fight and it was closer than many of the cynics figured. Most believed Mayweather would win in a near shutout and the odds at the Vegas sportsbooks favored Mayweather from the time the bout was first announced several months earlier right up until the first bell. On the day of the fight, a quick check of the odds at 7:00 am and again at 3:00 pm at the MGM Grand sportsbook revealed no movement one way or the other.

The official judges scores after twelve rounds were 8-4 in rounds for Mayweather by Chuck Giampa, 7-5 in rounds for Mayweather by Jerry Roth, while Tommy Kaczmarek, who I saw show up at the arena at 4:30 pm, went the other way and saw it 7-5 in rounds for De La Hoya.

Oscar felt he won the fight and said so as he nursed his bruised ego. “I landed the harder, crisper punches and I felt when I landed my punches I could see I was hurting him. If I hadn't pressed the fight, there would be no fight.”

Despite De La Hoya’s strong personal views of the night, a quick survey of press row told much the same story as the official judges.

Only Ron Borges of the Boston Globe had it 7-5 for De La Hoya while Kevin Iole of Yahoo! Sports had it dead even at 6-6. Michael Katz of boxingtalk.com had it 8-4 for Mayweather. “And I was bending over backwards to give De La Hoya that many rounds,” chimed the curmudgeonly Katz. Michael Marley of boxingconfidential.com had it for Mayweather, although I never did get his official score, but by looking over his shoulder he appeared to have it about 8-4 for the “Pretty Boy”. My card ended up reading 6 rounds for Mayweather, 5 for De La Hoya with one round scored for a guy named “even”.

But before the ink was dry on the official scorecard of the Nevada State Athletic Commission, Richard Schaefer, in a Don King (post Mike Tyson versus Buster Douglas) moment, caused a momentary stir in press row when he claimed the scoresheet was tallied incorrectly and that in fact De La Hoya was the winner.

“I have zee official scorezeet here,” announced Schaefer. “There does appear to ve a miztake and there iz two deeferent scorecards from zee Commission.”

At the top of the official scorecard there is a man listed as the World Boxing Council Supervisor who is from Thailand and he goes by the name “General Kovid”. When I asked out loud, “Who the hell is General Kovid?” the comedic boxing scribe Michael Marley retorted, “I don’t know who he is, but they’ll make him a private after this! Private Kovid!”

After a great deal of consternation on Schaefer’s part he examined the scoresheets for several minutes and determined that De La Hoya was indeed the loser and that the scores on one of the sheets had been put in the blue column instead of the red but the end result was still the same. Schaefer later acquiesced and said, “Zee decision stands and Floyd Mayweather, Jr. iz zee vinner.”

But before Schaefer, a former Swiss banker finally gave up he said he was giving the scoresheets to an HBO television network attorney to review. Although he is a relative newcomer to boxing, Schaefer has learned well the various machinations of the fight game.

As for De La Hoya, he claims he’s going to take some time to ponder his future before deciding what to do next. After the fight his wife Millie announced that she was pregnant with their second child and it would seem that she might be leaning toward advising her husband to hang up the gloves. After the decision was announced she could be seen at ringside shaking her head in disagreement with the decision. She consoled her despondent husband and helped lead him from the ring back to his dressing room.

However, at age 34 and the loser of three of his last five fights, De La Hoya made no mention of retiring. “I’m going to be very smart about the situation,” said Oscar. “I will go home and watch the fight and see how my movements were, how my body reacted, and analyze the situation. I’ll wait and see. I’ll analyze the whole thing and think about it.”

Whatever the case, Oscar is showing the physical signs that it’s time to become a full-time promoter and businessman. He appeared heavy on his feet and in key times throughout the fight against Mayweather he just couldn’t pull the trigger to let his hands go. While he was up on his toes on a few occasions like the Golden Boy of old, he mostly just looked like an old Golden Boy. Gone was the blazing hand speed and electric reflexes that he had used to burn through six weight divisions while vanquishing some of the best fighters the decade of the 1990’s had to offer.

De La Hoya was pasted cleanly time after time on Saturday night and even Mayweather seemed incredulous at the ease of which he could land his shots. “He didn’t move his head at all,” said Floyd. “I remember thinking to myself during the fight, ‘How did he beat all of those world champions?’ because he didn’t move his head at all.”

If this was the fight to save boxing as the cover of Sports Illustrated declared then perhaps the sport may not be in as much trouble as many people believe. The actual fight didn’t live up to all of the hype and the hot air of a multi-pronged promotion - but as an event the night was spectacular. The arena was sold out, Las Vegas was more alive than ever and everyone on the strip was talking about the big fight.

The winds blew hard in Las Vegas on this weekend as the palm trees that line the strip bowed and bent under the heavy gusts. If this was boxing’s last gasp then a good time was had by most that showed up.

I sat beside a great boxing man named Frank Meehan from Long Island, New York and as the many celebrities at ringside were being introduced by ring announcer Michael Buffer I turned to Frank and said, “It’s just like old times.”

And Frank agreed. Yes it was.

May 6, 2007

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