Sunday, May 11, 2008

There's No Place Like Home

Ricky Hatton poses in Manchester City Stadium where he will fight Juan Lazcano on May 24th in front of 55,000 fans.

Say what you will about Floyd Mayweather, Jr., but it seems like after guys lose to him, they, like Dorothy in 'The Wizard of Oz' just close their eyes, click their heels together and repeat the words, "There's no place like home, there's no place like home, there's no place like home."

Last weekend it was Oscar De La Hoya, who after losing to Floyd "The Wicked Witch of the West" Mayweather, Jr. last year, went back home to fight in Los Angeles for the first time in eight years. The promotion was titled "Homecoming" and it attracted nearly 30,000 fans.

In two weeks it'll be Ricky Hatton's turn to fight in front of his family and friends. Hatton, of course, was beat down by Mayweather under a twister of blows last December in Las Vegas. And after licking his wounds, Ricky and his entourage pretty much hopped on the first broomstick back to Manchester and have barely been seen outside of England since. Tickets for the fight have been red hot and Hatton's return to England, like De La Hoya's to L.A., promises to be a sell-out, too.

Hatton is going to face off against the "Hispanic Causin' Panic" Juan Lazcano on May 24th in Ricky's hometown of Manchester and it sure feels like deja vu all over again.

Didn't we just live through all of this with Oscar?

"It's always nice to be home," said Hatton who, last month, was already down in weight to 150 pounds. "My last four fights have been in America and the support I've gotten over there has been absolutely phenomenal."

Hatton is a tireless worker in the gym and always shows up in top shape.

And just like De La Hoya, Hatton claims that he could have made a lot more money had the fight been in Las Vegas. Hatton says it's costing him "extra quid" to fight in the City of Manchester Stadium which holds 55,000 for boxing. But, just like De La Hoya, Ricky is calling this a "thank you fight" for all of his fans, especially the tens of thousands who made the trek to Vegas to see him fight Mayweather when only a measly 4,000 tickets were made available for his ardent supporters.

It'll be Hatton's first fight in England in 2 1/2 years and it, like De La Hoya's fight last weekend, promises to be another blockbuster event.

"It's all about achieving my goals now and doing right by the fans. I want to be remembered as a fans' favorite and a people's champion," says the likeable Hatton. "I put my contract with HBO and Golden Boy on hold so that I don't have to fight at 2 a.m. for American TV."

The fight against Lazcano is being televised in the U.S. by upstart sports network Versus and it means a return to the live Saturday afternoon boxing format that many fans in the United States have craved for. It also means that Hatton's supporters in England don't have to stay up half the night for the fight to begin to appease HBO or Showtime.

"It's for the fans that have supported me from day one back in England, Great Britain and Manchester, who probably thought maybe they had lost the chance to see me fight again here live," said Hatton. "They probably thought I was going to have all my remaining fights in the United States, so it's nice to come back."

Hatton suffered his first loss against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. last December. He returns home to England in hopes of getting his career back on track.

"I've fought some of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world, won six world titles over two weight divisions, and this is a homecoming."

And it's like Oscar or maybe even Dorothy from 'The Wizard of Oz' would tell him. There's no place like home.


Depending on who you talk to, Oscar De La Hoya looked either "phenomenal" or "horrible" last weekend with his effort against Stevie Forbes.

I'm of the opinion that Oscar was a bit dull looking and that he's gotten all of the shine that he's going to get out of that 1992 Olympic Gold Medal and his 'Golden Boy' moniker.

Let's face it, De La Hoya is a 35 year-old fighter who in his time was one of the special ones. But Oscar's best days are in the rear view mirror and maybe instead of calling him the "Golden Boy" we should call him the "Bronze Man" or something along those lines.

A puffy De La Hoya speaks to the press after winning a twelve round unanimous decision over Stevie Forbes. It was later determined that Oscar suffered a hair line fracture of his cheek bone.

What I saw last Saturday night reminded me a lot of what I saw when Mike Tyson was nearly the exact same age that De La Hoya is now. It was Tyson fighting the Danish cream puff, Brian Nielsen, in 2001. I never thought Mike looked old until that night. Not against Holyfield, Botha, Norris, Francis, Savarese or even Golota. But by the time "Iron" Mike met Nielsen he was a an older and slower version of his former self. It didn't help that he was also 20 pounds overweight.

Even though Tyson won (and by stoppage at that) one could see that his punches didn't have the same old panache when they landed, he was a step or two slower and he just looked tired. He also got hit enough by a guy of Nielsen's primitive skills that you knew the end was very near for Tyson.

I saw the same things in De La Hoya against Forbes. The inactivity over the last several years and his advancing age have finally caught up with Oscar. He couldn't seem to take it up a step to really overpower the smallish Forbes and the ease at which Forbes was able to nail him flush should be alarming to anybody that has Oscar's best interests at heart.

Aside from the age and activity problems, Oscar still didn't appear to have the knowledge to cut off the ring against the backpedaling Forbes which is something he should have learned a long time ago. It's also a basic skill that would serve him well in the ring with Mayweather, Jr. The other issue is that Oscar is just not moving his head and it's alarming really, the amount of shots that came straight down the pike and nailed him cleanly. His reflexes and youthful quickness are just not there anymore.

In 2001, Mike Tyson went to Copenhagen, Denmark to face Brian Nielsen. Mike was 35 years old and it was evident that age was becoming a major factor. Although he won by a knockout, it was clear that Tyson was sliding as a prizefighter.

I'll go on record right now as saying that I wouldn't bet your money that De La Hoya will beat Mayweather in September. Floyd has another gear when he needs it and should he choose to shift into overdrive there is no way that Oscar can hang with him. I'd compare it to a Ferrari in a race against a Honda Civic - no contest. I was at their first fight and scored it 6-5-1 for Floyd, but when they fight again I can see the "Pretty Boy" knocking Oscar out if he steps on the gas.

I'll say it - De La Hoya should quit now. The fight against Forbes would be the perfect ending when you think about it. One final go where it all began. A victory in front of nearly 30,000 fans, friends and family on HBO on a beautiful spring night. A storyteller couldn't write a better ending.

Oscar should read a few boxing history books and pretty soon he'd learn that when you hang on too long in this game they call boxing - there's no such thing as a happy ending.

May 2008

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