De La Hoya-Pacquiao: Who's the REAL lightweight?
By Lyle Fitzsimmons,
Contributing Boxing Editor
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
OK, let's start with the allowances.
I've never been a Mexican. I've never been a Mexican-American. I've only been to Mexico four times, in fact, and the last trip ended with me throwing up in the Cancun airport on the way to an overnight hospital stay when I finally returned home.
I've also never been a Filipino. I've never been to the Philippines. And I freely admit that most of what I know about the island nation comes from two sources -- my 11th-grade Social Studies teacher, Anthony Franc; and a former co-worker in my former home state, Annie Marcelino.
For the record, I've never been anything other than a humble native of Niagara Falls, N.Y., born to a wonderful Scottish immigrant mother and a hard-working Irish-American father, neither of whom qualified for "world traveler" designation during their combined 141 years of life.
And maybe that's why I don't get the whole "vengeance is mine, sayeth De La Hoya" thing.
Perhaps if I'd been born somewhere else and had grown up somewhere else, I might actually understand the logic that the "Golden Boy" -- a justifiably proud Mexican-American -- has come up with this week while pondering an opponent for his long-awaited winter swan song.
Oscar De La Hoya hasn't weighed in at less than 150 pounds for a fight since 2001.
Because to these lily white Anglo-Saxon ears, what's been reasoned so far is pretty ridiculous.
To hear Oscar tell it, he was sufficiently dissed by former trainer Freddie Roach's claim he can no longer "pull the trigger" at age 35 to scrap a rumored plan to meet the Margarito-Cotto winner for a chance at ultimate 147-pound supremacy -- and instead meet Roach's top charge, Manny Pacquiao.
Yes, that Manny Pacquiao. The WBC's lightweight champion. Who's had exactly one fight at 135 pounds. Who's had exactly zero fights above 135 pounds. And who as recently as 1999 was KO'd for a championship in the flyweight division by an opponent weighing 112 pounds.
"Oscar really wants to do the fight. You know Oscar," said Richard Schaefer, the Golden Boy Promotions CEO, to espn.com. "He honestly feels that Freddie and Pacquiao have been disrespectful. It's (expletive) for Freddie to say that Oscar can't pull the trigger anymore. When Oscar read Freddie's comments, he was like, 'What the (expletive) is that?' He feels challenged now."
Schaefer will discuss the match with Pacquiao promoter Bob Arum on Wednesday and, if things go according to plan, he said, "We will know in a half-hour if we have a deal or not."
For the record, Oscar hasn't weighed in at less than 150 pounds for a fight since 2001, hasn't dipped below the welterweight division for one since 1997 and in a 44-fight career has weighed less than 130 pounds exactly once -- for a 10th-round KO of overmatched Jimmy Bredahl in 1994.
And what makes it more, ummm...interesting, is that the Pac Man wasn't the only option.
Beating the drums even louder for an audience with the De La Hoya cash machine has been the aforementioned Margarito -- who stopped consensus top welterweight Cotto two weeks ago, is a three-time belt-holder in the class and has tipped the scales at 147 for each of his last eight fights.
Not to mention he too is Mexican-American, was born in 1978 in Torrance, Calif. -- five years after Oscar's birth just up the road in Montebello -- and has done a fair amount of blatant De La Hoya-baiting lately, including a stint on HBO's "Boxing After Dark," where he said, "I hope he doesn't run away from me. All I know is that Oscar once said he'd fight the winner. Well, we know who won."
To my ears anyway, that's a challenge. No translations needed.
But maybe that's exactly where I just don't get it.
Perhaps in a dark recess of the California experience that I haven't been privy to in my visits, there's an explanation why the words of an agenda- wielding trainer would be more provocative to a fighter's ego than those from a legitimate foe in your home division, your home state and your home ethnicity.
And perhaps in some equally dark and off-limits recess of the De La Hoya psyche, there lies similar rationale why toppling a 5-foot-6, 135-pounder would provide more concrete legacy foundation than staring down the in-your- face challenge of a prime and essentially undisputed champion.
Or then again maybe I do get it, after all.
When all is said and done, perhaps Oscar is merely following the fine welterweight path of recent champion Floyd Mayweather Jr., who's widely believed to have, errr...sidestepped, a chance at Margarito to line his pockets against foes perceived to be lower risk and higher reward.
It's clearly nonsense.
But because Floyd is a brash villain not a charming hero -- the anti-Oscar, if you will -- it sticks.
At any rate, the anti-Mayweather comments revolve around his 2007 matches with De La Hoya and Ricky Hatton -- though he actually climbed up a division to fight Oscar at 154 and, in Hatton, was meeting a man who'd held a recognized title at welterweight just a year prior.
Neither is true in Oscar's pursuit of Pacquiao -- who owns just one crown at lightweight, has steered far clear of three-belt champion Nate Campbell and has never so much as waded, let alone swam, in the junior welterweight or welterweight waters. All details conveniently ignored by Schaefer.
In fact, Pacquiao would be Oscar's second straight foe with smallish competitive credentials, nipping at the heels of recent tune-up foil Steve Forbes -- who'd spent the bulk of his career at 140 or below before a heavier turn on season two of "The Contender."
De La Hoya was admittedly looking to a Mayweather rematch that was later scrubbed by retirement, but he seemingly liked the feel of beating a relative dwarf so much that he's choosing the option again. Instead of, as we used to say in New York -- picking on someone his own size.
But then again, to hear Schaefer tell it, Pacquiao's just special.
A "sort-of-Oscar's-own-size" kind of dwarf. Just four inches shorter.
"When Manny went on HBO's unofficial scale before he fought Diaz, I think he was 147 pounds," he said. "Oscar never gains much weight from the weigh-in to the fight."
So there you have it, folks. The illogical company line has been carved in stone.
If the Schaefer-Arum summit goes well enough, it'll get made. And based on the droves who bought Oscar's fight with Mayweather and Manny's bout with David Diaz, it'll probably come with a $50-plus price tag when it presumably hits HBO PPV a few weeks before Christmas.
But regardless of how powerful "Oscar the Strongman" can look or how long "Miniature Manny" can last, it's bound to end up as little more than a curious high-end payday for two circus acts with no legitimate business appearing together under the same big top.
And in the end, it'll only truly answer one question:
Who's the REAL lightweight?
Lyle Fitzsimmons is a full voting member of the Boxing Writers Association of America. He provides "In The Ring" commentary for Speeding Bullet Network (speedingbulletnetwork.com), is a periodic contributor to "The Drive with Dave Smith" on KLAA radio (am830klaa.com) and can be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.