Boxing
On the canvas
Lyle Fitzsimmons

By Lyle Fitzsimmons
Boxing Contributing Editor

Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The most compelling -- and ominous -- portions of the second HBO installment of "De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7" really had nothing to do with the big-fight principals themselves.

Sure, the training footage of Oscar sparring with Shane Mosley and Floyd working out at all hours of the day and night was interesting, but color me far more compelled by seeing the effects of a career in the sport on De La Hoya trainer Freddie Roach and Mayweather's dueling handlers -- his uncle Roger and father Floyd Sr.

Roach's disclosure that he suffers from Parkinson's Syndrome, the same cognitive issue that has hounded Muhammad Ali since his last bout in 1981, was a chilling reminder that very few participants -- even those on Roach's ESPN- friendly level or world champions and top contenders like the Mayweathers -- exit as healthily as they entered.

That the affliction struck Roach, a face-first tough guy who consistently took a lot of punches to deliver a few of his own, isn't much of a surprise. But to see and hear the markedly slower and muddled speech patterns of the Mayweathers, who were a combined 88-19-1 while employing much more style in the ring, is harder to figure.

Roach ended his career at 39-13 in 1986, finishing up 13-12 after a 26-1 start.

Floyd Jr., who's never really been punished during 37 straight wins as a pro and strings together words as quickly as gloved combinations, mentioned the possibility of retirement during a media conference call on Tuesday.

Freddie Roach (L) & Oscar De La Hoya
Oscar De La Hoya (right) sits with his trainer Freddie Roach during a press conference.
"I have nothing else to prove in this sport. I've done what I had to do," he said. "I feel like I beat the best they put in front of me. I'm comfortable. I made a lot of money in this sport. I'm happy. My kids are happy. These are the valuable years of my kids' lives and I want to spend a lot of time with my kids."

Meanwhile, speaking of health risks...Tommy Morrison fights tonight.

The former WBO heavyweight champion, back from a tumultuous 10-year run that featured revoked boxing privileges in Nevada after what he claims was an erroneous HIV test and a later stay in prison due to other extracurricular activities, fights one Dale Ortiz (3-1) in a four-rounder at the Grand Plaza Hotel in Houston.

Morrison (47-3-1) began his comeback two months ago in Chester, West Virginia, stopping nondescript five-fight novice John Castle in two rounds on a card that also featured controversially returning heavyweight Joe Mesi -- he of the post-fight brain bleed in 2004 -- at Mountaineer Race Track.

ESPN.com reports that Morrison passed the necessary blood tests to acquire a boxing license in Texas, including tests for HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C -- results that apparently echo those of tests he'd taken in Arizona a week earlier, according to Dickie Cole, of the Texas Department of Combative Sports.

"The doctor said he is clear and he won't cause anyone any problems," Cole said. "We ran a more intense test, a complete blood workup. He's licensed. We could have licensed him with the original blood work from Arizona a week ago. We got that written report, but we wanted our doctor to check him also."

Morrison's next hurdle could come later this spring, when he's penciled in on the June 9 undercard of Miguel Cotto's welterweight title defense against Zab Judah at Madison Square Garden. Telefutura will broadcast the Houston fight card but Morrison's bout will not be shown live.

"Any place we go, we will pass their tests and they will have to let me fight," Morrison told ESPN.com. "Each time we fight and win, it strengthens our case. It will become less and less of an issue. We'll have to jump through some hoops for the next few months, but then it will die down and I can just get on with business."

The aforementioned Mesi continued his own medical marvel comeback on April 14, winning his sixth straight post-hematoma bout with a 106-second stoppage of anonymous 38-year-old journeyman Ron Johnson at The Hughes Center in Russellville, Arkansas.

A streaking top-10 contender before injuries sustained in a violent defeat of ex-cruiserweight champion Vassilly Jirov on March 13, 2004 in Las Vegas, Mesi was exiled for more than two years before finally returning with an eight- round decision over Ronald Bellamy in Puerto Rico in April 2006.

Mesi earned three more wins in scheduled four- and six-round bouts through the end of 2006, and has scored a pair of one-round blowouts -- including a TKO of George Linberger on the Morrison card in Chester -- in scheduled 10-rounders since the start of the new year.

His next bout -- another scheduled 10-rounder against 6-foot-7 Cuban export Rafael Pedro -- is set for June 2 at the L'Auberge du Lac Hotel and Casino in Lake Charles, Louisiana.

Mesi's father Jack, who doubles as his son's manager, told the Niagara Falls Reporter (niagarafallsreporter.com) "these were comeback fights, work fights. We want to be on TV against a worthy opponent for real money. And that will reflect in the rankings."

Mesi is 35-0 with 28 knockouts, though the combined record of his last six foes is just 79-67-5.

Pedro, who now lives in Louisiana, began his career with 13 wins and eight knockouts in his first 14 fights but is 7-4-1 in his last 12 outings.

Lastly, here's a "sorry to see you go" to veteran HBO analyst Larry Merchant, who'll apparently be making his final appearance on the network while working the De La Hoya/Mayweather bout on May 5.

No ill will intended toward the incoming Max Kellerman, but the departure of the sometimes grumpy, sometimes combative, yet always insightful Merchant will create a void that no newcomer -- no matter how trendy or hip or knowledgeable -- will soon fill with as much old-school entertainment value.

Whether working with Barry Tompkins or Jim Lampley as show host, or with George Foreman, Lennox Lewis, Roy Jones or Ray Leonard as "fighter in residence," Merchant always shone through as the signature storyteller and "put your stock in him" expert of the cable giant's broadcasts.

Thanks Larry, for a lot of great years.

Jabs, hooks or knockouts, Lyle Fitzsimmons can be reached at fitzbitz@msn.com.

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