For the final installment of our four-part preview of the Oscar De La Hoya – Floyd Mayweather Jr. fight tonight, we focus on perhaps the most important issue to be decided tonight: What will each fighter’s legacy be?
Oscar De La Hoya is this generation’s most decorated fighter. He has held championships in six divisions (a boxing record), won a gold medal for the United States at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and has consistently risen to the occasion in every big fight he’s been in. He’s 38-4 with 30 KO’s and his lone clear loss (the others were all controversial decisions) came by knockout via a left hook to the body by Bernard Hopkins. In that fight De La Hoya competed, but Middleweight was clearly too heavy a weight for his body and he was out-gunned by the dominant Hopkins.
De La Hoya has also been the biggest draw in boxing for the better part of a decade. With the Mayweather tangle, his pay-per-view fights will have officially grossed the most money of any fighter in history. In 17 previous fights, De La Hoya has generated $492 million, after Saturday night (which may top $100 million) he will pass Evander Holyfield ($543 million in 14 PPV fights) and Mike Tyson ($545 million in 12 PPV events) according to HBO research.
So how will he be remembered? If De La Hoya manages to beat Mayweather he’ll be regarded as the greatest of his generation, end of discussion. Since his famed amateur career, he’s gone from the “Golden Boy” with a nice jab, a vicious left hook and ring savvy, to a complete boxer. With just one fight since his 2004 loss to Hopkins, Oscar has focused on promoting and studying boxing and boxers. He’s seen so many fights now, that when he stepped back into the ring against Ricardo Mayorga in 2006 his style was so diverse and he was so well conditioned that it shocked most people watching. He used both hands effectively and countered Mayorga’s power and then some, knocking the Nicaraguan out in the 6th round.
Oscar has faced almost every great fighter of his era, and some from before. He’s stepped into the ring with Julio Cesar Chavez (twice), Pernell Whitaker, Hector Camacho, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley (twice), Fernando Vargas, Hopkins and Mayorga. He’s had a storied career, and regardless of tonight’s outcome he will be remembered for bringing the image of the “gentleman fighter” back to boxing.
Floyd Mayweather thinks he’s the best fighter of all-time, and tonight he has a chance to prove himself against a truly great champion for the first time. At 37-0 with 24 KO’s, none of his opponents have come close to beating him. He’s never shied away from the big fight, but big fights have stayed away from him, not only because of his ability, but also because of the baggage he brings. Floyd’s family issues are well documented, as are his legal problems, but rest assured, when that bell rings, nothing drags him down.
He has a combination of hand speed, quickness and power that hasn’t been seen in the sport since Sugar Ray Leonard roamed the ring. And it may be boxing sacrilege to say this, but Mayweather could be even better than Ray was. And if Floyd is really serious about making the tangle with De La Hoya his last fight, I really urge you to watch. His ability is something we may never see again, especially now that football, basketball and baseball offer less violent alternatives for young athletes.
What will Floyd’s legacy be? Well if he does beat De La Hoya he has to enter the “Greatest of All-Time” debate. He hasn’t fought as many big names as past pound-for-pound bests, but the ranks are not as stacked as they used to be. To his credit, he has taken all comers, besting the likes of Jose Luis Castillo (twice), Diego Corrales, Angel Manfredy, Arturo Gatti, Carlos Baldomir and Zab Judah. But he’s never really had a big-time superfight due to the lack of a marquee name at his size. That all changes tonight. If he leaves a winner, no one can ever dispute his place among the all-time greats. If he fails to conquer the De La Hoya’s arsenal, then he may go down as one of the best of a weak era.
In short, both of these guys have a lot riding on the outcome of this fight. Oscar is fighting for one more taste of supreme glory, Floyd is fighting for his first. And both will battle for the supremacy of the era. Tonight two fighters will step into the ring with greatness, one will leave with immortality.