Sunday, December 7, 2008

The Dream Match turns into nightmare for De La Hoya

So this is it. This is how it ends for Oscar De La Hoya. An eight-roundAdd Video beating at the hands of a man who to the naked eye looks to be half his size.

Oscar's wife watches her husband getting beat up on the 7th round and her face says it all.

Filipino ring hero Manny Pacquiao continued to validate his status as the world's top pound-for-pound boxer when he defied the odds in knocking out boxing icon Oscar "Golden Boy" De La Hoya in their welterweight Dream Match at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas.

There was no knockdown but a relentless Pacquiao gave De La Hoya all he could handle, before the "Golden Boy" called it quits at the end of the eighth round, prompting referee Tony Weeks to declare the Filipino the winner by technical knockout.

In facing boxing's acknowledged icon, Pacquiao had to move up two weight divisions -- from lightweight to welterweight. He gave up four inches in height and six inches in reach, massive numbers for even the most skilled boxer to overcome.

We believed De La Hoya's rhetoric. All of it.

We believed him when he said dropping back to welterweight actually improved his speed. It didn't. De La Hoya fought like a man with weights inside his eight-ounce Reyes gloves. He was sluggish. He couldn't put together combinations. Freddie Roach was right: De La Hoya can no longer pull the trigger.

Roach's game plan was flawless. Manny Pacquiao's stick-and-move strategy in the early rounds befuddled De La Hoya. Pacquiao would come in with one or two-punch combinations then deftly sidestep any De La Hoya flurries. As the fight wore on-and as De La Hoya began to fatigue-Pacquaio rained blows on him, fearlessly. There was no power advantage. If anything, it was Pacquiao that proved to be the more potent puncher.

We believed De La Hoya when he told us he felt in "the best shape of my life." Best shape? By round three the Golden Boy looked gassed. Despite a four-inch height advantage, De La Hoya was the one backing up and fighting defensively. When Pacquiao charged, De La Hoya backed off as the Pac-Man used Oscar's left eye for target practice. Punch after punch slipped through the Golden Boy's defenses, smoothly, as though they were on a rope running towards his face.

In the days and weeks before the fight De La Hoya insisted to anyone carrying a notebook that he would press on after this fight. He can't. There's nowhere for him to go. The ease with which Pacquiao's punches penetrated De La Hoya's defense must have had the top welterweights like Antonio Margarito, Miguel Cotto and Paul Williams licking their chops, salivating over a potentially huge payday against a clearly inferior opponent.

No, Oscar's next move is retirement. It's sad that it had to end like this. It's sad that many will remember De La Hoya for this loss or the one to Floyd Mayweather last year instead of his epic victories against Ike Quartey and Julio Cesar Chavez. That De La Hoya was truly great; this one is something else entirely.

He has to retire. Sure, De La Hoya could rehabilitate himself against a Carlos Quintana or Zab Judah. But to what end? Time is not on the 35-year old De La Hoya's side. In his heyday, De La Hoya's two best attributes were his speed and his power. The speed is gone and the power, what's left of it, anyway, isn't far behind.

He doesn't need this. He doesn't need any further humiliations. He has become a one-man promotional juggernaut, with Golden Boy Promotions quickly becoming the dominant company in the sport. Fighters will still flock to him. That side of his star power will never fade

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