Don’t listen to Oscar De La Hoya. I’m not saying De La Hoya has lost his damn mind, but, well … if the man thinks Juan Manuel Marquez will beat Floyd Mayweather Jr., then the "Golden Boy" has taken a few too many blows to the head.
The Marquez-Mayweather fight, which De La Hoya is promoting, takes place tomorrow night in Las Vegas, and the bout has the potential to be the 2009 Fight of the Year, which isn’t saying much for a sport that is becoming as irrelevant in the United States as cricket.
For a lot of reasons, Mayweather and Marquez should have fought awhile ago -- long before Mayweather took a 21-month sabbatical to do whatever uber-rich, self-absorbed personalities like him do when they have too much idle time and money but no common sense.
Nobody expected Mayweather to stay retired. What fighter does anymore? Which one of them can shake a love jones for the limelight?
De La Hoya couldn't. He made more comebacks than Brett Favre, and the last championship-caliber fighter who retired and stayed retired was heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, although you keep thinking in the back of your mind that he’ll be stepping back into the ring, too.
But it is hard for fighters with Mayweather’s skills to leave millions on the table. Glib, flashy and unbeaten, he could be a marketing man’s dream: a bad boy plays well with the boxing crowd. If he had any social grace, Mayweather could be an iconic figure like Sugar Ray Leonard and De La Hoya himself.
The image he has cultivated is like the heel in pro wrestling. His talent inside the ring is obvious for even the most unschooled fight fans, but his crass behavior and loose, vulgar tongue make him the easy foil of those who would like to see less talk and more action.
He’s not likely to give them that in his Pay-Per-View fight against Marquez, a dangerous fighter who has had his share of wars inside the ring. At 36, Marquez, a five-time world champion, has left his best years behind him. His high-risk style is tailored for Mayweather to beat.
His speed will frustrate Marquez, just as that speed frustrated De La Hoya when he lost to Mayweather in 2007. He’s also the bigger man, which will confound Marquez more than the speed does.
Styles make fights, as De La Hoya pointed out. That’s the good thing about this matchup between Mayweather and Marquez. It’s the slugger vs. the craftsman – a welterweight version of Joe Frazier vs. Muhammad Ali.
No amount of hype can bring the Mayweather-Marquez bout to the legendary heights of Frazier-Ali I and II. Nor can the inflated rhetoric of De La Hoya, the current generation’s version of Don King.
But De La Hoya has stepped into the fray, absent any reason to apologize for his prediction of a Marquez win.
"I'm convinced he will win this fight,” De La Hoya told Reuters. “He's looking sharp, he's looking fast and he's looking strong."
He’s also old, a fact that no fight fan can ignore. Beat Pretty Boy Floyd? Marquez will need more than De La Hoya’s prediction to accomplish that. Having Oscar in the ring with him, his gloves laced, might help.
(Photo of Floyd Mayweather Jr. by Madison Skye)