De La Hoya and Pacquiao Land in L.A. - Who says you can never go home again?
By Gabriel Montoya at the event (Oct 9, 2008) (Photo © HoganPhotos/ Golden Boy Promotions)  
Who says you can never go home again? Beneath the Whittier Arch and amid a media buzz unlike any other, including exhibits from sponsors DeWalt Power Tools, giant Tecate Beer cans and boxing gloves, The Tecate and Cazadores Tequila girls as well as Affliction (who will be making a short to commemorate the fight), the pride of East L.A., Oscar De La Hoya did just that. On the corner of Whittier Blvd and Arizona, the Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao hype train ended its 6-city media tour to promote one of the most interesting match-ups in the history of boxing.

“It really is amazing to be here,” said De La Hoya after the spirited press conference that featured guest comedian George Lopez. “You can feel the warmth.

If I do continue to fight, this will always be the last day of the tour. Every single fight. Whether it's one or two or three more fights, this is where we will finish the tour. Right underneath the East L.A. sign.”

The scene was pretty amazing. Hundreds lined the streets, others gathered on the rooftop in the 100+ degree heat. All just to glimpse the man who had begun his long journey on these very streets.

De La Hoya, according to the press release a 10-time world champion, had his last significant fight in a split decision loss to then pound for pound #1 fighter Floyd Mayweather, Jr. Since then he took a unanimous decision over Stevie Forbes. In that fight, De La Hoya suffered a fractured orbital bone. It is that injury that has many in the sport asking, “If Forbes could do that, what will Manny do?”

What Manny will do is move up a significant amount of poundage for the second time in a year. Pacquiao began his career at 106 lbs; this year moved up to the lightweight division earlier this year with 9 round destruction of titleholder David Diaz. He will now move up again to the 147 lb welterweight division to take on De la Hoya in a 12 round special attraction from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on December 6. He will be trained by Freddie Roach at his Wild card Boxing Club in Hollywood, CA. What that weight will do to Pacquiao is one of several questions in this fight.

“Well, that’s the challenge,” says De La Hoya of his future foe. “He might slow down because he is gaining like 12-14 pounds. Or he might not. A slower Pacquiao is still a fast Manny Pacquiao.”

Another challenge will be selling what to the naked eye looks like a size mismatch. This isn’t a fight a lot of people asked for. No one ever said or argued “Who would win? De La Hoya or Pacquiao?” The size disparity was too great. It was obvious. But here we are preparing to end 2008’s boxing season with what will undoubtedly be one of the biggest fights in history.

“Manny Pacquiao is the most popular fighter coming out of Asia,” explained De La Hoya before a group of reporters. “I'm the most well known fighter in eh world. I put two and two together; we can create a big event here. And that’s what I want, that’s what I need to get motivated. And boxing is going to win because boxing once again will be on a worldwide stage.”

Roach, who trained De La Hoya for the Mayweather fight, feels the time is right for a Manny Pacquiao upset. He even went so far as to taunt De La Hoya with a toy gun with a broken trigger during the press tour and proclaim that De La Hoya “couldn’t pull the trigger anymore.” It’s a take that De La Hoya takes to heart and throws on his motivational fire. “The fact that Freddie Roach called me out and said I can’t pull the trigger that really affected me.”

Being a 2-1 favorite against arguably the best fighter in the world is a place De la Hoya has been before. But he acknowledges both the trap of the situation. He is counting on his experience on this size of a stage to get him through to his ultimate goal.

“The thing about being in this position, being the favorite fighter is that I’ve already been there. I’ve already done that. I know what to do to stay focused. The odds are two to one, yes? Which are close. Which is very surprising to me. But I have to stay focused because that is going to be key to preparing myself. Because when you have a fighter like Manny Pacquiao, he knows that this is a big opportunity. He’s going to be hungry like a lion so I have to ready.”

To prepare him for this fight, De La Hoya has enlisted the help of Nacho Beristain, a true legend in the sport responsible for Ricardo Lopez and the Marquez brothers. It has been with Beristain’s Juan Manuel Marquez that Pacquiao has had his greatest struggles. It’s a move that begs the questions can Beristain teach Oscar at this stage, and can De La Hoya implement that knowledge in one fight?

“I strongly believe that I will,” De La Hoya said. “A great athlete once told me, the day u stop learning, is the day you retire.

“[Nacho] was telling me a couple things. He was telling me about the angles the punch comes from. Not the power but the angles. He said ‘You can generate more power.’ I told Nacho, ‘more power? My left hook is pretty good.’ He said, ‘I can bring more power to it.’ So we are looking forward to it.”

When mention of Pacquiao’s southpaw style giving him trouble, De La Hoya is quick to explain how this southpaw, with his come forward style is not exactly like the others he faced.

“I fought two southpaws,” He says. “Pernell Whitaker and Macho Camacho. Two boxers. Now if Manny Pacquiao is going to completely change his style and fight like Pernell Whitaker, then it’s going to be a problem. I'm hoping he doesn't (cracking up).”

But will he be able to land his vaunted left hook on a southpaw?

“Actually, it’s easier,” he claims. “Because first, they don’t expect it and second, they are closer to you, to the left hand. Obviously the right hands are going to be key for a southpaw.”

For De La Hoya, this fight and his current quest to beat top pound for pound fighter, is in part an attempt to cap a storybook career that dates back to the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where he first captured the public’s attention with his Gold medal performance. It’s been a near perfect career. Now all it needs is an ending.

“Absolutely,” says De La Hoya. “Fight the very best. My storybook ending is not just fighting the very best but being part of mega-events. At this point in my career, I want to be able to create excitement. Just like we are doing today. Create excitement and put boxing on the map, you know? A lot of people are talking about this fight. All over the world.”

But for how much longer can De La Hoya chase this dream?

“My exit strategy is very important to me,” he says. “I can still compete at the highest level. I haven't been hurt except for that freaking body shot from Bernard. As long as I can still do this,” he says and then pauses. “I realize the end is near. The end is right around the corner but I can still do this, two or three more fights. I'm going to make a decision how many times I am going to fight after Manny Pacquiao. Or even if I am going to fight. If Manny beats me, then that’s it.”

Is there a fear that with so much time between fights, he may get “old overnight” as they say?

“Obviously I never know” a realistic De La Hoya says. “Let’s say down the road, I meet up with Margarito and he beats the crap out of me. Going into the fight, obviously I didn’t expect that. So you never know. In a fight you always have to be prepared for war. That’s the risk of boxing. That’s the beauty of this game. That's the beauty of competing at the highest level. I can walk away and say I have done everything there is to do. The longer I stay the higher the risk. My exit strategy is very important to me. Like I said as long as I can continue to feel my reflexes, as long as I can compete at the highest levels against the bets fighters in the sport, I am going to continue.”

Crazy Good Side note

Top Rank promoter Bob Arum announced a friendly competition between the two camps. “We’re going to find the 4 best looking Mexican woman, in Canada, Mexico, the United States, wherever we can find them and pit them against the 4 best looking Filipino women we can find. The winner will be announced before the fight. They put me in charge of finding them because at my age, I’m the safest choice,” joked Arum.

To this, George Lopez would answer, “You know Mexican woman will win because they are the best in the world. It’s why we get married five times.”

We’ll keep you posted on what should be a heated contest.

Gabriel at: .

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