Boxing


Tale of Two Superfights: Why De La Hoya-Pacquiao Falls Short

Oscar De La HoyaBy Jason Peck: I’ve made no secret of my distaste for super-fights – carefully orchestrated farces that rely more on past glory and name recognition than real talent. The boxing press ignores more meaningful fights, the real boxing fans get ignored in favor of the mainstream, and everyone pays $50 for a disappointment.

So what kind of fight do I like? To me, the upcoming battle between undisputed super flyweight champ Vic Darchinyan and WBA champ Jorge Arce so far represents everything that De La Hoya-Pacquiao isn’t. This is no media sham, but a real fight between two men who are hitting their stride.

But why favor Darchinyan-Arce over a fight like De La Hoya-Pacquiao? I thought of five reasons:

They Can Fight No One Else: If you were to really name Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao’s ideal opponents, few boxing fans would imagine their December match-up if the issue weren’t forced. Rather, there would be calls for Oscar to fight someone his own size, like Vernon Forest and Antonio Margarito. Pacquiao would challenge someone like Humberto Soto, Juan Manuel Marquez, Juan Diaz, Edwin Valero or Nate Campbell.

BY contrast, Saturday’s bout is unnatural. It’s like someone just named the only two fighters they could think of, and distorted everything to match. If this fight is such a great fit, why are there doubters in the first place? Why do fans have to defend this bout? Why in short, do articles like this exist? Why was the fan reaction to the initial negotiations so negative?

By contrast, Vic Darchinyan’s road can only lead to Arce. Arce’s path can only lead to Darchinyan (his attempts to solicit Israel Vasquez notwithstanding). Real supremacy in the lighter weight classes is at stake.

More Than Money At Stake: Darchinyan-Arce has been building up for years now since both of them ruled the flyweight division. It was the dream match at flyweight that never happened after both of them suffered career setbacks. Now they’ve recovered, redeemed themselves and are ready for action. The combatants will collect healthy paychecks from this bout, but also on the line is respect and validity.

Yes, I get it. Oscar De La Hoya will never fight Antonio Margarito because the money isn’t as great, there’s a likelier possibility that Oscar would lose, and I’m a moron for thinking the Golden Boy would act otherwise. I don’t like it, but I get it.

But don’t pretend that De La Hoya-Pacquiao is about anything but the money. Don’t attach any meanings that aren’t there, and don’t act like some pure spirit of pugilism guided them to the contract signing. I think the fans are explicitly aware of this.

Two Fighters In Their Prime And At A Comfortable Weight: To me, the ideal fight is one that asks: What happens when two great fighters square off against the other? Both Arce and Darchinyan have recovered from their losses, and reestablished themselves as proven forces at 115 pounds. They’re on winning streaks against their peers, and in positions to put on stellar performances. And while Darchinyan will clearly be the odds-on favorite to win, Arce has done enough that he can’t be ruled out.

By contrast, De La Hoya-Pacquiao asks whether a former flyweight champ can jump an extra two weight classes to battle a guy who’d rather run a business than box. The rather daunting weight issue – a real make or break in this fight – is ignored, much as it was in De La Hoya’s failed middleweight outing.

This fight relies on Oscar’s dominance in the ‘90s, even though his more recent fights prove beyond a doubt that he’s way past his prime. By contrast, I don’t have to search the last decade for a meaningful victory from either Arce or Darchinyan. Their career depends on this fight. This is one loss the loser will have a hard time recovering from.

It Has Lasting Impact: If Oscar wins, he’ll continue avoiding legitimate threats like Forrest or Margarito. If Pacquiao wins, he WILL NOT stay at welterweight. He knows damned well that at 147 he’ll eventually run into actual entities like Margarito who are actually quite dangerous. Pacquiao will likely just slim down to lightweight again, albeit with a bigger paycheck and a reference on SportsCenter the next morning.

Likewise, Calzaghe-Jones promised nothing. Calzaghe said he would retire; Jones was a non-entity in the division who jumped over scores of worthier opponents. The fight should have happened back when Jones really mattered.

By contrast, the winner of Darchinyan-Arce will be a true force at the lighter weight divisions, and have his pick of names within a weight class or two. The lighter weight classes are often ignored by mainstream sports fans, but a real boxing fan knows there’s some serious talent hiding down here. Listing all the possibilities would take up several articles.

It Appeals to Real Boxing Fans: You know what De La Hoya-Pacquiao is to me as a committed boxing fan? A middle finger.

If you really love boxing, that fight is not made for you. It’s a fight tailored to self-proclaimed boxing “experts” who ignore pugilism for 364 days of the year, then pretend like they follow it full-time.

You know these guys. You run into them at the bar at least once a year. Their opinions are limited to Ali highlight reels, Rocky films and some poorly-informed theory of where Mike Tyson went wrong. In reality, they couldn’t name a dozen active fighters. These fights are thrown for their benefit, because it puts the only two people they can name in the same ring. “Save boxing,” my ass.

By contrast, you’d really have to follow boxing to know who either Arce or Darchinyan are, and to know why this fight has the makings of an intriguing bout. You’d need to understand boxing to the point where you can respect the punching and boxing ability of someone who fights at a mere 115 pounds. When this fight rolls around, there’s no one there but you and other people who actively follow the sport.

***

But as with all such great fights, there’s little chance that Darchinyan-Arce will get the attention it deserves, much as the terrific trilogy between Israel Vasquez and Rafael Marquez is ignored by all but dedicated boxing fans.

Oh, the irony…

Article posted on 04.12.2008



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