By Taj K. Eubanks - March 22, 2009 - Oscar de la Hoya’s tune-up bout with Steve Forbes was designed to be a showcase bout between a world-class superstar and a light-touch Contender alumnus (who actually previously held a super featherweight strap in 2005). Oscar was supposed so shine in this match, as he was bigger (Forbes is listed as 5’7 1/2”), faster, more experienced, and possessed a heavier punch. Despite these advantages, and in spite of winning the bout via unanimous decision, the match didn’t become the showcase it was intended to be..
Article posted on 25.03.2009
Forbes, though outgunned, peppered Oscar throughout the match, damaging Oscar’s face as no fighter had done before, a great feat considering the pedigree of his previous opposition (Trinidad, Hopkins, Whittaker, Chavez, Mosley, Vargas). More telling was the fact that Oscar could not close the show on the visibly smaller fighter. Oscar, in short, looked horrible, and it begged the question: if Oscar turned in an anemic effort against a respected yet handpicked opponent, how then could he expect to compete against, let alone defeat, the pound-for-pound king, Manny Pacquiao? This very point was lost on few, the least of which being the architect of Oscar’s losing effort against Mayweather, none other than Pacquiao’s celebrated trainer, Freddie Roach. In an interview on the eve of the Pacquiao-de la Hoya fight, Roach brought an insider’s knowledge to the fore: “I trained Oscar for a fight and I think that to make it down to 147 he’s going to struggle… We’ve also got the edge in activity and speed and Oscar, well he can’t pull the trigger anymore.” Which is precisely what happened. But first, let’s examine the circumstances surrounding the fight.
Manny Pacquiao is that rare breed of fighter who takes his power with him as he ascends weight class. Manny’s rise from 106 to 147 since the start of his professional career has been well-documented, as has the fact that he had never fought at the welterweight limit before fighting the Golden Boy, only having fought once at 135 lbs. one fight prior against David Diaz.
That Pacquiao was willing to jump three weight classes in the span of a mere four years (having fought four years to the month earlier against Fahsan “3K” Battery) was seen as courageous by some and foolhardy by others. Freddie Roach, being no fool, insisted that Oscar weigh-in no higher than 147 lbs. the day prior to the fight, (with a 3 million-dollar penalty per extra pound above the welterweight limit serving as insurance). Turns out, Oscar de la Hoya had been at 143 lbs. weeks earlier at media day, 145 lbs. at the weigh-in, and only 147 lbs. the night of the fight on HBO’s unofficial scale, on which he was reportedly fully dressed. The fact that he gained only two pounds after rehydrating would undoubtedly play a major role in the outcome of the fight.
The Manny Pacquiao-Oscar de la Hoya fight proved to be the exact opposite of what the boxing world thought it would be. Size did not trump skill as Pacquiao put on a boxing clinic, pulverizing Oscar from pillar to post, humiliating him by making him quit on his stool. The fact that Oscar had only been stopped once before was proof of Pacquiao’s otherworldly accomplishment. But even Bernard Hopkins, the middleweight king, who stopped both Felix Trinidad AND de la Hoya, (and who begin his career at light-heavyweight and campaigns there currently) could not make Oscar refuse to answer the bell. This singular accomplishment, while clearly further evidence of Pacquiao’s sublime skills, begged the question: was this the same Oscar de la Hoya, who, despite his age, had never turned in such a poor effort? Observers noted that Oscar looked slow and listless in the fight, more so than he ever had. Could the fact that he dropped to 147 for the first time in eight years have played a part in his demise? Freddie Roach seemed to predict as much earlier, and in fact, counted on it.
Nevertheless, Pacquiao’s emphatic and well-deserved win launched him into the stratosphere. The boxing world immediately began to clamor and demand that his next opponent be the only man in the world with a similar skill set and the distinction of being the undisputed top fighter on the planet, one Floyd Mayweather, Jr. It stood to reason that each fighter, being victorious over boxing’s most celebrated figure of the last decade, would be natural foils for each other, and so the speculation, demands and cries from fans and writers became deafening. As it turns out, Floyd had been listening…