Saturday, May 5, 2007 | 7:01 a.m.
Principals: Oscar De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) vs. Floyd Mayweather Jr. (37-0, 24 KOs)
At stake: De La Hoya's WBC junior middleweight title, Mayweather's unofficial title of boxing's best fighter pound-for-pound
Time/site: Today at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Doors open, 3 p.m.; pay-per-view begins, 6 p.m.
Tickets: Sold out (face value $150 to $2,000)
TV: HBO Pay-Per-View, $54.95
Featured undercard bouts: Rocky Juarez (26-3, 19 KOs) vs. Jose Andres Hernandez (22-3, 14 KOs), 12 rounds, featherweights; Rey "Boom Boom" Bautista (22-0, 17 KOs) vs. Sergio Medina (28-0, 16 KOs), 12 rounds, junior featherweights
Betting line: Mayweather -180/De La Hoya +160. Will go 12 rounds, -250.
1. Hard feelings
Before any big boxing match, it's customary for the fighters to engage in mutual putdowns and a little trash talk to sell tickets and pay-per-view broadcasts. When Floyd Mayweather lights into Oscar De La Hoya, you can't help but feel he's expressing heartfelt animosity. Dispensing with the usual platitudes about respect for his opponent, Mayweather questioned De La Hoya's heart. "He quit in his (2004) fight against Bernard Hopkins," Mayweather said. "He's the guy you want representing America as a champion - a quitter? That's (malarkey). I'm not in the business of saying, 'He's a great fighter.' I'm gonna crush him. I'm gonna dominate him."
2. Help from a friend
Considering Mayweather's prefight verbal jabs, it's doubtful these two combatants will ever become promotional partners, the way former rival Shane Mosley joined forces with De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions after beating De La Hoya twice in the ring. Mosley worked with De La Hoya and trainer Freddie Roach in training camp in Puerto Rico. "Shane can emulate Floyd a little bit and he actually has the speed, maybe even a little quicker (than Mayweather), but the work has been great between the two," said Roach, hired for this fight after De La Hoya and his usual trainer Floyd Mayweather Sr. could not agree on terms.
De La Hoya took the high road during the prefight promotional blitz, which included a multi city tour and conference calls attracting more than 700 media members, but promised to make Mayweather pay for what he called an unprofessional demeanor. "He asked for it and he's going to get it," De La Hoya said. "When a fighter talks that little trash, for some reason it sparks something in me. It takes me to a whole new level." If De La Hoya senses Mayweather's famously fragile hands are hurt at any time, he plans to pounce. "I close the show," De La Hoya, 34, said. "If I see somebody that is hurt like a wounded animal, you know, if you see 'em wounded, you have to go after it."
4. Not dead yet
Featuring two of boxing's few legitimate superstars, De La Hoya-Mayweather is being hailed as a megafight that could save a fading sport, but Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer said reports of boxing's death have been greatly exaggerated. A sold-out Grand Garden Arena will generate a live gate of $19 million, tens of thousands of fans will watch a closed-circuit telecast at $55 a pop, and pay-per-view sales could set records for a non-heavyweight fight (1.4 million buys) or any fight (1.9 million). Schaefer blamed competing promoters for damaging boxing. "These promoters, if they think the sport is dying, they should stop promoting, go and retire," he said.
5. Leaving a legacy
Mayweather has vowed to retire from boxing after tonight's fight, but it's far from certain it would be a permanent goodbye - especially for a fighter who's 30 and so pointedly concerned about his legacy in the sport. Mayweather has said repeatedly he wants to be remembered as the best boxer who ever lived. "I fight everybody who's put in front of me," Mayweather said. "I've been dominating the sport for 10 years. I didn't live in Sugar Ray Robinson's era. I didn't live in Muhammad Ali's era. I don't worry about what people say, what people write. What I know is that this is Floyd Mayweather's era."