Wednesday, Dec. 3, 2008 | 5:09 p.m.
If You Go
- Who: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao
- When: Saturday
- Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena
- Tickets: $150-$1,500, www.mgmgrand.com. (The original allotment of tickets sold out less than two hours after going on sale in September. A limited number of seats became available last week after a reconfiguration of the arena.)
- Closed circuit: MGM Grand Conference Center, $60-$100
- TV: Pay per view, $54.95
Oscar De La Hoya says he's been down to 147 pounds for weeks, and one look at him in a track suit Wednesday seemed to back that up. The same can't be said about Manny Pacquiao, but his job in the weeks preparing for his fight with De La Hoya wasn't to diet but to eat as much as he possibly could.
One fighter has been starving himself, while the other has been gorging. It's the only way the two could get close enough in weight to allow them to meet Saturday night at 147 pounds in a bout that will bring them millions even with a souring economy.
Both are claiming victory over the scales, though De La Hoya still towered over Pacquiao when the two met in the final pre-fight press conference. The weigh-in isn't until a day before the fight, but all the hard work has been done for a bout that could finally hasten De La Hoya's exit from the ring if he has misjudged this opponent.
De La Hoya insists he hasn't.
"I trained for King Kong," he said.
Pacquiao is hardly King Kong, though De La Hoya would be wise to beware of a fighter who has won titles in five weight divisions and is heralded by many as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Though he started his boxing career at 106 pounds and has never fought above 135, he's the kind of nonstop puncher who can make an aging fighter look bad.
And that pretty much is the selling point for a fight that seemed odd when it was first made but now looks like an increasingly intriguing matchup of two men who have been in their share of big fights before.
"It's going to be boxing history if I win this fight," said Pacquiao. "I believe my power and my speed can beat him."
Oddsmakers give Pacquiao a chance, making him an 8-5 underdog in a fight that both he and De La Hoya have relentlessly promoted from their first press conference a few months ago at the base of the Statue of Liberty. The promotion continued unabated at the final press conference, but there are questions over how well the fight will do with a $54.95 pay-per-view price tag at a time people are watching their money carefully.
De La Hoya is co-promoting the fight through his own company and spent much of his time at the podium at the MGM Grand hotel-casino reminding people that they could get up to $50 in rebates on the fight if they buy the right kind of beer, tequila and soda. Just to make sure he covered all bases, he repeated the message in Spanish.
Afterward, though, the talk returned to boxing and what could be expected from a 35-year-old fighter who may be able to score at the cash register but hasn't won a significant fight in six years.
"This type of fight calls for a knockout," said De La Hoya, who has fought as high as 160 pounds. "I may box, but if Manny Pacquiao hits me with a good shot, let's fight. Bite into my mouthpiece and let's get down to it."
That sounds like De La Hoya is preparing for the kind of all out brawl boxing fans will pay good money to see, but Freddie Roach doesn't buy it. The man who was in De La Hoya's corner in his last big fight a year ago against Floyd Mayweather Jr. said after that fight that De La Hoya couldn't pull the trigger on his punches anymore.
Roach is Pacquiao's trainer and he pushed for this fight, certain that even an undersized Pacquiao has plenty to handle De La Hoya.
"He's so tight," Roach said. "I've never seen a fighter who is so experienced so tight before a fight."
While De La Hoya says he has nothing to gain by beating Pacquiao because of the size difference, a win would help turn around a career that has been stuck in mediocrity since he stopped Fernando Vargas at 154 pounds in 2002. De La Hoya is as popular as ever, but he admits that he needs to win some of the big fights he promotes if he is to continue to get people to pay to watch him fight.
Pacquiao, meanwhile, is already a national hero in the Philippines, where the entire nation pauses to watch his fights, and widely considered one of the best active fighters around. But this would be a breakthrough win in his first megafight, and he has the added bonus of perhaps being the fighter who finally sent De La Hoya into retirement.
"If you sacrifice and dream about a fight, you can win," Pacquiao said. "It's hard to explain how happy I am right now."