Okay, so I got the mismatch crossed up a little bit. Turns out it was De La Hoya who was mismatched, not the smaller Pacquiao, who gave De La Hoya the worst beating of his career and most likely sent the Golden Boy into retirement.
It was an overwhelmingly dominant performance by Pacquiao, who clearly won every round before the fight was stopped after the eighth round. The fight was reminiscent of when Larry Holmes took apart Muhammad Ali in 1980, after Ali came out of retirement. Ali had struggled with his weight and conditioning toward the end of his career, but he came into the Holmes fight looking great, at a lean, fighting weight. But he was so slow and weakened that he couldn’t throw a punch.
De La Hoya had that same look Saturday night. He has fought as a middleweight, so everyone expected that once he made the 147-pound welterweight agreed upon limit, De La Hoya would gain between 5 and 10 pounds before the fight and walk into the ring with a sizeable weight advantage. But in a strange turn of events, De La Hoya weighed in on Friday at 145 pounds, two pounds below the weight limit, and then before the fight, according to Home Box Office, weighed just 147 pounds. Pacquiao, who was fighting as a 130-pound featherweight, figured to be at a distinct power and size disadvantage. But he weighed just two pounds less than De La Hoya at the weigh in, and, according to HBO, weighed in before the fight at 148 1/2 pounds, heavier than De La Hoya, which was stunning.
Not that the extra weight would have helped De La Hoya. Pacquiao’s speed was too much for De La Hoya, who could not pull the trigger on punches, which is what Pacquiao trainer Freddie Roach, who trained De La Hoya for his fight more than a year ago against Floyd Mayweather, Jr.,, had said — that he couldn’t pull the trigger anymore, beat his opponent to the punch.
But you have to wonder how De La Hoya lost his weight and came in so low for this fight — the way he lost it. It raises some questions for me.
De La Hoya, 35, is hopefully done with boxing now. His legacy is a mixed bag — no one made more money in the history of the sport than De La Hoya, whose 19 pay-per-view fights over his career has brought in more than $700 million in revenue. But he won’t go down as a great champion. He lost twice to Shane Mosley (though with the recent BALCO revelation that Mosley was taking steroids, those losses should have an asterisk). He lost to Felix Trinidad, in a fight that he should have clearly won but the decision was taken away from him because he ran away in the final four rounds. He was given a decision over Pernell Whitaker that he didn’t deserve, and, other than Ike Quartey, never really beat a great fighter who wasn’t on the down side of his career.
It was the Trinidad loss that will define the loss of greatness for De La Hoya. He clearly beat Trinidad, but did not get the decision because after dominating him for eight rounds, he ran away in the final four. What De La Hoya should have done after that fight was what Sugar Ray Leonard did after his loss to Roberto Duran — demand that whatever it took, he wanted that guy back in the ring again for their next fight. De La Hoya’s promoter at the time, Bob Arum (now Pacquiao’s promoter), did not want any part of a rematch. He had to work with rival Don King (Trinidad’s promoter) in the first fight and would not work with King again in a rematch, particularly since King would then be dictating the terms of the deal. De La Hoya should have ordered Arum to make the fight under any conditions. He didn’t, and De La Hoya never got Trinidad in the ring again. That was the point where De La Hoya’s legacy as a fighter started its downward slide.
As far as the 29-year-old Pacquiao, the fight that needs to be made is with Mayweather, who dominated De La Hoya in their fight more than a year ago and then “retired” because he couldn’t get the bigger share of the pie in a rematch with De La Hoya. Pacquaio-Mayweather gets my attention, and will create a buzz. Pacquiao has a huge international following, and Mayweather knows how to promote a fight. There is talk of a Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton fight, but that would be another mismatch. Pacquiao would destroy Hatton.
I’ve covered seven of De La Hoya’s fights, and they were all big events, if not big fights. Boxing may never see as golden a boy as De La Hoya again — the last U.S. Olympic gold medal winner (Barcelona 1992) that parlayed that medal into real gold.