- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 5, 2007

LAS VEGAS.

The betting line says Floyd Mayweather Jr. is the favorite for tonight’s fight against Oscar De La Hoya at MGM Grand Garden Arena, and it’s hard to argue with that.

He is the younger, faster fighter and perhaps more importantly, he has the greater hunger.

“This is a fight that Mayweather has been looking for his whole life,” veteran trainer Emanuel Steward told reporters yesterday. “That makes it difficult for him to lose.”

Mayweather Jr.’s speed — the quick hands that have led to his 37-0 record — could dismantle De La Hoya.

“Speed is Floyd’s biggest asset, and speed has always given Oscar problems,” Steward said. “He had trouble with speed when he fought Shane Mosley.”

De La Hoya was 27 and 30 years old when he lost both of his fights to Mosley. He is 34 now. Floyd Jr. is 30, and a quicker, better version of Mosley.

That doesn’t add up to a De La Hoya win, particularly when he has told confidants that he expects to be behind early in the fight, and then, in the later rounds, impose his size and strength on Mayweather to knock him out.

That goes against De La Hoya’s track record of tiring in the late rounds, no matter how good a shape he seems to be in. He could barely stand up in the final round against Felix Trinidad (having tired from running around the ring for three rounds after winning the fight through the first eight) and has traditionally lost rounds late in fights, particularly as he has gotten older.

Mayweather Jr., meanwhile, never seems to tire. Always in tremendous shape, he often remains active and fresh in the final rounds.

I have previously predicted through various other media outlets who take such polls that it seems to add up to Mayweather Jr., who weighed in last night at 150 pounds, stopping De La Hoya — the super welterweight champion who weighed in at the limit of 154 pounds — in 11 rounds, as referee Kenny Bayless calls a halt to the action.

But I have since changed my mind. After watching the Mayweather family in action, and the volatility going into this fight, I see another scenario that may be more likely — De La Hoya by disqualification.

It’s the unknown and the bizarre in boxing that unfortunately has been less of the exception and more of the rule in the sport over the past 15 years or so — Fan Man in the second Evander Holyfield-Riddick Bowe fight; Mike Tyson biting Evander Holyfield’s ear in their rematch, and, yes, Mayweather Jr.’s trainer and uncle, Roger Mayweather, jumping into the ring with five seconds remaining in the 10th round in Mayweather Jr.’s fight last year with Zab Judah after Judah had hit Mayweather Jr. with a low blow and a punch to the back of the head.

Roger jumping in the ring resulted in a melee between corners and a near riot at Thomas & Mack Center. The Nevada Athletic Commission fined Roger $200,000 and had his license revoked for a year. He had to go before the commission last month to assure them that nothing like that would happen again.

Roger Mayweather, who recently served three months in jail on a domestic violence conviction, can’t assure anyone, including himself, of what he will do one minute to the next.

Floyd Sr. trained De La Hoya for six years, but not for this fight. Mayweather Sr. demanded De La Hoya pay him $2 million to train De La Hoya to fight his son.

Mayweather Sr., who was once shot and later served nearly five years in federal prison for drug trafficking, tried to get into his son’s camp. But Roger Mayweather hates his brother, Floyd Sr. and wanted no part of him. Mayweather Sr. is expected to be at tonight’s fight, in the crowd, courtesy of a ticket from De La Hoya. MGM security wouldn’t let him into the VIP section at the weigh-in.

So it won’t take much — a punch after the bell, any number of things — to make Roger do the same stupid thing he did before or for Mayweather Sr., to try to rush into the ring, only to be stopped by security with his son watching.

Pick your scenario. Already, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, police are concerned about the crowd that could be in the ring tonight. The gang factor associated with Mayweather’s crowd, just as it was for many Tyson fights, could create a tense atmosphere.

Lou DiBella is a boxing promoter and former Home Box Office boxing chief. Though he doesn’t necessarily go along with the DQ scenario, he does believe something unusual could happen.

“Something is going to happen in that ring to cause this fight to happen a second time,” DiBella said. “If your premise is that this is a fight where something weird could happen, I agree with you.”

Tonight, chaos is just as good a bet as a good fight — and, most importantly, only adds to the anticipation of a De La Hoya-Mayweather II.

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