Failure to Launch (cont.)
Posted: Tuesday May 8, 2007 10:26AM; Updated: Tuesday May 8, 2007 10:26AM
So there was a lot of honest effort involved. Early on, De La Hoya seemed to have a game plan for an upset, using his larger frame to bully Mayweather into the ropes and punish his body. And whenever De La Hoya used his jab, he found his mark. But he neglected the weapon as the fight wore on and afterward was at a loss to explain its failure to deploy. "My jab just didn't come out," he said.
Mayweather, meanwhile, having agreed to move up to 154 pounds to meet De La Hoya -- in fact, having agreed to every condition the belt holder set, including accepting less than half the champion's $25 million purse -- was able to deflect most of the punishment and, on those occasions when he halted De La Hoya in the center of the ring, used his fabled hand speed to clip him with clean rights.
Common wisdom held that De La Hoya couldn't penetrate Mayweather's buzz saw counter-punching, but the fight went back and forth, De La Hoya winning the early rounds when he unfurled his jab and set the pace, Mayweather responding with torrid counterpunching. De La Hoya may not have hurt Mayweather at any point, but his aggression was certainly bold. And his swarming of Mayweather on the ropes, which Mayweather at first permitted, may have helped him to steal a couple of rounds.
But the decidedly pro-Oscar crowd -- there is hardly anything more traditional in boxing than a Cinco de Mayo event headlined by De La Hoya -- just couldn't get any traction. And it wasn't because Mayweather had purloined their affections with his playful decision to wear a huge white sombrero into the ring. De La Hoya simply failed to mount a sustained attack and was too often caught up short by Mayweather's snapping fists. In the 10th round, for example, De La Hoya was slugging along when Mayweather simply popped him flush in the face with a right hand, driving him backward. So much for that.
It was only in the final round that the two fully engaged, when De La Hoya unleashed a desperate firestorm. That round proved crucial. Two of the three judges gave it to De La Hoya. Had the third also scored it for him, the decision would have been a draw. Still, as close as it was, there was not a lot of surprise or even outrage at the decision. It just seemed it could have gone either way, depending on whether you rewarded De La Hoya's body shots and his forcing the action, or Mayweather's superior accuracy. Oddly, the person who seemed most at peace with the verdict was De La Hoya. "I don't feel like a loser," he said. "I'm satisfied."
The prefight promotion, for its part, didn't lack for effort, or even innovation. In addition to the old standbys -- an 11-city publicity tour, an itinerary of enforced aggravation, considering Mayweather's fabled impishness -- there were corporate tie-ins, a striking array of sponsorships and a pretty good ad campaign. Tecate, one of those sponsors, said the partnership produced some of its biggest beer sales ever for a month. Presumably it worked the other way, too.
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