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The result of this couch-potato marathon: a revealing prefight analysis that gets beyond the trash talk and backstage melodrama to examine, in detail, how De La Hoya and Mayweather will match up as boxers in the ring. In addition, we dropped Mayweather into the EA Sports Fight Night Round 3 to create an entire virtual fight (voiced by Brian Kenny) between the two combatants incorporating the scouting report below to give a complete picture of how it will go down.
|De La Hoya has to be agile to go toe-to-toe with Mayweather.|
De La Hoya has to be part dog, part mouse. He must close the distance, minimizing Floyd's options for escaping and counterpunching, and especially try to drive Mayweather to the ropes, where his defensive style can be a liability against an accurate puncher.
But De La Hoya can't risk his usual style of standing flatfooted in front of his opponent with his hands reaching out, walking forward in small steps, parrying for openings. That's worked against many opponents who just stood there and ate De La Hoya's leather, from Julio Cesar Chavez (1996 and 1998) to Fernando Vargas (2003) and Ricardo Mayorga (2006). But Mayweather plasters opponents who wade into his territory without enough aggression, including the tough Diego Corrales (2001).
So any time that he is not unleashing the hounds of hell, De La Hoya must dart in and out like a mouse, sticking and moving, as he did masterfully against Felix Trinidad (1999). He's been at his best when loose and bouncing.
De La Hoya is naturally left-handed but boxes in an orthodox style, with his strong left hand out front. He has taken opponents out with his fast, short left hook and a hybrid hook/uppercut thrown at a three-quarter angle that he has called his "45" (for 45 degrees). He often leads with a looping or straight right, which sets up the left. When it lands, this "two-one" combo can precede a devastating back-and-forth flurry, with lefts and rights alternately winging in shots as opponents wither. De La Hoya beat his first big-name opponent in 1993 -- Mayweather's uncle Jazzy Jeff Mayweather -- with a hard, arcing overhand right, followed by a crushing left uppercut/hook.
|De La Hoya's left is his big weapon.|
De La Hoya will want to work one other punch strongly into his mix. His biggest problems have been in catching speedy opponents such as Shane Mosley, Pernell Whitaker and Ike Quartey. Mayweather could be the fastest yet. De La Hoya could take a cue from Vernon Forrest, who defused Mosley's speed (twice) on the strength of a good stiff jab.
|Mayweather's agility means many opponents can miss with shots.|
In center ring, he jukes his head elusively, bends at the waist in all directions, and jumps straight back, with both hands in front of him, to avoid attacks. In his very first fight (a Round 2 TKO of Robert Apodaca), he bent back to watch Apodaca miss an overhand right (the type that De La Hoya throws) and came back with a left hook to the head, followed by a left hook to the midsection. The body shot knocked Apodaca out. It landed in about the same spot where Bernard Hopkins' body shot put De La Hoya down for the count in 2004.
|Mayweather can get cornered if his strategy is busted.|
When fists fly at him, instead of lifting his left glove for protection, he tends to turn sideways and roll his left shoulder up high to deflect shots, wriggling and muscling away if necessary. But this defense loses a dimension when opponents drive Mayweather to the ropes. The few fighters who have been able to get him there -- notably Jose Luis Castillo, but also the tough Jesus Chavez and even Goya Vargas and Phillip N'Dou -- have had success landing shots to a wide-open head. It's an opening De La Hoya could exploit with his strong right.
Mayweather's signature attack is a quick double left hook -- the first one usually thrown high to an opponent's ear and the second starting very low and hitting the midsection, as if he is passing his glove under a wire. He works this digging combination every fight, and it can be devastating.
|Mayweather likes to go low with his second punch.|
Mayweather delivers the double hook with picture-book prettiness, but it can leave him open. He steps his left foot out very wide to set himself and deliver the second hook, exposing his entire body. If De La Hoya can step away from the second hook, he could have a wide open -- although split-second -- opportunity to shoot in a hard left hook or jab of his own.
When he hired Floyd Mayweather Sr. as a trainer after his first loss to Shane Mosley, De La Hoya started rolling his left shoulder up in defense, reminiscent of Mayweather Jr. That didn't last. De La Hoya also has tried a crab-style defense with his hands crossed in front of his body. He has been superb sticking and moving, as he was against Trinidad, but seems to lack the will to do it for a whole fight. For the most part, De La Hoya's best defense has been the threat that he will hit an opponent back.
Mayweather has nursed tender hands since his merciless January 2001 beating of Diego Corrales. Mayweather brought what he called "two messed-up hands" into his next fight, against Carlos Hernandez in May 2001. The hands were injected with Novocain, but he winced throughout the fight, and when he tagged Hernandez with a hard right in the sixth round, it hurt Mayweather's hand so much that he bent over in pain, and his glove brushed the canvas. It was ruled a knockdown -- the only knockdown against Mayweather in his pro career, though it really wasn't legitimate.
Mayweather blamed his near loss to Jose Luis Castillo in their first match (April 2002) to his fighting with two broken ribs and an injured shoulder. Mayweather was less elusive than usual, and Castillo was able to trap him on the ropes and pound in some shots.
Mayweather hurt his right hand again in his fight against Zab Judah (April 2006). And in his most recent fight, Mayweather battered Carlos Baldomir (November 2006) but did not put him away. He complained his hands hurt during the fight. After the 12-round win, he suggested he might retire.
De La Hoya's health
De La Hoya has coped with recurring hand and shoulder injuries that have delayed his training but never undone him in a fight.
His left wrist was repaired surgically in November 2001, and a left-hand injury delayed his next fight, against Fernando Vargas in September 2002. He had no problem ending the Vargas match with a furious two-fisted finish. Still, De La Hoya hurt his left wrist again in his next fight, a May 2003 TKO of Yory Boy Campas.
De La Hoya's January 1997 bout against Miguel Angel Gonzalez was delayed due to a training-camp shoulder injury, and it became the first time De La Hoya had to go 12 rounds to win by decision. Most recently, he hurt his left shoulder while beating Ricardo Mayorga in May 2006. He says he's OK now.
Cuts (mostly, an occasional bloody nose) haven't hurt De La Hoya. He's had swelling under his left eye in late rounds against thumpers such as Julio Cesar Chavez and Felix Trinidad.
Sensing his 1999 fight with Ike Quartey was close, De La Hoya came out and scored a 12th-round knockdown. When he got Vargas in trouble in the 11th round of their fight, he ended Vargas with a 15-punch barrage. He showed he still can close in style against Mayorga in 2006, unfurling a barrage of at least 20 consecutive shots on a defenseless Mayorga before referee Jay Nady stopped it. Mayweather won't be so vulnerable, but if Oscar creates a chance to end it, he will explode.
|De La Hoya's finishing power can be awesome.|
Known for combining power with spectacular hand speed, Mayweather has finished off many opponents with a blizzard of punishment. But putting aside his six-round destruction of Arturo Gatti in 2005, the Mayweather of recent years has been content to let most fights play out and go the distance. A telling statistic: His first 19 fights lasted an average of 3.9 rounds. His past 18 fights have averaged 9.6 rounds, and six of his past 10 have gone the full distance. With his tender hands, Mayweather has been content to win on style. The prospects that Mayweather-De La Hoya will go the distance are very good.