1. FANS were shocked when Oscar De La Hoya announced he would be returning to 147lbs to take on Manny Pacquiao on December 6, 2008. The Filipino, who won his first world title at flyweight and had fought just once at 135, was thought to be far too small for his illustrious opponent. De La Hoya, although in decline, was still regarded as one of the sport’s premier fighters.
2. SOME insiders, like trainer and analyst Teddy Atlas, thought that dropping back to welterweight might put a strain on the “Golden Boy’s” 35-year-old body. Oscar – who had recently campaigned at light-middle and middle – had not fought at welterweight since thrashing Arturo Gatti in 2001.
3. PACQUIAO’S trainer Freddie Roach was exceptionally confident his growing charge would triumph. The esteemed coach had worked closely with De La Hoya, training him for his tight 2007 loss to Floyd Mayweather, and declared the veteran could no longer “pull the trigger.”
4. THERE was massive interest in the contest, as there always was when the ‘Golden Boy’ came out to play. It generated $70 million in PPV revenue after a whopping 1.25 million ordered the bout, making it only the fourth non-heavyweight fight to attract over one million viewers.
5. DE LA HOYA’S quest for perfection was as much a hindrance as a driver. He only lost to the best, but each reverse often resulted in a change of personnel. For this bout, desperately trying to cover all bases, he employed top trainer Ignacio Beristáin and added legendary Angelo Dundee as an advisor. For a fighter like De La Hoya, who fed on confidence, it was a move that suggested all was not well.
6. ONE of the American’s former coaches, Floyd Mayweather Snr, felt that, ultimately, the strength, power, and size of De La Hoya would be too much. “Oscar ain’t the quickest learner in this business, but he won’t need to know too much to beat Manny,” said Floyd. “He’s plain just too big.”
7. BUT De La Hoya was too light. And too old. Coming in at 145lbs, and struggling to beef his body up after the weigh-in, Oscar was a drained and tired shell of a once-great fighter. When the opening bell rang he dutifully shuffled into range and hoped it would all suddenly come together. It didn’t. As Pacquiao – ripped and lightning fast at 142lbs – swarmed all over him, De La Hoya started to fall apart.
8. FOR eight rounds, the veteran tried to align his determined mind with his body. But Pacquiao was relentless, ruthless, and brilliant. A peak De La Hoya would undoubtedly fared better, but on this night, he could do nothing but get beaten up. He retired on his stool before the ninth.
9. “AT this stage when you face someone like Manny Pacquiao, it’s going to be a hard fight,” De La Hoya said afterwards. “I worked hard and trained really hard to get ready for this fight, but it’s a lot different story when you’re training than when you are actually in the ring. I just felt flat, like I didn’t have it. My heart still wants to fight, but when you physically don’t respond, you have to be smart.” He was smart, and did not fight again.
10. “The dream came true tonight,” said Roach. “This victory was no surprise. In round one, I knew we had him. He had no legs, he was hesitant, he was shot. My guy was just too fresh for him. Oscar is a great champion, he’s had a great career. I hope there are no hard feelings.”