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Just a few things based on one viewing of HBO’s telecast:

Oscar is still a world-class, championship-class fighter.  Steve Forbes is borderline world-class but does have an excellent chin and survival instincts and never appeared to be in any danger. This is one of the troubling aspects of Oscar’s career–while he has scored the occasional knockout, for the most part he lacks the power that would provide him with a wildcard in these kinds of fights. Everyone still likes to talk about his left hook and him being better at 147-150, and that may be true, but even against naturally smaller men his power barely seems to be a factor, much less any significant advantage.

So to beat Mayweather, Oscar will have to outduel him on points, and there’s little evidence that he’ll be able to do that better now than he did a year ago. Oscar was slightly more relaxed tonight I suppose but I would lean toward Larry Merchant’s suggestion that his comfort was significantly influenced by the caliber of opposition he faced. Oscar looked tired and/or tight versus guys like Mayweather, Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, etc. To the contrary, he was gunning for Julio Caesar Chavez late in their rematch and he desperately wanted to knockout Hector Camacho. He was probably somewhere in the middle tonight, but there was nothing to suggest he’s found the secret to taking out Mayweather in September.

He also got hit way too much. Maybe he didn’t respect the feather-fisted Forbes but Oscar took his share of clean shots and postfight photographs will prove that Forbes repeatedly got to him, even if he never was in any distress. Mayweather probably can’t hurt him either but he’ll hit him even more. At his age, Oscar doesn’t have the stamina or the speed to deal out the same quantity of punches so he’s going to have to find a way to better deflect some of those. It appeared to me that in the early rounds Forbes was content to stay just out of both fighters’ range–even though Oscar had a significant reach advantage, Forbes was quick enough to close the distance when he wanted.  (Of course, in the mid-to-late rounds Forbes gave up on winning and just wanted to show that he was competent.)

Kudos to Golden Boy for giving us a free fight on HBO. Kudos to Jeff Mayweather for being the sole likable Mayweather. Kudos to the judges and referee for not embarrassing anybody.

Kudos to Larry Merchant for a good night. Say what you will about Larry, but one thing he’s always done well in my opinion was walk the fine line between saying his piece and being a HBO company man. Read between the lines and he said basically exactly what I feel: Oscar’s great for the sport and a truly terrific, dedicated fighter, all the more impressive considering his tremendous success, but other than the money, there’s nothing to suggest the world needs another Oscar/Floyd showdown.

Mayweather by decision seems as safe a bet as ever.

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Just a few quick thoughts:

It’s hard to judge from home; I’ll be the first to acknowledge that. Still, I think that was an exceptionally close fight and the close split decision was completely fair. Mayweather did a tremendous job throughing his potshots here and there, landing a few flush, but Oscar was much more competent defensively than I believe even the HBO crowd was giving him credit for. In the sixth he made Mayweather look comical as he slipped punch after punch in the middle of the ring.

Still, in totality, I suppose the speed advantage was enough. There were a number of close rounds early in the fight but, of the easy-to-score rounds, Mayweather had the clear advantage. Oscar needed to run the table on the close rounds to pull it out and he just didn’t have enough. You have to wonder if he’ll be thinking tonight about whether he did enough in the third and the eleventh, not to mention why he put the jab away in the last third of the fight. Nonetheless, it might have been an even fight or maybe one round advantage to Mayweather–Max Kellerman’s crazy if he really thinks that was some kind of virtuoso performance. Mayweather might have won but it was hardly the kind of genius victory that Kellerman tried to portray.

As for Larry Merchant’s final question about a rematch? Actually, the fight was interesting enough to be worthy of one, but it probably won’t happen because the spectacle wouldn’t be there. I’d love to see it but I ain’t paying $64.95 for it. Not that I didn’t think tonight’s match was worthy of that price, but the dramatics weren’t there to make me want to see it again that bad.

Ultimately, it was an interesting but frustrating fight, a phrase that in many ways sums up de la Hoya’s career.

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de la Hoya-Mayweather

Years ago, in the days when Usenet ruled the world, I spent a lot of time knocking around rec.sports.boxing, or RSB. There were probably 40 or so “regulars” at the time I was there: i cheeuhuahua, The Sanity Cruzer, Dannews (aka Dan Rafael, now a bigshot boxing writer), dci, and lots of other internet handles.

I don’t hang there anymore for two reasons: the signal-to-noise ratio and I’m just not as big a boxing fan as I used to be. Boxing is a difficult sport to love because it just breaks your heart over and over. The bad decisions, questionable stoppages, ridiculous pay-per-view prices, lazy fighters, multiple world champions, criminal promoters, and so forth have sapped much of the enthusiasm I had for what was once my favorite sport. The rise of MMA and UFC is just a crushing indictment of everything that’s wrong (in America, at least) with the sweet science.

 But this fight, which Bill Simmons has called The Last Big Fight, has my interest pinging off the charts again. (And Simmons, with whom I have a love-hate relationship, is pretty much dead-on here, although anyone who can’t see Mayweather-Mosley coming just doesn’t watch enough boxing. Still, I suppose it is legitimate whether that qualifies as a superfight.)

Anyway, back on RSB I learned what has proved a useful trick in predicting the results of boxing matches. It’s simple, really, perhaps so obvious as to be overlooked. Still, ever since I learned it I must admit it has served me incredibly well in predicting the outcomes of boxing matches.

Here it is: there are only four possible outcomes to any fight. Either fighter may win by knockout or either fighter may win by decision. (Of course, there are other possibilities, like draws and disqualifications and such, but you don’t account for those unless it’s a Tyson fight.) So, you figure out what the chances of each are and you’re good to go.

1. Mayweather by decision: As much as I want Oscar to win, Floyd is so pure and so fast that this is obviously the most likely outcome. I’ll put it at 50%.

2. de la Hoya by knockout: Oscar’s power is a little overrated in my opinion. He hasn’t really been a destroyer since he moved up from 135. However, this is the first time in a long while where he’ll be boxing a legitimately smaller guy moving up to fight him, plus I think he knows this is his best chance of winning so he may be gunning for the KO more than he was against, say, Felix Trinidad. Put it at 25%.

3. Mayweather by KO: Could Oscar get old here? Probably not, but Mayweather has incredibly fast hands. I think he may get to Oscar a lot. Enough to stop him? Probably not, but Oscar’s been down a few times and I’m still not 100% comfortable with his effort in the Bernard Hopkins fight. If Mayweather’s all over him the question of whether the good life has sapped Oscar’s heart may become the story of the night. Call this 15%

4. de la Hoya by decision: Yes, it’s Cinqo de Mayo, and Oscar could drop Mayweather a couple times, get some 10-8 rounds, and maybe do enough to get by. But Oscar has lost close fights in Vegas before that I think he had won on the cards (Trinidad, Mosley II) so there’s no reason to think the crowd or circumstances might give him some advantage on the scorecards. With his speed disadvantage I just don’t see Oscar having a chance to get enough points to win this way, although if his power overwhelms Mayweather but not enough to knock him out, it could happen. Call it 10%.

And there you have it. Mayweather’s got a 65% chance of winning, and I think he will.  At the current odds that makes him a good bet and my guess is the fabled “late money” (aka, the smart money) will go his way. (Although he’s always been the underdog, the betting has been in Oscar’s favor since the initial line but it already seems to be pushing back.)

We’ll see how smart I am.

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So Tyson is going to start fighting exhibitions. On PPV.

That’s pay-per-view. That means people are going to pay money to watch a fight on television that doesn’t count. They already have those–it’s called professional wrestling. (Except I kinda doubt Tyson will be squaring off in a “Hell in a Cell” match.)

 There’s really only 3 ways this can end:

1.This is a failure. Nobody cares, nobody pays, and Tyson and his handlers have to come up with some new scheme to hustle a few bucks.

2. At this stage probably the most interesting fight Mike Tyson could possibly have is with the self-proclaimed “King of the Four Rounders” Eric ‘Butterbean’ Esch. Although his place in the sports culture is nothing compared to where it was several years ago, this would be a marketable event. Nobody is going to care that Butterbean lost four fights in 2005. Back in 2002 Butterbean actually fought a decrepit Larry Holmes to a 10 round loss by unanimous decision, including a knockdown of “The Easton Assassin”. Tyson probably isn’t as far-gone as Holmes was but ‘Bean wouldn’t have to worry about going ten rounds either. It may be a travesty, but for a four round fight? This thing could sell.

3. Tyson looks okay in the first exhibition. Scores an impressive knockout. He trains a bit and gets another one in the second. All of a sudden we hear how he’s regaining his fire/falling in love with boxing again/rededicating himself to training/etc. After a couple more victories he announces his comeback. All of it will almost seem…scripted.

My guess is the first one is how it will turn out, and if the fights are on the up-and-up, Tyson could lose any of them.

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Last night I read an intriguing interview with Roberto Duran over at ESPN.com that was prefaced with an otherwise boring introduction, but for this line:

Widely considered the best pound-for-pound fighter of all-time, the Panamanian won world titles at four different weights and fought in five different decades.

Do what now? So I get all geeked up about it and plan to make a post about it tonight (or now, or whatever) and in preparing to do so I reopen that page. They’ve fixed it:

Arguably one of the best pound-for-pound fighters of all-time, the Panamanian won world titles at four different weights and fought in five different decades.

That’s better.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Duran a lot. He certainly belongs in the conversation somewhere. But saying that he’s the best pound-for-pound of all time is sorta like saying that John Elway is the greatest NFL quarterback of all time: it’s reasonable, but without much difficulty you can find someone who was better than he was at basically everything. It definitely isn’t “widely considered” that Duran is the best; if anybody is, it would be Sugar Ray Robinson yet there’s still plenty of people who would dispute that.

Oh well. ESPN ain’t real good about tuning down the hype but glad they did in this case.

Interesting that Duran says in the interview that if he could redo any of his Leonard fights, he does not choose the second one, the famous “no mas” showdown that utilmately mars his legacy and is what the sports mainstream probably best remembers him for. Instead, he’d rather fight the first one again, a close but clear victory, saying he would “beat him more convincingly”.

I guess maybe he thinks if he’d done that, the rematch might never have happened. Still, that’s a dern strange position. My guess is if Mike Tyson could have one do-over, he’d pick the rematch with Evander Holyfield when he bit the champ’s ear off instead of seeing if he could improve on his 91 second demolition of Michael Spinks. You never know, though. People who get hit in the head for a living tend to be eccentric.

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This news is fairly dated at this point but it was news to me. My favorite fighter of all time, the guy that got me interested in boxing, has been arrested. Again.

“The “Macho Man” is in trouble with the law. According to the New York Sun, Hector Camacho, Sr. was arrested on assault charges, along with his live-in girlfriend, Bonita Money, at a Midtown hotel on Sunday morning.

The police report states that Camacho and Money got into an argument at about 3 a.m. in Paquitas Café in the Fairfield section of the Bronx. Money called police from inside the bar on the ground floor of the W Hotel in Midtown and told them that Camacho assaulted her.

When the police arrived, both Camacho and Money alleged the other had been the attacker. Although police said there no visible signs of abuse, both were arrested for assault in the third degree, a misdemeanor charge in New York.” Source: BoxingScene.com (emphasis mine)

The easy joke is the one I made in my headline–Camacho’s going on about two decades now of a fight career where he’s survived without inflicting “visible signs of abuse” on his opposition.

If Camacho came along today I know I would hate him. Perhaps more than any other boxer who ever lived he missed the point of Muhammad Ali–Camacho really thought the flash and the hype were more important than the substance. He truly was an astonishing talent but he didn’t care to maintain it, and all too soon decided that his job was to be a showman first then a fighter. He abused drugs and clinched his way to lopsided losses whenever met with superior opposition, content to survive rather than attempting to win. He got stopped for having sex with a woman while driving his Ferrari and, when asked about Mike Tyson after the Evander Holyfield “bite fight”, stated that Mike’s problem was that he, “[has] all these nigger-attitude people around him that make him act the way he does, like a little beast.”

And there was this. And apparently, if the story above is accurate, he’s the kind of guy who dates a woman named “Bonita Money”. And so on.

Still to this day, if anyone asks me who my all-time favorite fighter is, I’ll say (without hesitation) Hector “Macho” Camacho. I’ll defend some of his controversial wins and make the case that he should be a first-ballot, automatic Hall of Famer. I guess in the end Camacho embodies what I’ve discovered about boxing: it’s a really, really tough sport to love; in fact, sometimes it seems like it wants you to hate it.

Oh well. I could have done worse…

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