Analyzing tomorrow night's WBC super welterweight title bout between champion Oscar De La Hoya and challenger Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Mayweather: There isn't much argument that "Pretty Boy Floyd" is boxing's premier pound-for-pound performer. So cocksure is Mayweather of his status that he also thinks he'll go down in history as the best fighter ever. A world champion in four divisions, Mayweather is mobile, fast-handed, excellent defensively and a volume puncher whose knockouts generally are the result of his ability to hit, and hit often, while not getting hit himself. He doesn't think he can be beaten and, so far, he has been right.
De La Hoya: All the world's a stage, William Shakespeare wrote in "As You Like It," and boxing's most bankable superstar has been in its brightest spotlight since he won a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. If you include WBO titles (and not everyone does), he's the only fighter ever to have won championships in six weight classes. Those belts weren't won by beating chumps, either; few if any of De La Hoya's contemporaries have faced as many world-class opponents. His best weapon is his left hand; he's got a good jab and a better hook.
Mayweather: Chronic hand soreness has not appreciably slowed his rise to the top, but it's quite one thing to defeat the lumbering likes of Carlos Baldomir with aching fists than it is to handle a fighter as skilled as De La Hoya. If Mayweather finds himself in a tough scrap - which really hasn't happened often - the condition of his hands as the fight progresses could prove critical. Some also wonder whether Mayweather, the smaller man here, is jumping up one weight class too many.
De La Hoya: Freddie Roach will be his fifth lead trainer in the last 12 years, and all that switching around in his corner could lead to an information overload. (Ironically, Roach is replacing the deposed Floyd Mayweather Sr.) Stamina also is an issue, as some - Mayweather especially - have questioned whether the "Golden Boy" has a large enough gas tank to fight 3 minutes of every round for all 12 rounds.
HOW HE CAN WIN
Mayweather: Technically proficient in every area, Mayweather can be described as a master craftsman. Not blessed with the almost supernatural hand speed of a Meldrick Taylor or a Roy Jones Jr., at times he seems quicker than he really is - and he's plenty quick - because he places his shots so well. Punch statistics almost always reveal Mayweather to have landed at a 40 percent-plus rate, sometimes even in the 60s. That's phenomenal. If De La Hoya doesn't cut off the ring, and if Mayweather is sharpshooting as always, Floyd wins. Simple as that.
De La Hoya: Just as he was the smaller man and thus at a physical disadvantage against Bernard Hopkins, he has the benefit of size and strength over Mayweather. He has more devastating one-punch power, too, especially with the left hook. It will help greatly if De La Hoya can force Mayweather to engage at close quarters often enough to turn the fight into a slugfest that could be decided on a single, well-placed bomb. It also would help Oscar's cause if Mayweather's brittle hands break down sooner rather than later.
Although some maintain that the good big man always beats the good little man, that theory has been skewed by Michael Spinks' victories over Larry Holmes, Roy Jones Jr.'s over John Ruiz, and Bernard Hopkins' over Antonio Tarver. Mayweather holds most of the cards here, and it wouldn't be surprising if he defeats De La Hoya in much the same manner that Shane Mosley did, twice. It's Mayweather, by a fairly close but unanimous decision.
TALE OF THE TAPE
These numbers are estimated, with the official weigh-in set for today. All numbers, from reach on down, are in inches
Fighter: Floyd Mayweather Jr.
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Residence, Las Vegas
Height: 5-8 3/4
Chest, Normal: 38 1/2
Chest, Expanded: 39 1/2
Biceps: 12 1/2
Ankle: 9 1/2
Fighter: Oscar De La Hoya
Hometown: Los Angeles
Residence, Puerto Rico
Chest, Normal: 39
Chest, Expanded: 42 1/2
Biceps: 13 3/4
Waist: 31 3/4
Calf: 13 1/2