LAS VEGAS - Floyd Mayweather Jr. proved to the world that he can outgun any fighter you'll pay him enough money to face, though be barely did it Saturday night, outpointing an aggressive Oscar De La Hoya to win a split decision - and take De La Hoya's World Boxing Council junior middleweight title.
Jerry Roth and Chuck Giampa scored the fight for Mayweather, 115-113 and 116-112, respectively. Judge Tom Kaczmarek scored it 115-113 for De La Hoya. Mayweather, undefeated as a professional, is 38-0 with 24 knockouts, while De La Hoya's record dropped to 38-5 with 30 KOs.
"I saw the punches coming. I stayed on the outside and made him miss," said Mayweather, 30. He also said he will retire from boxing. "I fought the best of my era tonight, and I beat him. I don't have anything else to prove."
In a fight that may turn out to be the highest-grossing boxing match in history when all the pay-per-view TV receipts are counted, Mayweather started slowly. De La Hoya asserted himself first, moving forward with two- and three-punch combinations, occasionally backing Mayweather to the ropes and landing head shots. Mayweather's acclaimed defense was permeable, and he seemed to be holding back, waiting for an opening.
Mayweather perked up toward the close of Round 5, landing two hard left-right combinations in the closing 30 seconds. His defense woke up too, and in the sixth he seemed to be slipping more of the shots from De La Hoya's outbursts.
But De la Hoya kept coming, pushing Mayweather back continuously with a stiff left jab, then going in with two-fisted flurries. In Rounds 9 and 10, Mayweather began scoring by finding angles for single rights and lefts, and he nailed De La Hoya with a hard left to end the 10th.
In the final round, they stayed mostly in center ring. Mayweather backed up De La Hoya with hard shots twice, though it was briefly, and De La Hoya continued to press forward. They ended the bout trading blows for the final 10 seconds and had to be separated by referee Kenny Bayless. There were no knockdowns.
De La Hoya said he thought that Mayweather had run from him for much of the fight.
"I felt that I was landing the harder, crisper punches," he said. "I pressed the fight. If I hadn't pressed the fight, there would have been no fight."
"Look at the Punchstat," Mayweather said, referring to ringside statistics that showed him landing 138 power punches, compared to 82 by De La Hoya, and landing them at a 57 percent connect rate compared to 24 percent for De La Hoya.
Despite having moved up to 154 pounds for the first time in his career, Mayweather entered the ring nearly a 2-1 betting favorite. The cocky Mayweather also entered the ring wearing an oversize Mexican hat and the colors of the Mexican flag, in an apparent effort to taunt De La Hoya, a native of East Los Angeles whose heritage is Mexican. But size wasn't a factor in the fight.
It's the fifth weight division in which Mayweather - a 1996 Olympic bronze medalist - has won a title belt as a professional, after starting his career in 1996 as a 130-pound super-featherweight. De La Hoya, who also went professional at 130, after winning a gold medal in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, has won belts in six divisions.
Mayweather prevailed despite family turbulence in the days before the fight. The Grand Rapids, Mich., native was raised to be a fighter in a family known for clashes inside the ring and out. His father, a former boxer, began training the young Floyd to become a boxer when he was just a toddler, but was spending time in prison for drug sales when his son boxed in the Olympics and early in his professional career.
The younger Mayweather's uncle, Roger Mayweather, became and remains his trainer, a situation causing friction for both of them with the elder Mayweather. Floyd Sr. trained De La Hoya for eight fights through last year, but he ended up in no one's corner last night. Another boxing uncle, Jeff Mayweather, lost to a young De La Hoya in 1993.
There's no rematch clause in the fighters' contracts, though a return remains a possibility despite Mayweather's retirement claim.
De La Hoya, 34, said he would go back and watch tapes of the fight before deciding what he would do next. He has had a 15-year career in the ring and has become successful outside it. His ventures have included real estate, apparel and television production, and his company Golden Boy promoted last night's bout.
Golden Boy said the sellout crowd of 16,700 at the MGM Grand brought in $19 million in ticket sales, and more than 1.5 million purchases of the $54.95 pay-per-view telecast were expected. With this bout, De La Hoya is expected to surpass the record of $545 million that Mike Tyson generated in pay-per-view boxing revenue. De La Hoya will make at least $25 million for the fight, Mayweather $10 million or more.