Opposites in almost every way, from their fighting styles to their personalities, Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. were destined to attract each other.
The soft-spoken "Golden Boy" from East Los Angeles, De La Hoya carefully protects his image and is respectful of others.
The loud-mouthed "Pretty Boy" from Grand Rapids, Mich., Mayweather behaves recklessly and plays up his part as the bad guy.
So in the dramatic theatre that is boxing, they are the perfect pair -- bitter rivals who clearly divide the fans. What they agreed on was they needed each other to bring together what might be the largest-grossing fight in history, an event almost certain to generate more than $100 million in revenue and at least temporarily revive the sport.
"You need a great opponent to make it a big event," De La Hoya said.
Mayweather (37-0, 24 knockouts) is as eager to tout his own greatness as he is to denounce De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) as a fraud.
After years of trading glances and months of insults, De La Hoya and Mayweather finally meet for the WBC super welterweight championship at about 8 p.m. today at the MGM Grand Garden.
"Here I am in the biggest fight in boxing history," Mayweather said. "I just worked my way up to the top, man, and you've got to respect it."
The fight is billed as "The World Awaits," and it will be seen by a sellout crowd of 16,700 in the arena and in 176 countries around the world.
"Aside from all of the other fights I've had or other events I've been involved with, this one here, I'm just anxious," De La Hoya said. "I just can't wait to run over to his corner and starting fighting. I dream about it every night."
And it's something Mayweather has talked about every day.
"Oscar doesn't pose a threat to me at all," he said. "It's not being cocky, it's my confidence. I believe in myself.
"In the sport of boxing, if I was quiet, then I wouldn't be in the position that I'm in. I'm in this position because everything that I've talked about, when I ran my mouth and trash talked, I backed up."
De La Hoya, the most popular fighter of his era, is the underdog, and he is motivated by Mayweather's incessant barking.
"He has no problem talking, that's his problem. What comes out of his mouth is garbage," De La Hoya said. "If the fans are cheering me on more than they are for him, that's probably his fault."
The fight hype reached an absurd level Friday as an estimated 7,000 fans, a record for a weigh-in, poured into the MGM Grand Garden to see the two boxers stand on a scale and exchange stares.
Mayweather weighed in at 150 pounds and De La Hoya 154. By the time the first punch is thrown, De La Hoya might have a 15-pound advantage.
"It's a terrific matchup," said longtime analyst Larry Merchant, who will call the fight for HBO. "De La Hoya is the most popular fighter in the world, and Mayweather is regarded as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world."
De La Hoya is taller and stronger, fighting at a more natural weight and packs more power in his left hook. Mayweather is younger, faster and more adept at avoiding punishment.
"It's not going to be a fight where I have to change my strategies, or change my whole game," De La Hoya said. "Don't be surprised if I'm faster than Mayweather. I think a lot of people are going to be extremely surprised to see an Oscar that's going to match his speed or be even faster."
The fighters' styles contrast and so do their trainers. De La Hoya is trained by mild-mannered Freddie Roach, while Mayweather's trainer is his uncle, Roger Mayweather, who recently served prison time.
Providing another subplot is Floyd Mayweather Sr., who trained De La Hoya in the past and demanded $2 million to train him to fight his son. De La Hoya declined but provided two ringside seats for Mayweather Sr., who does not speak to Roger Mayweather.
Four years ago, a De La Hoya-Mayweather Jr. fight seemed unlikely even as Mayweather lobbied for it.
"Because I have too much respect for Floyd Sr., I will never fight his son," De La Hoya told the Los Angeles Times in April 2003. "The truth is, Floyd can talk all he wants, I'm never going to fight him."
But in boxing, anything is possible, especially when one fighter (De La Hoya) is guaranteed at least $25 million and the other (Mayweather) will make at least $10 million.
"I did not expect to see it, but to Mayweather's credit, he did see it," Merchant said. "Mayweather is supposed to win, but don't discount De La Hoya."
The fight is being put on by De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions. The deal got done, Mayweather said, because he started his trash talking after the contract was signed.
"I made it comfortable for him on all terms. Anything we had to do just to make the fight happen," Mayweather said. "It's obvious I'm a smart businessman. I played it real quiet and real slick.
"As soon as I got his name on that paper, I said, 'Now I can go buck wild on him,' and that's what I did."
De La Hoya set the fight for the Mexican holiday Cinco de Mayo, and he figures to receive more crowd support.
"It's going to be a great pleasure," De La Hoya said, "being in that ring with Mayweather."
Tale of the tape
Tale of the tape for tonight's WBC super welterweight title fight between champion Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. at the MGM Grand Garden:
|De La Hoya||Mayweather|