When Floyd Mayweather Sr. decided not to train Oscar De La Hoya for his 147-pound fight with Manny Pacquiao, the ”Golden Boy” needed someone who didn’t necessarily know him but knew something about Pacquiao and how to defeat him.
Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain might not be flamboyant like Mayweather or have the public persona of Emanuel Steward or even Freddie Roach. But he is a proven commodity as a trainer, having worked with former world champions Humberto “Chiquita” Gonzalez and Ricardo “Finito” Lopez. He also trains Juan Manuel Marquez, who has given Pacquiao all he could handle in two meetings.
So it wasn’t that tough a decision when De La Hoya announced late in the summer that Beristain would be in his corner for Saturday’s fight with Pacquiao at the MGM Grand Garden. In Beristain, De La Hoya has the guy he believes can get him past Pacquiao.
“It’s been great,” De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) said of Beristain, who at No. 6 is the latest in a long line of trainers to have worked with him. “He is an excellent trainer who knows how to get a fighter ready. I couldn’t be happier with Nacho Beristain.”
Beristain, who speaks little English, said through an interpreter that he has had no trouble getting De La Hoya to buy into his methods during their two-month run at Big Bear Lake, Calif., in preparation for Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs).
“It’s been very comfortable working with Oscar,” Beristain said. “He’s working hard. Sometimes, too hard.” Beristain said his intention was to tweak things rather than try to change the 35-year-old De La Hoya.
“He doesn’t need changing,” Beristain said. “We do a few little things to make him better.”
One thing, which might turn out to be huge, is the angle from which De La Hoya delivers his punches, particularly his lethal left hook.
Beristain has De La Hoya holding his arm up a little higher than in previous fights and De La Hoya is delivering his punches with more force.
“I can definitely feel the difference,” De La Hoya said. “I’m hitting much harder.”
That might be the key to De La Hoya winning. In Marquez’s two fights with Pacquiao, the first in 2004 that ended in a draw, the other a split-decision win for Pacquiao in March, Marquez was able to hurt Pacquiao. De La Hoya, who is much bigger than Marquez, figures to employ a similar strategy, working the body and establishing the jab.
“Actually, yes, we can do even better than Marquez because Oscar has a better left hand,” Beristain said of using the same tactics with De La Hoya against Pacquiao.
But Marquez also fought at a high energy level in his two meetings with Pacquiao and whether De La Hoya can go three hard minutes for each of the scheduled 12 rounds is a big question mark.
In his past few fights, De La Hoya has not shown that willingness, usually fighting 30 to 40 seconds toward the end of the round in an attempt to sway the judges.
But De La Hoya is in the best shape he has been in a long time and Beristain believes if he needs to, De La Hoya can go all-out all the time.
“I believe Oscar will be in great shape to fight at a high volume,” Beristain said. “He’s so dedicated and he has a very unbreakable discipline.”
De La Hoya’s “official” arrival Tuesday at the lobby of the MGM Grand was attended by several hundred of his fans. And while many in the audience were yelling at De La Hoya to turn and pose for photos, some yelled to Beristain to do the same.
He was happy to oblige, holding up a clenched fist and smiling for the cameras. His days of anonymity might be coming to an end.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913.