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Friday, April 25, 2008
De La Hoya claims 2008 will be his last foray into the ring

By Dan Rafael
ESPN.com

De La Hoya's final countdown

Oscar De La Hoya's farewell tour begins next week as boxing's biggest star counts down to retirement.

De La Hoya insists it's three fights and out by the end of the year -- beginning with a 150-pound fight against Steve Forbes, a former junior lightweight titleholder and the second-season runner up on "The Contender," on May 3 (HBO, 10 p.m. ET) at the Home Depot Center's outdoor soccer stadium in Carson, Calif.

"The goal is to fight these three fights this year and leave on top," De La Hoya said this week on a conference call with reporters. "There's not going to be no 2009, no fights after December. I want these three fights and go out like a champion. I know it's the last time I will step inside the ring in December but there is no looking past Stevie Forbes. I have been training so hard for this fight, like it is the most important fight of my life."

De La Hoya

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Oscar De La Hoya wants a rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr. before leaving the ring for good.

The fight is billed as "Homecoming" because it is De La Hoya's first bout in his native Southern California since his first bout with Los Angeles rival Shane Mosley in 2000. De La Hoya's fans seem to have responded, too, gobbling up more than 26,000 tickets so far, according to Golden Boy CEO Richard Schaefer.

De La Hoya, in his first non-pay-per-view fight since 2001, is a huge favorite to defeat Forbes, who has been fighting at 140 pounds and packs little power. If De La Hoya takes care of business, the second stop on the retirement tour will be a Sept. 20 rematch with pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr., who won a split decision against De La Hoya 11 months ago in the richest fight in boxing history.

If De La Hoya (38-5, 30 KOs) beats Forbes (33-5, 9 KOs) and then Mayweather, logic dictates that his finale could be a rubber match with Mayweather. But what if De La Hoya loses again? Who then does he fight in his farewell fight?

Some have speculated about a fight with junior lightweight star Manny Pacquiao, who is moving up to lightweight for a June 28 title bout against David Diaz. If Pacquiao wins, it is not out of the question that he could step up to welterweight to meet De La Hoya. Another name mentioned is Julio Cesar Chavez Jr., the undefeated, but untested, son of the great former Mexican champion whom De La Hoya, 35, stopped twice.

But when De La Hoya was asked about who he'd like his finale to be against, he pulled a shocker: welterweight titleholder Miguel Cotto, the Puerto Rican star who has emerged as one of the sport's best fighters.

Previously, De La Hoya had dismissed Cotto as a potential opponent, claiming that his wife, Millie, who is Puerto Rican, didn't want to see her husband fight a Puerto Rican.

That promise seems to have disappeared after hearing the way De La Hoya spoke.

"You can never count anyone out. You can't scratch anyone off the list," said De La Hoya, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist who was elected to the U.S. Olympic Hall of Fame Class earlier this month. "If I beat the best in the world in Floyd Jr., you have to continue that streak. Obviously, my following fight has to be with one of the best, and it's no secret that Miguel Cotto is considered one of the best in the world. He has a difficult fight with [Antonio] Margarito [scheduled for July 26] and anything can happen there, but we all know that Miguel Cotto is going to win.

"I don't need to fight Cotto, but obviously my last fight cannot be against an easy opponent. It's going to be against one of the best, and after Mayweather, the next one is Cotto, who is a boxer that always wants to fight the best in the world."

'Ding-A-Ling Man' ready for shot

Wilson

Craig Bennett/FIghtWireImages.com

Each of Wilson's past five wins have come via a knockout.

Cruiserweight Darnell "Ding-A-Ling Man" Wilson is headed for Germany to challenge titleholder Firat Arslan (28-3-1, 18 KOs) on May 3 in Stuttgart, and he couldn't be more excited.

"This is my dream. Nobody can stop me from becoming world champion on May 3," said Wilson, a tremendous puncher and author of the 2007 ESPN.com knockout of the year against Emmanuel Nwodo. "I knew all along that I deserved my shot but at times it seemed like it was never going to happen. I knocked off four world-rated fighters in a row at one point, and I am glad justice has now been done."

Wilson, of course, intends to live up his power-punching reputation.

"Nobody will punch with me for 12 rounds," he said. "I am going to knock Arslan's head off. I am prepared to go 12 rounds and could even do 15, but I am a knockout artist and if that opportunity presents itself, I will take full advantage."

Wilson's strong run came to an end when B.J. Flores soundly outpointed him Feb. 8. Wilson (23-6-3, 20 KOs) rebounded with a sixth-round TKO of journeyman Robert Marsh on March 15.

"Boxing works in funny ways sometimes," said Dino Duva, Wilson's promoter. "Darnell has been waiting for a well-earned title shot for a long time and now it finally comes after the loss to Flores. Darnell knows this is an unbelievable opportunity and I am confident he will make the best of it and win the title."

McCullough to the rescue

McCullough

Wayne McCullough, a former bantamweight titleholder who now trains fighters, was flying home to Las Vegas from Montreal after a trip there last weekend with his wife and daughter when he nearly had to perform CPR on an unconscious passenger.

A woman sitting near McCullough suddenly lost consciousness and he sprang into action to help. While a flight attendant was getting a medical cart and alerting the pilot about the emergency, McCullough realized the woman was not breathing and prepared to remove her from her seat to lay her on the floor in order to perform CPR. McCullough was about to begin when the woman gasped and came around.

"It was a packed plane and I was the first to respond after the flight attendant," McCullough said. "It was a natural reaction for me because I knew I could help since I know CPR. I didn't panic. I'm just really thankful that the lady is OK."

QUICK HITS

Haye

• Cruiserweight champion David Haye (21-1, 20 KOs), the big banger from Britain who plans to move up to heavyweight, has split with promoter Frank Maloney and is shopping his services to other promoters. One of the promoters very interested in him is Golden Boy, which wined and dined Haye and manager Adam Booth in Las Vegas at last week's Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins fight. CEO Richard Schaefer didn't want to talk about the negotiations, but it's clear the company is pursuing Haye. He sat next to Schaefer at the fight in the first row, a seat you don't get by accident. Haye knocked out Jean-Marc Mormeck in the seventh round to win the recognized title (and two alphabet belts) in November and then unified alphabet titles with second-round knockout of Enzo Maccarinelli on March 8.

Guzman

• With his visa application bogged down in red tape, junior lightweight titlist Joan Guzman's mandatory defense against interim belt holder Alex Arthur, which was scheduled for May 3 in Arthur's native Edinburgh, Scotland, was postponed Thursday. A new date has not been set, but Guzman's handlers at Sycuan Ringside Promotions said it would be rescheduled for early June at the latest. Arthur was bitterly disappointed by the postponement. "After all the training that I had put in, that included going to America for two weeks, I was angry when I was I told that he couldn't get here on time because of a visa problem," he said. "My training schedule is very precise and I plan everything with my training team to the minute, so to have my plans thrown up in the air was a big blow. Once I calmed down and looked at the situation again I realized that I could use this to my advantage because I now have some valuable extra time to prepare."

Witherspoon

• In what amounts to an elimination bout to crown the best American heavyweight prospect, Cristobal Arreola (23-0, 21 KOs) and Chazz Witherspoon (23-0, 15 KOs) likely will meet June 21, promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. DiBella and Arreola promoter Dan Goossen are finalizing the bout, which would take place on an HBO "Boxing After Dark" card that will also include Andre Berto against Miki Rodriguez in a welterweight title eliminator. There is a chance that a third fight could be added to the broadcast. DiBella would like to match New York junior welterweights Dmitriy Salita (28-0-1, 16 KOs) and Edgar Santana (24-3, 15 KOs), although HBO has not approved the fight yet. If DiBella gets the OK to do the fight, he said he planned to do the card in New York.

Taylor

• DiBella said he is continuing talks with Felix Trinidad promoter Don King for a possible fall HBO PPV bout between Trinidad and former middleweight champion Jermain Taylor, which would take place at about 170 pounds. DiBella and King began talking about the fight in early March. They also talked about Taylor facing Roy Jones, but with Jones likely to face Joe Calzaghe on Nov. 15, their attention turned to Trinidad. "I'm waiting for King," DiBella told ESPN.com. "We've been in touch about Jermain fighting Tito Trinidad and Don is supposed to get back to me shortly."

Klitschko

• The handlers of heavyweight titleholder Samuel Peter and ex-titlist Vitali Klitschko continue to negotiate the mandatory fight, but they don't seem to be getting very far, which is why the WBC has ordered a May 8 purse bid. If the sides don't make a deal and it goes to auction, the fighters will split the bid amount 50-50. Once a bid is conducted, the fight is supposed to take place within 90 days. But with Klitschko running for mayor of Kiev (May 25 is election day) in his native Ukraine, and both sides acknowledging that the earliest they can do the fight is this fall, there's no way the bout will take place within the three-month window. The biggest obstacle to making a deal is the site, Klitschko adviser Shelly Finkel told ESPN.com. The Klitschko side believes the maximum revenue would come from the fight being staged in Germany, where Klitschko has fought most of his career. The Peter camp prefers the fight to be in the United States.

M'Baye

• Several new cards were added to ESPN2's "Wednesday Night Fights" and "Friday Night Fights" schedules this week and three cards stand out. On June 6, "FNF" will come from Montreal, where former titleholder Souleymane M'Baye meets former title challenger Herman Ngoudjo in an eliminator for the right to become belt holder Paulie Malignaggi's mandatory challenger. The opening bout features super middleweight Jean Pascal against Fulgencio Zuniga in what could be a slugfest. Ex-lightweight titleholder Julio Diaz, idle since losing his belt via TKO loss to Juan Diaz in October, launches his comeback against Rolando Reyes on "WNF" on June 25. Two days later, "FNF" features two 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalists, heralded junior lightweight prospect Yuriorkis Gamboa, who will face former four-time title challenger Jose "Cheo" Rojas, and heavyweight Odlanier Solis. Gamboa and Solis have interim fights they need to win first.

Valero

• Junior lightweight titlist Edwin Valero (23-0, 23 KOs) has a new opponent for his June 12 assignment. Valero, from Venezuela but based in Japan, was to have faced mandatory challenger Israel Perez in Tokyo but Perez withdrew because of a knee injury. Taking his place is Japan's Takehiro Shimada (22-3-1, 15 KOs), who got the fight with an impassioned hand-written plea to promoter Akihiko Honda of Teiken Promotions. Shimada is on a 14-0-1 run since last losing in 2000. It's a vital fight for Valero. With a win, he plans to defend his title in Texas in September after recently gaining a license there following a four-year medical suspension in the United States.

Penalosa

• Bantamweight titlist Gerry Penalosa, nursing a mild elbow injury suffered in his April 6 eighth-round TKO victory against Ratanachai Sor Vorapin, has been advised to rest until late June or July, according to promoter Golden Boy. That means Penalosa won't defend his title on the May 31 Shane Mosley-Zab Judah HBO PPV undercard as was being discussed. Also on that card, Golden Boy said that Joe Spina turned down an opportunity to face former super middleweight titlist Jeff Lacy, who remains without an opponent.

De La Hoya

• Golden Boy's Joe Calzaghe-Bernard Hopkins undercard last week didn't include a true co-feature and instead featured primarily prospects. It will be more of the same May 3 for the supporting bouts under Oscar De La Hoya's fight with Steve Forbes. HBO is airing only the main event, but those in attendance at the Home Depot Center's soccer stadium in Carson, Calif., will see prospects Danny Garcia and Daniel Jacobs, both of whom won on the Calzaghe-Hopkins undercard. Also on the card: bantamweight Yan Barthelemy, a 2004 Cuban Olympic gold medalist; former "Contender" participant Freddy Curiel; and Wes Ferguson, Floyd Mayweather's protégé.

Quotable

Ward

"I want to be the best fighter in my era. I will achieve that with class and integrity. I want to change the negative image that boxing has. Both Ravelo and I represent ourselves differently from other fighters. We have respect for the sport of boxing and for each other." -- Super middleweight Andre Ward, America's lone boxing gold medalist in 2004, during a news conference in New York this week announcing his June 21 "ShoBox" fight with 2000 Olympian Jerson Ravelo in the Cayman Islands.