De La Hoya turns attention to Mora after Pacquiao talks fail

Updated: August 14, 2008, 1:28 AM ET
By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Unwilling to compromise with pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao on the percentage of the revenue he would receive for a proposed Dec. 6 megafight, Oscar De La Hoya is moving on.

De La Hoya, boxing's biggest star, is now closing in on a deal to face junior middleweight titleholder Sergio Mora on the same date in an HBO PPV fight from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Mora and promoter Jeff Wald told ESPN.com on Wednesday night.

 Oscar De La Hoya
Harry How/Getty ImagesOscar De La Hoya had worked out many details to fight Manny Pacquiao, but that bout now appears to be dead.

The fight is contingent on Mora, who rose to fame by winning the first season of "The Contender" reality series, defeating former titleholder Vernon Forrest on Sept. 13 in a rematch of Mora's upset victory in June -- when he became the first graduate of the series to go on to win a major world title.

"We are in a negotiation," Wald said. "Obviously, the fight is predicated on Sergio beating Forrest again on Sept. 13, but I think we would have our deal firmly in place next week. We've agreed on the initial figures for the fight. The rest of the deal will be whatever Oscar and [Golden Boy Promotions CEO] Richard Schaefer think is fair -- the upside on the pay-per-view, etc. I trust them to be fair with me as they have been in the past. But there's a [minimum] dollar figure that I've agreed on and so has Sergio."

Wald also said he and Mora had agreed to give Golden Boy options on future Mora fights in the event he defeats De La Hoya.

Mora saw possible fall fights with Shane Mosley and middleweight champ Kelly Pavlik fall apart in the past couple of months because of a rematch clause in his contract with Forrest. But those bouts would have taken place in September or October. A De La Hoya fight wouldn't be until December, giving Mora time to fight the rematch with Forrest and still be ready to fight again at the end of the year.

"The main goal for a fighter is to be respected and admired for what he's done," Mora said. "I got that in some ways with 'The Contender.' It definitely changed my life. Winning a world championship was the next step and let me know I really was a good fighter. Now that I'm a world champion, the next goal is to make money. In order to make money you have to fight the biggest names. The biggest name is Oscar De La Hoya. And people will expect me to lose, which I like. But I know I can win."

Mora said that he was excited about the prospect of fighting De La Hoya, 35, and would not let it get away from him. He had been skewered by critics for once rejecting a nearly $1 million offer to challenge then-middleweight champion Jermain Taylor because he was uncomfortable with the fight taking place in Memphis, Tenn., which isn't far from Taylor's Little Rock, Ark., hometown.

Mora, 27, said that would not happen this time.

"I'm taking this fight. If I don't take this fight, I'll start my own Web site and cuss myself out," he said with a laugh.

A De La Hoya-Mora fight won't come off, however, if Mora (21-0-1, 5 KOs) loses to Forrest.

[+] EnlargeSergio Mora
Tom Casino/ShowtimeSergio Mora of "The Contender" wants to prove himself against Oscar De La Hoya.

Mora said even though he's excited about the possibility of fighting De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) -- who has said his December fight would be the last of his career -- he would not look past Forrest, a former two-division titleholder and, coincidentally, De La Hoya's 1992 Olympic teammate.

"I know Vernon will be better prepared and in better shape than he was for our first fight," Mora said. "So I don't want to think too much about a De La Hoya fight. I don't want to get my hopes up and I have a big challenge in front of me with Vernon Forrest. I respect Vernon and I know he will be ready for me. Anyone would salivate to fight Oscar, but I can tell you this: I will limit my interviews and not talk much more about Oscar. I don't want to jump into the group of fighters who overlook their opponents. That's stupid. I just want to concentrate on Vernon Forrest right now.

"I know that the talk about me fighting De La Hoya will put an even hotter fire under Vernon's [expletive] to beat me. But I will not overlook him. I promise you that."

Schaefer, who was in a meeting and could not be reached for comment, had been close to a deal with Top Rank's Bob Arum for De La Hoya to face Pacquiao, but those talks collapsed Wednesday. Although they had ironed out all the other details, such as the weight limit (147 pounds) and glove size (8 ounces), ultimately De La Hoya refused to budge from his demand for a 70-30 revenue split and Pacquiao wouldn't budge from his demand for 40 percent.

So down the drain went what would have been the year's biggest fight, a potential $100 million-plus promotion.

But while Schaefer was negotiating the Pacquiao fight with Arum, Mora lurked in the background. Schaefer and Wald have a close business relationship and have done lots of business together.

"I've been talking to Richard for weeks and saying that if the Pacquiao fight couldn't be made, that I would love for Oscar to fight Sergio," Wald said. "We have a strong relationship between Golden Boy and Tournament of Contenders. We've done several fights together."

Mora's rematch with Forrest is the co-featured bout on a Golden Boy-promoted HBO PPV card headlined by the Joel Casamayor-Juan Manuel Marquez lightweight championship fight. Schaefer and Wald had worked to put together Mora-Mosley before Forrest invoked his rematch clause. And De La Hoya's May 3 victory came against Steve Forbes, the runner-up on the second season of "The Contender." His next fight against welterweight titleholder Andre Berto will also come on a Golden Boy card headlined by the Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga junior middleweight fight Sept. 27.

"It's been a great relationship with Oscar and Richard and their whole team," Wald said. "I've always felt from Day 1 that Oscar's coming of age was when he beat Julio Cesar Chavez. That was the great Mexican champion Chavez passing the torch to Oscar, the great young Mexican-American fighter. I see this fight as similar to that. Sergio is from the same East Los Angeles neighborhood as Oscar and this is another passing of the torch. Sergio is also a bilingual, Mexican-American fighter who is well-spoken and intelligent and interested in his community like Oscar.

"And Oscar's initial fame came from exposure on prime network television in the [1992) Olympics. Sergio Mora is the only other guy out there like that right now. He spent 16 weeks on prime time on NBC on 'The Contender.' He has a following."

Dan Rafael covers boxing for ESPN.com.

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