Commentary

Fight with Pacquiao makes a lot of cents to De La Hoya

Oscar De La Hoya's decision to fight Manny Pacquiao makes a whole lot of sense -- from a business standpoint.

Originally Published: August 28, 2008
By Graham Houston | Special to ESPN.com

Oscar De La Hoya/Manny PacquiaoAP Photo/Jae C. HongOscar De La Hoya, left, might've gotten his man, but does Manny Pacquiao have a shot against the Golden Boy?
From a business standpoint, Oscar De La Hoya has sealed a great deal in making the fight with Manny Pacquiao. In terms of De La Hoya's boxing legacy, though, the fight leaves something to be desired.

Looking at the fight from the businessman's perspective, De La Hoya and his company, Golden Boy Promotions, couldn't have done better.

The risk-reward ratio is perfect. This, clearly, is a fight that De La Hoya is expected to win. He will have huge physical advantages, simply towering over Pacquiao.

The clash with Pacquiao isn't just a welterweight against a lightweight. De La Hoya is a big welterweight at a tad under 5-foot-11, some five inches taller than Pacquiao. Also, the Mexican-American has been a champion at junior middleweight and even held a 160-pound belt. Pacquiao has only just moved up to 135 pounds (his fight in June against David Diaz was his first at that high a weight class).

People are likely to gasp when they see the size difference.

So, De La Hoya is in a highly advantageous position when it comes down to the simple matter of winning or losing.

Financially, the fight is sure to be a blockbuster. There will be an enormous curiosity appeal.

Pacquiao has been a whirlwind storming through the weight classes from 112 to 135 pounds while De La Hoya did not look particularly dynamic in his last fight, emerging with his handsome features somewhat scuffed and his nose a bit bloodied after outpointing Steve Forbes.

Many will be wondering if Pacquiao, with his speed and his high-energy style, just might be able to pull off the upset.

And, look, Pacquiao isn't in a bad situation here. He gets his biggest purse. If he loses, as is generally expected, he will lose no prestige whatsoever, but an upset win will send Pacquiao's earning power and all-time status soaring into the stratosphere.

HBO analyst Larry Merchant has likened the fight to a David and Goliath battle, and even those who doubt that Pacquiao can be the David to Oscar's Goliath will want to see him try.

Make no mistake, this is going to be an event -- a mega money-spinner.

From the historical angle, this sort of thing has been done before.

We had middleweight champion Stanley Ketchel challenging heavyweight champion Jack Johnson, of course.

Mickey Walker, the tenacious Toy Bulldog who was a welterweight champion in the 1920s, not only challenged Harry Greb for the middleweight title but fought light heavyweights and even heavyweights, famously battling to a 15-round draw with Jack Sharkey in 1931 while conceding 29 pounds.

[+] EnlargeOscar De La Hoya and Ike Quartey
Al Bello/Getty ImagesOscar De La Hoya has normally sought out the toughest possible opposition, like Ike Quartey, left, in 1999.
Then there was the fabulous Henry Armstrong, the featherweight champion, beating welterweight champion Barney Ross in 1938. (Even though Armstrong was actually a junior lightweight at the time of the fight and Ross was not a big welterweight at the tail end of his career, it was still a sterling achievement by Homicide Hank.)

In days of yore it was not unusual for champions to move up a full weight division -- and this in the days of the classic eight weight classes. Welterweight champions routinely fought for the middleweight title; light-heavy champions boxed for the heavyweight title.

In 2003, light heavyweight champion Roy Jones packed on muscle to take on heavyweight titleholder John Ruiz.

De La Hoya versus Pacquiao is something a little different.

Oscar turned professional as a big junior lightweight, Pacquiao as a junior flyweight.

The Golden Boy was competitive for eight rounds against Bernard Hopkins before going down in the ninth. It would take a leap of imagination to picture Pacquiao holding off Hopkins for eight rounds and even leading on one of the scorecards, as De La Hoya did.

So, we can come up with all the historical references we want, yet this still comes down to a big man against a small one.

Of course, De La Hoya will be thinking, "So what?" De La Hoya, after all, has paid his dues, and he's fought in bouts where the outcome was uncertain, against the likes of Felix Trinidad, Ike Quartey, Fernando Vargas, Shane Mosley and Floyd Mayweather (though smaller than De La Hoya, Mayweather was a slight betting favorite going into the fight).

It is not as if Oscar has run away from the tough fights.

Now, with the curtain about to come down on his remarkable career, it is difficult to be too hard on De La Hoya for making a fight that makes so much sense when seen from the boardroom.

Armstrong v Ross
AP PhotoHenry Armstrong, right, scaled up the ranks to fight -- and beat -- welterweight champion Barney Ross in 1938.
That said, though, De La Hoya has been giving the impression, ever since the Hopkins bout, of wanting to be in fights where he holds the physical advantages.

Most fans likely would have preferred to see De La Hoya meeting welterweight champions Antonio Margarito or Paul Williams. These would have been major fights, but also ones against big, strong 147-pounders -- fights that De La Hoya would have been in real danger of losing.

In the fight with Pacquiao, though, there is a possibility that the Golden Boy will be made to look like a bully. If De La Hoya does indeed leave the game after the Pacquiao fight, it might not be a glorious departure.

As a businessman, De La Hoya has without question made an impeccable decision, but it will no doubt be regarded as a disappointing one by those who would prefer to see one of the finest fighters of the modern era make his exit by taking on someone in his own weight division.

Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.

Graham Houston is the American editor of Boxing Monthly and writes for FightWriter.com.