Reflectons upon two fighters

By Tom Donelson
Updated: May 3, 2009

Boxing Gloves IOWA CITY — With the recent victory of Manny Pacquiao over Ricky Hatton and the retirement of Oscar De La Hoya provides one a chance to reflect on both fighters.

For Oscar De La Hoya, much has been written including by yours truly but when one reviews his career; De La Hoya suffered from high expectations. Coming out of the 1992 Olympics, Oscar had the looks, skills and the million dollar simile to please any promoter and Madison Ave advertising agency.

There was always the feeling that when he retired, he would be enshrined upon boxing Mount Olympus. Instead he retired as a very good fighter with championships in five divisions but he never quite reached those heights expected of him.

Like Mike Tyson, he was a victim of unrealistic expectation but yet over his career, he fought some of the best fighters of his generation. He won his share of big fights but lost many as well.

With six defeats over his career, this is not a sign of weakness but of a competitive career that featured very few easy touches. While his losses to Pacquiao and Hopkins were decisive; other losses just as his second lost to Shane Mosley and Trinidad were close affairs that were lost not in the ring but on the judges scorecard.

Of course, it could easily be said that his victory over Felix Sturm was won in the judges’ scorecard as oppose to what he did in the ring. Regardless, he had his share of impressive victories as well as heart breaking losses.

Oscar De La Hoya finished his career as a Hall of Fame career but he never quite reached the heights of others just as a Sugar Ray Robinson or a Henry Armstrong.

He retired with a career that most boxers would die for and income that very few ever obtained in the ring. De La Hoya’s career is not really over and his second career as a boxing promoter is only beginning.

It could be said that his biggest influence will be not what he did in the ring but outside as a promoter.

Manny Pacquiao may be the best fighter of his generation. A champion in divisions from flyweight to junior welterweight, Manny Pacquiao has beaten a slew of soon to be Hall of Fame fighters including Marco Antonio Barrea, Erik Morales, Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya and now Ricky Hatton.

What may be more impressive is that the Pac Man has become a better fighter as he gotten older and moved up in weight. He has not lost his quickness and managed to bring up his power to the upper weight division.

Against Hatton, he showed a variety of punches. When he first fought Barrera, he was a one handed fighter who pursued his opponent with single minded approach; search and destroy with his feared straight left. Now he uses both punches effectively and looks more like a boxer-puncher as oppose to being just a puncher.

A year ago, if someone who asked me who would win between Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, I would automatically say, “Floyd Mayweather.” Now I am not so sure. Pacquiao defeated both De La Hoya and Hatton far more impressively than Mayweather did.

Last year, I would have stated that Mayweather was bigger, stronger with more power plus just as quick. Now there is a debate on which fighter would bring more power to the fight, Pacquiao or Mayweather; nor can Mayweather count on hand speed as an advantage.

The only advantage that Mayweather will bring to the fight is his size and height.

Some may argue since Mayweather is undefeated that when he returns, he may challenge Pacquiao claim as best pound for pound but has anyone been so good in so many different weight divisions?

Pacquiao showed last Saturday night why he is a unique talent as he demolished Hatton in just two rounds. While some may be skeptical of Ricky Hatton, the reality was that Hatton may have been the best junior welterweight over this decade and he had success in the Welterweight division obtaining one of the titles before losing to Mayweather and dropping back to the junior Welterweight.

Going into the Pacquiao fight, he had only one lost so this fight was impressive.

In the case of Oscar De La Hoya, we saw a fighter who never quite reached Mount Olympus of boxing historical elites, but had a career that any boxer could be proud of.

In the case of Manny Pacquiao, we are witnessing a fighter who will retire among the greatest of boxing Mount Olympus. Both fighters transcended their sport and in the case of Oscar De La Hoya, he was one of the most popular fighters who could draw a significant PPV regardless of competition.

And Pacquiao is one of the most popular figures in Philippines, with popularity beyond the sports world.