LAS VEGAS — Rematch?
It depends whom you talk to. Pernell Whitaker wants it. Oscar De La Hoya would be agreeable to it. But promoter Bob Arum seems determined to fight it.
Saturday night's victory by De La Hoya for Whitaker's World Boxing Council welterweight title left many people unsatisfied, the general feeling being that De La Hoya had just squeaked past his opponent, winning by a point or a round or, perhaps, a punch.
That usually means rematch.
"We going to give him the rematch," De La Hoya said. "Any time. Anywhere."
But Arum, the mastermind behind De La Hoya's career, won't let Whitaker get another shot at De La Hoya if he has anything to say about it.
"Rematch?" said Arum, acting as if he had been asked about a recount of the judges' scorecard. "We've got a lot of other things on our card.
"This was a strong performance by Oscar. He won the first six rounds easily. Whitaker got in there and clowned around. In the last round, he didn't throw a punch. Who the hell wants to see him again?"
Of course, the outcome wasn't quite as clear-cut as that.
Predictably, the reaction was quite different in the Whitaker corner, beginning with the fighter himself.
"The public saw it. The world saw it. You saw it," Whitaker told the media. "He can have the WBC title, but we know who the best fighter is pound-for-pound.
"You can't hit what your eyes can't see. People called me an old 33-year-old man. But I came in here and showed that I have the legs of a 22-year-old."
The reaction was one of uncertainty up and down Thomas & Mack Center, from the cheaper seats to those of the high rollers, from the hangers-on to the celebrities. Everybody huddled, and the same question was heard everywhere: "How did you have it?"
The fight that had been labeled "pound-for-pound" had turned into a debate over the round-by-round.
All three judges had De La Hoya an easy winner. But the national media and several ringside experts saw it much closer, with the general consensus being that De La Hoya was a narrow winner.
The Associated Press had De La Hoya winning, 114-113. Michael Katz of the New York Daily News had De La Hoya winning, 114-113. Greg Logan of Newsday had De La Hoya winning, 115-110. Ron Borges of the Boston Globe was the only one of those polled who had Whitaker a clear winner, scoring 115-111 in favor of the dethroned champion.
The campaign for the rematch, as is usually the case with a close decision, began in the the loser's corner before the sweat on Whitaker's body had dried.
"I don't know what the judges could have seen," said Lou Duva, Whitaker's co-manager and trainer. "If Oscar is the fighter he thinks he is, let's sign for the rematch right now."
Of one opinion, there could be no doubt. This was the toughest, most confusing, most frustrating fight of De La Hoya's career.
"I was frustrated because of Pernell Whitaker's lefts," De La Hoya said. "He gave me a lot of punches right in the face. They hurt."
But the decision--no matter how close or how disputed--would result in a lot more hurt for Whitaker than for De La Hoya.