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Oscar's Weigh-In Perfect for Strip

Commentary: Events leading up to De La Hoya-Carr prove that boxing still stands alone.

May 23, 1999|BILL DWYRE | TIMES SPORTS EDITOR

LAS VEGAS — The welterweight title match between Oscar De La Hoya and Oba Carr had everything from the supernatural to the surrealistic. And that was before they even climbed into the ring.

Carr is the fighter with the unusual first name and the predictable made-for-hype nickname: Oba (the Motor City) Carr. He is, of course, from Detroit.

He also has a 48-2-1 record and got this shot at De La Hoya, in a fight scheduled for later Saturday night, by upsetting the veteran Frankie Randall on the De La Hoya-Ike Quartey card earlier this year.

He also had an interesting approach, predicting that he would be anointed from above during the fight, when a drop of oil landed on his forehead and caused supernatural results. Translation: He'd beat De La Hoya.

Even for boxing, a sport where nothing is too ridiculous to use as a promotion vehicle, this was a new horizon. This is boxing's version of pushing the envelope.

They had two high-profile events leading up to the fight. The first was a so-called news conference Thursday, that was, as it always is, a glorified pep rally. The second was the weigh-in Friday, and that's where things really drifted off into another universe.

On a stage at the Mandalay Bay Theater--the fight was at the Mandalay Bay Special Events Center, a new facility at yet another new hotel and casino here--Carr and De La Hoya stripped off all but the minimum clothing and weighed 147 pounds. Welterweights, in other words.

On the stage, while this was going on, close to 100 people milled around, feigning importance and generally turning this non-event into a disorganized and chaotic non-event. In the audience--yes, people actually come to watch this sort of thing--were perhaps 600 people and a couple of dozen schoolgirls imported by somebody to act like schoolgirls every time heartthrob De La Hoya smiled or waved or twitched.

In the midst of all this, promoter Bob Arum took the microphone and announced that, among those milling around on the stage was one Andrew Ramirez, just home from Yugoslavia, where he had been a prisoner of war.

That was it. A 10-second announcement--at least Arum had the sense to not let Ramirez go totally unrecognized--and back to the De La Hoya waves and the schoolgirl screeches.

But if there wasn't the bizarre, there wouldn't be boxing. The words should be synonyms in Webster.

Arum, the president and voice of Top Rank Productions, spent much of this week working to finalize a September fight between De La Hoya and Felix Trinidad, and it was fairly clear to all who listened carefully that the importance of that deal and that fight made Carr-De La Hoya a triple-A kind of event. Only in boxing would one current event be somewhat undercut by another future event, but then, only in boxing is there such a drastic need for an ever-present exciting tomorrow.

Arum was cutting the deal Friday, and had to match wits and volume with Trinidad's promoter, Arum's archrival Don King.

"At one point, we were on the phone," Arum said, "and we started hollering at each other and one would holler loud and the other would then holler louder and it got to the point where we both just stopped and laughed at ourselves."

Even though he wasn't around in body and had no part of this event, the electric-haired King was around in that unique way that he has been in boxing for years and years. He has touched so many people in boxing, although touched may not be the exact word many would use.

Carr had his own interpretation: "Ever since I left Don King," he said, "I've turned my life to the Lord."

Somehow, the phrase "different ends of the spectrum" pops to mind.

But the best representation that all was well here and in the world of boxing might have best been made by TV executive Lou DiBella of HBO. HBO televised the Carr-De La Hoya match and had hoped to spice up the total card for its viewers, many of whom saw Carr-De La Hoya as David versus Goliath, with a decent semi-main event. The scheduled semi-main event that matched Floyd Mayweather and Goyo Vargas for the super-featherweight title fight would be the spice. But at midweek, Vargas canceled, saying he had flu.

DiBella, possibly seeing mediocre ratings slide toward poor, spoke at Thursday's news conference/pep rally and directed his remarks at Vargas and his handlers.

"Shame on you," he said. "This was the opportunity of a lifetime and I hope you never get it again."

DiBella clearly did not believe that Vargas had flu. Further, he seemed to be indicating that all is not always truthful and honest and forthright in boxing.

It was a stunning concept.

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