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Bill Plaschke

First Act Worthy of Oscar, Shane

September 11, 2003|Bill Plaschke

LAS VEGAS — Floyd Mayweather, of course, began with a rhyme.

"We'll make it simple and plain ... after the fight, Shane ain't never gonna be the same," he said.

Jin Mosley, naturally, responded with a rip.

"He's a joke, I see guys like him on the street corner of every ghetto," she said of Mayweather. "He's basking in Oscar's glory because his own son shunned him. He has ruined the class of this press conference."

And what class might that be? Bad Theater 101?

The curtain was raised Wednesday on final preparations for Saturday's battle between Oscar De La Hoya and Sugar Shane Mosley, and all sorts of gooney birds crawled out.

There was the checkerboard-wearing smack poet Mayweather, who is De La Hoya's trainer, squaring off with mammoth Mosley promoter Gary Shaw.

There was Shaw challenging De La Hoya.

There was De La Hoya warning Mosley.

By the time Mosley took the microphone, he had waded through so much trash, the poor fellow couldn't conjure up a single fresh insult.

"I think they said everything for me," he complained, no match for his wife.

There were the sounds of trumpets from the hallway, and wisecracks from the audience, and howls from the old-timers.

There was promoter Bob Arum dredging up that line about boxing being a sweet science, not quite accurate on a day when it looked more like a science experiment.

On the table in front of it all was this giant clear container holding the amount of money that De La Hoya, if he loses, has contractually promised to give to Mosley.

It was $500,000 in green bills.

All of them fake.

"What, you think I'd put something real up there?" Arum asked.

It was fun, it was frazzling, it was perfect for a fight that has scared up more interest than any fight anywhere this year.

The bout, at the 16,268-seat MGM Grand Garden Arena, is a sellout. There are predictions that the pay-per-view TV buys, initially judged to be around 550,000, could be twice that much, and perhaps even approach the 1.4 million, non-heavyweight standard that was set by De La Hoya's fight with Felix Trinidad.

"Where is all this coming from?" said Arum at the jammed news conference. "I really have no idea."

Some of it is coming from a Latino community that is finally, largely unified in its support of De La Hoya, whose victory over Fernando Vargas ended his reputation as a pretty-boy outsider.

"Especially in L.A., the Vargas fight showed them that I fight hard, that I hang there," De La Hoya said. "It feels so good to have them all behind me now."

Some of it is coming from a national boxing community that hasn't had a marquee fight in many months, particularly not one involving both revenge and redemption.

And then, some of it is coming from everyone's love for an old-fashioned, larger-than-life event. Such was the size of one of the challenges Mosley's folks threw at De La Hoya on Wednesday.

Standing behind a hotel dais, Shaw announced that he wanted to give De La Hoya something to ease the pain of his impending loss.

Said Shaw: "Come on up here Oscar, I have something for you."

Said De La Hoya, sitting two seats away: "No."

Said Shaw: "Come on, Oscar!"

Said De La Hoya: "No, I'm not going to lose."

Surprise, surprise, Shaw hauled out the gift anyway, a giant AARP membership card emblazoned with De La Hoya's name.

After which he pulled out another giant piece of cardboard depicting a $500,000 check written from De La Hoya to Mosley.

Shouted Shaw: "The hands can't hit what the eyes can't see!"

Replied Mayweather: "We're gonna cut him in three."

And that was probably Mayweather's best rhyme.

After offering round-by-round rhymes that made one thankful this fight is only a dozen rounds, he proclaimed, "We'll shock your mind, we're two of a kind. We'll kick Shane's ... and leave the past behind.''

Soon thereafter, Mosley calmly walked over to Mayweather's seat and dropped a coin in his empty water glass. Then Shaw added a dollar, and Mayweather became strangely indignant.

"That's the pig in fat boy!" he shouted.

The plot lines were so clearly defined by the nutty sidekicks that neither fighter needed to say much, but that didn't stop De La Hoya, who attempted to throw a torch on Mosley's best hope.

"I can guarantee you, speed will not be a factor in this game," he said. "We've learned how to neutralize speed. I guarantee you, it will work."

Underneath the hyperbolic rubble, of course, there is really only one guarantee.

Believe it not, it was one of the jackhammers who figured it out.

"You can do your poetry and all that bull, and it don't mean anything," Shaw said. "It's not about the trainers. It's about two Hall of Fame fighters. It's about legacy and dignity ... [looking over at Mayweather] which some people don't have."

For which this fight is eternally grateful.

Bill Plaschke can be reached at bill.plaschke@latimes.com.

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