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INSIDE THE ROPES | HOW DE LA HOYA CAN WIN

He'll try to play the heavy against Mayweather

May 04, 2007|Lonnie White | Times Staff Writer

Floyd Mayweather Jr. doesn't think much of Oscar De La Hoya's record as a boxer. He claims that the 10-time champion's career is tainted because "when he did get the best wins of his career, they were against guys he either forced to come up in weight, or who were at the very end of their careers," Mayweather recently told reporters.

Ironically, Mayweather's reasoning underlines the factor that gives De La Hoya his best chance to win Saturday when the boxers meet for De La Hoya's 154-pound World Boxing Council title at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.

* In putting together a 34-0 record, Mayweather has never fought heavier than 147 pounds -- he has fought at that weight only three times. He said he expects to face De La Hoya weighing no more than 152, which should give the former Olympic gold medalist a physical edge in punching power and ability to withstand a blow.

De La Hoya, who won a belt at 160 pounds when he defeated Felix Sturm in 2004, was smart to demand that Mayweather fight at a heavier weight than welterweight (140 to 147). De La Hoya expects to make the 154-pound limit at the weigh-in but enter the ring Saturday weighing at least 160, giving him enough of a size advantage to swarm Mayweather and possibly neutralize his quickness, which could turn the bout into a slugfest.

That would present a problem for Mayweather, who has been hit a lot more by power punches since he moved up from lightweight. Zab Judah, a much smaller boxer than De La Hoya, had some early success against Mayweather by taking the fight to him in their April 2006 bout.

Although Judah -- a southpaw -- came close to knocking down Mayweather with a quick right in the second round, his most effective punches were double left hooks. Mayweather, who uses his mobility to change punching angles, can be vulnerable when he's focused too much on landing a certain punch.

* De La Hoya, who boxed as a southpaw early in his career, has knocked down a string of opponents with his left hook, from Ike Quartey to Fernando Vargas to Ricardo Mayorga. It's a punch that De La Hoya is known for and a punch that Mayweather will be looking to avoid.

That's why De La Hoya can't afford to make this a defensive battle. He has to be aggressive, cut down the ring and match Mayweather's energy with high-volume punches.

* While his stamina has been questioned by Mayweather, the East Los Angeles product hopes that his switch to a health-conscious diet will give him enough endurance. If he has enough in the tank, he could pull off the biggest victory of his career.

Summary: Throughout the history of boxing, great champions such as Felix Trinidad and Roy Jones Jr. have tasted defeat when they moved up in weight; De La Hoya wants to add Mayweather to this list. In the end, the key will be for De La Hoya to highlight his strengths more than Mayweather exploits his weaknesses.

lonnie.white@latimes.com

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