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T.J. SIMERS

De La Hoya gets some good news after all

May 06, 2007|T.J. SIMERS

LAS VEGAS — LAS VEGAS -- I begin at the end of this story.

Oscar De La Hoya is going to be a new father, although he doesn't know it yet.

"I think tonight is a good night to tell him," his wife, Millie, says. "He has a lot to look forward to now."

It's been an hour since the Russian judge ruled in favor of Floyd Mayweather Jr., and so Oscar loses the 12-round punch exchange at the MGM Grand.

Inside his dressing room he and Millie touch fists before they move to a back room and close the door.

"I have a feeling this may be it for him," she says a few minutes later while Oscar has gone on to shower. "I know this because he just told me."

On the private jet ride here Monday evening, Oscar says the same thing, this will be his last fight, but Millie scoffs. She doesn't believe him.

She does now.

"Yes, I do," she says. "He did his 'A' game and fought like a lion. He did what he needed to do and did what he needed to do to be satisfied with himself. Even though he didn't win, he won't have regrets.

"He's good," she adds. "Yeah, we can wake up in the morning at 6 when Gabriel [16-month-old son calls them]. Life is good."

GEORGE LOPEZ stops by and tells everyone in Oscar's dressing room "when Mervyn's turned me down for a credit card that was a bad decision, but this is really a bad decision."

BEFORE THE decision, no one thinks it's possible. Oscar shows up two hours before the fight. The last thing he sees as he enters his dressing room is a stretcher loaded with medical equipment. As he walks down the hall, it gives new meaning to everyone's wishes of "good luck."

The man who has such an attention for detail -- a memo passed out earlier to every one on Team De La Hoya designating what color sweatsuit to wear every day -- is dressed in black.

Everyone else is dressed in red. I wonder if Oscar knows what day of the week it is.

"I wore my two red suits in training and they're smelly," Oscar explains with a laugh before moving to a mirror and checking out his hair. When they talk about a boxer looking good, it means something entirely different to Oscar.

He shows me the Giorgio Armani brush and compact he's brought along in his gym bag. He pulls out a stick of organic deodorant and lifts his arms. He wants to smell good for Mayweather?

A TV sits in the corner of his dressing room, the HBO broadcast is on and Max Kellerman is talking. Surprisingly, Oscar does not punch the TV out.

Oscar is quiet, quieter than he appeared a year ago under the same circumstances while waiting to fight Ricardo Mayorga. He sits by himself watching a fight on the undercard. No one bothers him.

TRAINER FREDDIE Roach arrives hours earlier. He's superstitious. "I put my left shoe on first -- every day of my life," he says, and he has a schedule ready for Oscar to follow.

One hour to go and they will begin taping his hands. The team's conditioning coach kept time on how long it took Joe Chavez to wrap Oscar's hands over the last four months -- 27 to 28 minutes every time. Then the gloves will go on, and Oscar will throw punches into mitts Roach is wearing.

A Nevada Boxing Commission official and someone from Mayweather's camp will observe the wrapping of Oscar's hands and how his gloves are tied. There's no "skinning" allowed in Nevada, and there hasn't been a day that has gone by in training camp when Oscar didn't have his gloves skinned -- pulling the gloves tight and tying them around each wrist to make his knuckles more prominent.

"I just heard about the new rule," Roach says, and it's probably not a good time to make such an adjustment.

On the TV they show a tape of Oscar's arrival, HBO announcer Jim Lampley saying, "Will it be the last good night of a spectacular career?" Oscar is watching, but sits stone faced.

He gets up only because Matthew McConaughey comes into the dressing room. "All right, man, take it." Right out of that movie he made about Marshall.

J-Lo comes in with her husband, Marc Anthony. She's wearing Cavalli shoes. I know this because Oscar's business partner, Richard Schaefer, tells me so. He also says, "nice, huh?" and I don't think he's talking about the shoes.

Leonard Ellerbe, Mayweather's manager, comes by to watch Oscar being taped. He immediately objects as soon as Chavez starts putting tape on Oscar's left hand. Chavez takes the tape off and begins with gauze. One point for Mayweather.

Oscar puts on his shorts. They look like they might fall down. Millie jokes with him. He finally appears loose.

Oscar's father starts shadow boxing to show his son what to do. Then it's brother Joel who shows him what to do. Oscar dances out of the room and gives a high five to Jacob, his 9-year-old son.

On TV, Larry Merchant tells Floyd Mayweather Sr. "so you're rooting for a draw?"

"That would be nice," Mayweather Sr. says, and Oscar laughs.

The TV is turned off. The Mexican music is turned up. Oscar begins pounding Roach's mitts. The sound of contact is intimidating.

"You scare me," I tell him.

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