There was a good omen the other day at Oscar De La Hoya's training camp. The venerable boxer stayed on his feet for more than two hours.
Not that the 35-year-old De La Hoya has spent all that much time on his back in a 16-year career of 44 fights and 39 wins. But the talk has been hot and heavy that De La Hoya's Dec. 6 opponent, the younger and harder-punching Manny Pacquiao, 29, is thinking knockout more than decision.
This, of course, is boxing at its promotional best. De La Hoya-Pacquiao is the biggest fight in the eyes of the public since De La Hoya-Floyd Mayweather Jr. on May 5, 2007. Mayweather won that one in a split decision and promptly retired, which means he will be back soon.
We went into thin air to witness firsthand how high the hype has been turned up with three weeks to go, and the scene at 8,800 feet in Big Bear, De La Hoya's training site for the first time in six years after his move to Puerto Rico, told all.
It was media day, which really meant camera day. Somehow, anybody with a camera within 40 square miles got in. If they still used film, as in the old days, Kodak could have declared an extra dividend. There was more snapping going on than in a bowl of Rice Krispies. The Internet has unlimited capacity, and if every picture snapped of De La Hoya at media day makes its way onto some website, that unlimited capacity could be threatened.
As the posing and primping went on, ad nauseam, nuggets of news were breaking out.
De La Hoya had a shiner under his right eye and said it was the result of a Monday sparring session. "One of those thumb things," he said.
It's the same eye that he injured in his otherwise-dominating win over Stevie Forbes in his last fight, May 3 at the Home Depot Center. It's also the eye that is always the target for Pacquiao, who is so left-handed that one of his solid connections might truly be called an O-Bomb-A.
De La Hoya said he weighed 145 pounds, two below the fight limit. That was remarkable on several fronts.
He is the taller fighter, at 5 feet 10 1/2 inches, and has fought all the way up to 160 pounds. Pacquiao, at 5-6 1/2 , started his career at 106 in 1995, and the highest weight he has fought at was 134 in June when he beat up David Diaz and knocked him out in the ninth.
Pacquiao's camp reported earlier this week that he currently weighs 151.
"I'm the little guy now," De La Hoya said.
De La Hoya did look thin and lean, and his business partner, Richard Schaefer, chief executive of Golden Boy Promotions, joked that they had to change the company's poster-boy brand.
"Look at the logo," he said. "It's a skinnier silhouette."
Schaefer said the goal for HBO pay-per-view buys, which is always what all the hype is about, would be a realistic 1.5 million. The record was 2.4 million for De La Hoya-Mayweather, but that was before the U.S. economy started to resemble Iceland's. The price is $54.95. No decision yet on whether our food stamps will work.
"My wildest dreams would be to break the record," Schaefer said, "but it won't happen."
Also on hand at media day, giving the camera-clickers a variety of dull, posed shots to take, were TV star George Lopez and legendary trainer Angelo Dundee.
Lopez is a golfing buddy of De La Hoya's and he will be the master of ceremonies for the Dec. 5 weigh-in at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, site of the fight. Expect an upgrade from the usual guy asking us to get ready to rumble.
Dundee is a friend of new De La Hoya trainer Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain -- the sixth trainer to prepare De La Hoya for a fight in his career. Dundee, the man you saw forever in Muhammad Ali's corner, is 87 now and says he is with De La Hoya as an advisor.
"I've seen Oscar fight about 20 times and Pacquiao about 20 times," Dundee said. "I've already picked up a couple of flaws in Pacquiao and we'll work on that. I'll be at the fight, right behind Oscar's corner, but I won't say much unless I really see something. You can't have too many cooks doing the soup."
De La Hoya said all the usual things. He feels good, is training hard, can move up or down to various weight categories easily and is "gonna show Pacquiao who is the boss."
As the negotiations were going on to make this fight, De La Hoya indicated that this would be his finale, that he chose a young superstar to fight so he could go out either on top in victory or with his head held high in defeat. Now, of course, those retirement plans are fluid.
When asked about it, he only smiled, making him, in the most recent survey, the 272,456th boxer in history to say he would retire and didn't. Look for Mike Tyson's comeback announcement any day now.
The extravaganza of excess will continue Monday, when Pacquiao has his media day. If you have a camera, can rent one, have a neighbor who will lend you one, promise to send all your buddies pictures from your cellphone or can prove you once went on YouTube, come on down.
You'll get in.
Jerry Crowe has the day off