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MORNING BRIEFING

They're giving fight a hook

November 18, 2008|BILL DWYRE

Manny Pacquiao versus Oscar De La Hoya has a chance to become the most chewed-on boxing match since Tyson versus Holyfield.

It is still 19 days until the celebrated pair steps into the ring at the MGM Grand Garden in Las Vegas for what has become the most anticipated 12 rounds of the year. But the slings and arrows of pre-fight propaganda have been flying for some time now.

Pacquiao and De La Hoya might actually turn out to be worth all the noise.

The promoters -- De La Hoya's own Golden Boy Promotions and Bob Arum's Top Rank for Pacquiao -- have cut a deal that will bring De La Hoya a minimum of $15 million and Pacquiao a minimum of $10 million, no matter what happens in the ring the night of Dec. 6.

That's a large nut to crack, so the promoters have been working hard. The fight sold out in 17 minutes, and the goal of 1.5 million pay-per-view buys on HBO will make nice profit margins all around.

But the economy is suddenly of such concern that there is a worry about the embarrassment of empty seats. The casinos buy tickets in advance for their big players, but there are fewer big players going to Las Vegas right now. The same worries can apply to people who may now consider a $54.95 pay-per-view investment for a couple of hours of home viewing a bit extravagant.

In the best of times, this one would have had the Vegas high rollers clamoring for ringside seats and would have challenged the record 2.4 million pay-per-view buys set when De La Hoya lost a split decision to Floyd Mayweather Jr., May 5 last year.

Still, if boxing knows nothing else, it knows how to crank up the sales machine.

Monday, at the Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, the sport played good cop-bad cop for assembled cameras and notebooks. The players were Pacquiao and his trainer, Freddie Roach, and without planning it, they did a great audition for parts on "Law & Order."

Roach, who trained De La Hoya for the Mayweather fight, called his former pupil "weak minded" and his current pupil "strong minded." Pacquiao said he wouldn't comment on that.

Roach has been quoted frequently as saying that Pacquiao could very well knock out De La Hoya in this fight at 147 pounds. Pacquiao said that "a knockout would be a bonus."

Roach called De La Hoya a "part-time fighter who has only fought four times in the last four years while Manny has fought four times in the last year." De La Hoya is 35, Pacquiao 29, and Roach said that De La Hoya will learn, as Ali did against Holmes and Julio Cesar Chavez did against De La Hoya, what happens to old boxers against young guns.

"Oscar will find out how Chavez felt 10 years ago," Roach said. "The younger fighters take over. It's Manny's time now."

Pacquiao, asked whether De La Hoya was the best-skilled boxer he had fought to date in his 52 professional fights, said yes.

To be clear, Roach is not a natural bad cop. He is the opposite of a loud-mouthed carnival barker. A former boxer who battles Parkinson's disease on a daily basis and runs a gym that has produced 22 world champions, he always has been brutally direct and honest. When Roach says he is "100% confident" that Pacquiao is the better fighter in this one, that's because he is.

On the other hand, Pacquiao, the pride of the Philippines, is less likely to articulate confidence or exuberance because English is not his first language and he is more comfortable staying with the safe and predictable.

Clearly, Roach has a plan and is excited about it. Asked what he observed when De La Hoya stopped using his effective jab against Mayweather in the later rounds, leading to his loss, Roach got a twinkle in his eye and said, "I know why the jab stopped working and that's part of our plan."

Clearly, Roach is having fun with all this. Asked why he had a huge painting on the wall of his gym that depicted De La Hoya fighting Felix Trinidad in their 1999 classic, Roach said, "I just put it up there because some guy wanted to sell it."

He paused for effect.

"Been up there a year," he said.

Clearly, the fun has just begun.

--

bill.dwyre@latimes.com

T.J. Simers is on vacation.

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