De La Hoya – Forbes Preview, Prediction: Can “The Contender” Upset “The Golden Boy”

This Saturday, the most recognizable boxer on planet Earth begins his career’s farewell tour. After Saturday, Oscar De La Hoya only plans to fight twice more, both mega-fights, against Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Miguel Cotto. There’s just one little problem between now and then: Steve Forbes. I say “little” because Forbes — as a guy who has proved he’s better off fighting at 140 lbs. than the 150 lbs. that his De La Hoya fight is booked for Saturday evening — is physically smaller, and most people believe he has just as small a chance of upsetting De La Hoya. He was picked because he’s seen as non-threatening, and offers the added advantage of potentially helping De La Hoya “practice” (his word) for his next fight, what with Forbes’ close ties to the Mayweathers, and how he fights a little — as some have described him — “like a poor man’s Floyd Mayweather, Jr.” But there are some, and I count myself among them, who believe his chance of winning isn’t as small as “most people” think. And if Forbes pulls off the upset, he will be ruining the biggest parade in town. Everyone knows De La Hoya by now, right? All kinds of charisma. Fought the best fighters of his generation, winning some (Julio Cesar Chavez, Fernando Vargas, Ike Quartey, Pernell Whitaker), and losing some (Mayweather, Shane Mosley, Felix Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins). Held up pretty well in the fights he lost, giving Mayweather his narrowest win ever. Getting older now, but at 35, still has a great left hook, good speed and good power. Almost looks like a 1950s boxer with that posture. Over his career, won belts in six different divisions. Has a bad habit of fading late in fights, inexplicably. A Hall of Famer. Maybe the biggest money-making pay-per-view attraction in boxing, ever, with only Mike Tyson his rival. Grammy-winning recording ar… well, let’s skip that one. Forbes, fans of “The Contender” surely know. Runner-up in that contest, which was pretty impressive because he was fighting much bigger guys. Former belt-holder in the 130-pound division. Absolutely no power, with 9 knockouts in 33 wins, most of them at lower weights. Plenty of hand speed, though. Has a tendency to be in really close fights, although in one of them, the Demetrius Hopkins bout in 2007 that most thought Forbes won, saw it as a blowout for Hopkins. Got a makeup call in his next close fight, against Francisco Bojado. Can take a punch, apparently never even hitting the deck once in his career. Has a good arsenal, but loves to go to the body. Has been fairly quiet and confident yet humble in the build-up to the fight of his life. What’s the Steve Forbes Wins This Fight Formula? (1) De La Hoya slacking off, as he has for previous “tune-up” bouts + (2) age catching up to “The Golden Boy” + (3) Oscar having trouble getting down to 150 for the first time since 2000 + (4) Forbes giving De La Hoya trouble with his toughness and hand speed + (5) De La Hoya fading late. I think we can scratch off (1) with ease. De La Hoya’s skipped some high profile bouts promoted by his company, Golden Boy Promotions, because he was training. That shows he learned the lesson well of his near-upset courtesy Felix Sturm, when he got a little doughy going up to 160. I’m not as confident about the rest. On (5), I think you have to go back to 2002 to find the last clear-cut example of De La Hoya not fading late, when he knocked out Vargas in the 11th. On (2), he’s looked pretty good for his age in the last couple years, but you never know in boxing when age will suddenly and permanently catch up to you. It’s hard to imagine that (3) hasn’t been a problem, because anyone who’s gotten older in life — that means you, EVERYBODY — knows that it’s harder to keep weight off the older you get. And on (4), I just think that even if Forbes loses handily, there are going to be moments where his boxing abilities and hand speed give De La Hoya a little trouble to figure out. Whatever the case, it’s a fairly big fight for the sport. De La Hoya’s fighting on HBO, an improvement over fighting on pay-per-view as he has for the entirety of the late part of his career. And HBO’s advertising it on and all over the place. You can argue, as Kevin Iole of Yahoo! has, that if De La Hoya really wants to do fans a favor, he’d have tried to get this fight put on network television. It’s true, but this constitutes progress, however meager. Because it sets up the potentially boffo box office smash of Mayweather-De La Hoya II, there’s a lot of cash riding on De La Hoya winning this. On the other hand, I don’t expect it to be that great an action fight, because Forbes, as Golem might say, is “tricksy,” so I can’t say I’m awfully excited about it. My prediction: De La Hoya by decision, about eight rounds to four. I still think De La Hoya has basically everything going for him — size, experience, quality of opposition, etc. He’s just a better fighter. Confidence: 85%. Oh, surely, by now you must think I led you on, what with all that “Forbes’ chances of winning aren’t as small as some think.” 85%? Isn’t that pretty confident? Sure, sure. But don’t forget that De La Hoya’s an 18-1 favorite. That means I’m 10% or so more bullish on Forbes than the betting public. (Cotto was an 8-1 favorite over Alfonso Gomez, and I was 95% confident Cotto’d win that one.) I stand by my claim that I think he has a better chance of winning than do most. I just don’t see the aforementioned Formula being applied here. And I wouldn’t be totally shocked if it was. My allegiance: This one’s tough. I like De La Hoya and always have, flaws and all. I’ve got no connection to Forbes, although he’s a commendable fellow. But… if De La Hoya loses, goodbye Mayweather-De La Hoya II. And I confess, I wouldn’t mind seeing that go down in flames, since it’s Mayweather’s excuse for ducking Miguel Cotto. Nah, I can’t do it. I’ll be rooting for De La Hoya, but not too terribly hard.

About Tim Starks

Tim is the founder of The Queensberry Rules and co-founder of The Transnational Boxing Rankings Board ( He lives in Washington, D.C. He has written for the Guardian, Economist, New Republic, Chicago Tribune and more.