Boxings savior proves lackluster

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Last weekends fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. was billed as the fight that would save boxing by the national sports media. It was anticipated as the fight that would regain the national interest in the gladiatorial sport that has been wrestled away, almost literally, by the influx of hybrid boxing and wrestling groups like Ultimate Fighting.

Unfortunately the fight billed as &8220;The World Awaits&8221; by promoters didn&8217;t live to the hype.

I will say that promoters did a good job getting the seats filled and the world tuned in as they put on a relentless media blitzes fueled by an interested sports journalism world. Tickets for the super welterweight fight between six-division world champion De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KO) and undefeated four-division champion Mayweather (37-0, 24 KO) that was billed for May 5 at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas sold out in three hours after they went on sale Saturday, Jan. 27.

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The match generated over $19 million through its live gates sales, eclipsing the previous record set by the Nov. 13, 1999 heavyweight rematch bout between Evander Holyfield and Lennox Lewis at the Thomas and Mack Center.

HBO, which pay-per-view broadcasted the fight at $54.95 a pop and an extra $4.95 for high definition, tried wrangling in those that couldn&8217;t&8217; make it to the event by producing a four part reality show type prelude to the fight entitled &8220;De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7&8221; to generate interest. The series mainly focused on the two competitor&8217;s training leading to the fight, but had an interesting Mayweather family twist that couldn&8217;t but help generate interest.

The twist came as Mayweather&8217;s father, Floyd Mayweather Sr., worked hard to bargain with De La Hoya to train him for the battle. Senior had trained De La Hoya since 2001 but declined to train him for the fight initially before coming around to the green and asking for $2 million for the job. De La Hoya counter offered and the two couldn&8217;t come to a decision as De La Hoya looked elsewhere.

As did Senior, who then ran over to his son&8217;s camp looking for reconciliation and a job. His son, too, declined the help, opting instead for the training of his uncle, Roger Mayweather.

All of this drama did nothing but fuel public interest, which, coupled with the longing of a return to boxing&8217;s height of popularity it once held by fans, garnered the match a large amount of attention. Then the fight came.

The world watched with anticipation as the hope of boxing, &8220;The World Awaits,&8221; began.

For me, and for many fans of the heyday of the regal sport, it would be a down hill show from the moment the boxers walked out of the locker room.

The match would become a centerpiece for what is killing the appeal of professional sports &8212; glitz, glam, controversy and a lack of substance.

A solemn looking De La Hoya walked out first and entered the ring. He was followed by a Mayweather entourage including rapper 50 Cent who performed his new single, &8220;Straight to the Bank,&8221; as the boxer approached the stage.

Though I have no problem with a little performer support to get a boxer hyped before he enters the area, my problem came from the appalling stab at De La Hoya and his nationality worn by Mayweather as he entered the ring. The boxer sported trunks bearing the Mexican flag and, worse sported a sombrero &8212; all of this on May 5, Cinco De Mayo, an important holiday in Mexico and for all Latin Americans celebrating their Mexican heritage.

Mayweather&8217;s get up, whether just to rile De La Hoya or not, is nothing but a stab a person&8217;s culture and heritage. Yet there was no public outcry following the match, which I find interesting and even telling about the politically correct culture and media in the United States.

It seems only yesterday Don Imus was being berated for comments made about Rutgers players, yet today Mayweather can do what amounts to, say, De La Hoya wearing a robe with a black-power fist embroidered on it to a match against a black man on Martin Luther King Jr. Day with little public outcry.

It seems to me that something is missing here. Nobody asked Mayweather to apologize and, while the media mentioned it, it wasn&8217;t on television 24/7 like the Imus debacle. So what does that say about racial relations in the United States these days? I will let you decide.

After the (let&8217;s call it what it is) racist showing by Mayweather, the public watched the two fighters get into what can only be described as a lackluster fight, where neither boxer fell and the outcome was decided by the judges&8217; scores. Mayweather won by decision 2-1. Judges Jerry Roth (115-113) and Chuck Giampa (116-112) scored for Mayweather and Tom Kaczmarek (115-113) scored for De La Hoya.

The match that was touted as the fight that would save boxing did nothing to me except showcase the lack of respect and abilities exhibited by the rag tag bunch that are nowadays labeled as boxers. It was highly promoted, highly anticipated and highly disappointing.

Brandon Glover is the sports editor of The Times. He can be reached at