Lessons from Mayweather/De La Hoya

Anyone who watched the Floyd Mayweather/Oscar De La Hoya fight last night was probably a bit disappointed at how the fight turned out. Both boxers fought well and it certainly wasn’t a hugging match like some of the bad heavyweight fights we’ve seen recently, but at no point was either fighter in danger of even losing their balance, let alone getting knocked out. For as many times as Mayweather spoke of “knocking the shit out of Oscar” before the fight, he didn’t seem to even bruise the man.

But the victory went to Mayweather anyway, mainly for his surprisingly defensive strategy of not throwing too many punches but landing a decent percentage of them.

There were a lot of interesting things about this fight though, aside from the lackluster action inside the ring:

Firstly, HBO did a spectacular job of hyping this matchup. I and almost everyone I watched it with were only excited for the matchup because we’d watched the well-produced “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7” series beforehand. The 4-part series was an inside look at the fighters’ lives and training regimens leading up to the fight. Filmed in high definition and brilliantly edited in a short amount of time, the series really made you love Oscar and hate Floyd. The end result was the richest fight in boxing history and one that was viewed by thousands more “casual boxing fans” than would have normally watched. More fights should receive this treatment.

The lead up to the fight also reminded me a lot of one of my favorite reality shows, The Contender. The Contender captures the drama of the boxing lifestyle and the actual boxing is often secondary. After last season was over, I spoke with someone high up at ESPN and made a suggestion I hope they take: show each episode on ESPN and ESPN2 simultaneously. Make the ESPN2 episode a half hour longer, showing the entire unedited boxing match at the end instead of the made-for-TV cutjob that’s on the flagship station. We’ll see if that happens.

Another interesting thing about this fight is that no boxer seemed to be injured at all the entire time. The standard boxing 10-point-must system scores rounds based on “injury” with most rounds ending 10-9 in favor of one fighter. I wonder if a better system would be to score all rounds 10-10 unless there was actually a legitimate pounding that took place. Under this system, almost every round in last night’s fight would have been 10-10 (possibly all of them) and the end result might have been a draw. The more important consequence of this system is that boxers would be more aggressive though. After the fight, De La Hoya said something very accurate. He said “If I didn’t bring the fight to him, there would have been no fight.” He was right. De La Hoya was the only one pushing the action, but unfortunately, he was not rewarded for it.

I also thought it was interesting (and bizarre) that Floyd Mayweather’s dad openly admitted that he thought De La Hoya won the fight afterwards in his interview with Larry Merchant. I know Floyd Sr. and Floyd Jr. are a bit estranged, but man, that is tight. If I were Jr., I’d be pissed.

The last interesting thing about the night for me was that several people I watched the fight with brought up the famous Tyson/Holyfield ear-biting match in 1997, and for a lot of us, that was the very last fight we ever paid to watch. If over 50% of us boycotted PPV boxing after that, I wonder how much money the industry has lost because of that incident. That was 10 years ago and the sport just doesn’t seem to have recovered from it. I think the industry should look long and hard at what dramas like The Contender and De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7 can do for the sport. They’re certainly more effective than anything else that’s been tried.

27 comments on “Lessons from Mayweather/De La Hoya”. Leave your own?
  1. Jemaleddin says:

    There were surprisingly few leg kicks and submission attempts – they didn’t even go for knees in the clinch.

    Oh wait, this was the boring combat sport, not MMA. No wonder.

    After all of his smack-talk about MMA, I’d like to see Floyd take on Sean Sherk, the UFC lightweight champion.

  2. I read somewhere – probably espn.com – that several fighters are now demanding that they receive their own 24/7 miniseries in advance of their big fights. It makes perfect business sense.

    De la Hoya is a very good boxer, but he’s a brilliant businessman (I assume 24/7 was his idea). There are so few good televised fights (so few good and/or charismatic boxers) it makes all the sense in the world to build interest with lead-in mini-bios. Plus it supports boxing’s need to create storylines (usually good vs. evil). Until boxing finds a away to recapture the public imagination, merging boxing and reality tv is a good tack.

    About Mayweather, sr: he was obviously in an awkward position, having trained DLH for 7 years, and he tried hard to avoid answering the question. He seems to have agreed with DLH that activity counted as much as punches landed.

    Either way, I was impressed that he answered the question at all. Boxing is a mess, but I love the fact that many commentators – emanuel steward, larry merchant, jim lampley to some extent – seem actually to *say what they’re thinking*. So different from other sports, where the commentators serve mainly as cheerleaders.

    Now the world awaits the *real* cliffhanger: did the PPV receipts top 2 million!

  3. lloyd says:

    jemaleddin you must not understand that boxing is not suppose to be the raw fighting that UFC is. Boxing is a sport built among heritage and rules.
    i could try to explain this for hours, but im not here to differ you opinion.

  4. I must say, no matter what, the audiance that was there got their moneys worth… they got to see 12 full rounds of 2 men beating the hell out of eachother… isn’t that waht they paid for?

  5. oh and jemaleddin,
    You are missing the point…
    Boxing is a classy kind of fight, where its half art/half strengh/half will power (yes i know there are 3 halfs… its a game when you have to give your 133% ;) )
    This isn’t “Bash your opponants face in with 0 grace… 0 sportsmanship… etc” this is boxing… I give props to anyone who does it, it takes more then strengh… its actaully mostly their minds fighting.

  6. I’m a former boxing fan who hasn’t watch a “big” fight in three years (co-incidentally, that’s the last time I had HBO). I’ve become more of an ultimate fighting fan, but pugilism just doesn’t attract my attention like it used to.

    I agree 100% with your Contender suggestion: i find the terrible editing unwatchable. I refuse to watch the show it bothers me so much. Ultimate fighter’s got it right: show the whole fight with minimal camera swtiching.

  7. I was incredibly disappointed by this fight.

    First, Mayweather ran the entire fight, and managed to slip in a few punches here and there, but let’s face the facts:

    Mayweather can’t hurt De La Hoya. He just doesn’t have the strength.

    Now, as much as I hate Mayweather, I will give him the fact that he is one of the most naturally talented boxers alive, if not the most talented.

    But where was any of that Saturday night?

    Nope, instead it was left to Oscar to press the fight.

    And Mayweather is now retiring. I say good riddance.

    He’s an amazingly talented fighter who took far more from the fight game than he ever gave.

    His boring fights, his brittle hands, his overinflated sense of self and his lack of human decency will all be gladly forgotten.

    But, to actually have an opinion on the true point of the article, HBO did a great job of promoting it. It just sucks that this is the fight they did it for.

    I can only imagine how much boxing would have benefited had they hyped the first Gatti Ward fight this way. Or any of the amazing drop down, guts and glory brawls that have come since.

  8. Nik Steffen says:

    They showed the “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7” here in England as well, and everybody in the common room at that time watched it, although none of us had heard of Mayweather and only knew De La Hoya from the occasional mention on SkySports. Nonetheless, by the end of it we all wanted to watch the fight. Too bad it was at 3am and none of us were willing to sacrifice that much sleep for a boxing match.

  9. PanMan says:

    I find it quite interesting how people who I otherwise consider quite intelligent, can be so interested in two men beating each other up. Not the most civilized activity.
    I guess that’s a part of American culture I don’t ‘get’, being European and all.

  10. at PanMan:
    You see like I said before, its not 2 men betting the hell out of eachother… while that is entertaining too… its the art and dedication both fighters show. Its the level of respect they all have for the sport.
    Lets match that up with “footie”/Soccor and we will see that boxers are VERY civilzed compaired to them…. actaully of all sports, tbh, boxing is one of THE MOST civilized sports… period.

  11. You’re absolutely right Mike. Mayweather is like those freaky Airheads candy things (probably in more ways than one). They taste good, you enjoy them for a while, but in the end they’re empty calories.

    For all the smack he talked, he didn’t bring it. Oscar hardly seemed brised or winded when it was over, yet he gets no reward for actually making the fight interesting.

    Sidenote: What do we think about the judge who went with Oscar on the split? Methinks Vegas was paying him on the side for screwing over the countless gamblers who had Mayweather with a unanimous decision.

  12. Mike D. says:

    Gabriel: Yep, I do like how blunt boxing commentators seem to be. Larry Merchant always seems visibly embarrassed when fights don’t go well, but maybe that’s just the way he talks. I have to disagree with Lampley though as he tried to defend the sport when he said that the talent level of boxers FAR exceeded the talent levels in other types of fighting. I’m pretty sure the most talented martial artist in the world could beat the crap out of the most talented boxer.

    Marc: Yeah, I can’t watch the UFC stuff because about ten years ago someone sent me a video clip of a guy getting his neck snapped in a UFC match and dying instantly (I didn’t know what it was when I opened the clip). He was just getting pummeled with punches and after one of them hit, his head snapped back and every muscle in his body went limp as he crumbled to the canvas. Normally when people get knocked out, it’s a slow gradual sinking to the ground, but this was just instant. It was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks.

    PanMan: I definitely wouldn’t say boxing is one of my favorite sports, and yeah, it’s pretty primal, but when you know the storylines of some of these boxers and some of the fights, the drama is hard to beat.

    Josh: Yeah, the judge who scored the bout for De La Hoya was either paid off or was trying to reward De La Hoya for being the aggressor. Probably the former, but who knows. Scoring in boxing is something I’ve never been comfortable with.

  13. jason says:

    I’m just glad those PPV commercials on Dish Network are finally over with!

  14. Jemaleddin says:

    Mike: Not to bust your balls here, but to quote wikipedia:

    While MMA competition is occasionally depicted as brutal by the media, there has never been a death or crippling injury in a sanctioned MMA event in North America. The only verified fatality in MMA competition is the 1998 death of Douglas Dedge in a fight in Ukraine. There are unconfirmed reports that Dedge had a pre-existing medical condition prior to the fight.

    Dedge took several shots directly to the head before the referee stopped the contest. Dedge collapsed after the fight and died two days later from severe brain injuries at the Kiev Institute of Neurosurgery.

    So I don’t know what you saw, but it wasn’t UFC, and nobody else has ever seen someone die instantly in the ring.

    Meanwhile (also Wikipedia):

    More than 350 amateur and professional boxers have been killed in the ring since 1945; for example, Duk Koo Kim who on November 13, 1982 held a fight with Ray “Boom Boom” Mancini which led to Duk’s death five days later.

    Fatality rates per 100,000 participants

    1. Horse racing: 128
    2. Sky diving: 123
    3. Hang gliding: 56
    4. Mountaineering: 51
    5. Scuba Diving: 11
    6. Motorcycle racing: 7
    7. College Football: 3
    8. Boxing: 1.3

    I obviously don’t have stats on how mixed martial arts stacks up in that list, but I would guess that it’s actually lower than boxing, so let’s not pretend that it’s any more brutal. Regardless, there are those who argue that UFC matches, for instance, are less brutal and less dangerous than boxing because of the way that knockdowns, knockouts and standing 8-counts are handled. I’m not a doctor, so I can’t speak with any certainty, but then again, neither are you. I’ll just say that sanctioned fights in the UFC are handled in the same way as sanctioned boxing matches in regards to licensing fighters, clearing them to fight, and keeping doctors on hand to examine the fighters during the match.

    Travis said:

    Boxing is a classy kind of fight, where its half art/half strengh/half will power (yes i know there are 3 halfs… its a game when you have to give your 133% ;) )
    This isn’t “Bash your opponants face in with 0 grace… 0 sportsmanship… etc” this is boxing… I give props to anyone who does it, it takes more then strengh… its actaully mostly their minds fighting.

    I don’t want to take over the conversation here, but:

    a) Sportsmanship isn’t something a sport has, it’s something an athlete has. You’ll find boxers with and without any sense of sportsmanship, just like you will in MMA. The fact that so many fighter in MMA come from a martial arts background would lead me to believe that you’re going to get a higher level of respect and sportsmanship shown in the ring. And…

    b) If you want to see a chess match played out physically, watch the Abu Dhabi Combat Club videos (they’re all over the place) where the best submission fighters in the world meet. Watching these guys roll and grapple and jockey for position in order to pull off complicated multi-step submission attempts is far more impressive than, “Maybe this time I’ll lead with the jab.”

    As for Lloyd’s comment, I’ll just point out that boxing certainly has a fine heritage, but certainly not more than greco-roman wrestling, jiu-jitsu, muay thai, or karate which are the roots of MMA. It may be the newcomer, but its roots are just as deep, if not deeper.

    Crap – I wrote too much – now I’m officially the troll. Sorry.

  15. Mike D. says:

    Jemaleddin: I have no idea if this occurred in North America (although I assumed it did) and I have no idea when “MMA sanctioned” even became a meaningful term. Maybe after too many injuries or deaths? I don’t know. I just know what I saw and it wasn’t in some backroom in a third world country. It was two guys in a UFC-style ring with a large crowd and one guy died. Definitely not going to try and dig it up because I’m not watching it again. If the details differ a bit from what I thought they were (i.e. it wasn’t actual UFC but another league) then fine, but it was enough to turn me off from watching that stuff.

    With regard to boxing and fatalities/injuries, yep, I agree. It’s a violent sport as well. It’s just a little more palatable because we’re all so used to it and it “seems” less violent (even though it may not be). It’s all about perception.

  16. Mark Boulton says:

    I didn’t get to see the fight, although I’m not sure I missed much. Like you say Mike, HBO sound like they did a great job of hyping this up. It pretty much mirrors what is happening in UK boxing right now.

    The media is really playing up the middleweight divisions through a lack of real heavyweight talent across the world at the moment. In the UK, it’s all about Calzage and Khan. But both fighters are struggling to strike the right deals in the US (maybe that’s the promotion at fault), but as a result, the UK TV audience for boxing is dwindling. TV networks such as the BBC aren’t interested, ITV own the rights for Khan’s fights for a while I think, but as soon as his management get greedy, we’ll see that vanish. Shame.

    The whole MMA/Boxing argument is an interesting one. Statistically, boxing is more dangerous for one simple reason. There is too much protection. Boxers wear large gloves and pound away to the head for a long time. In MMA, there is minimal padding. If you get hit hard in MMA, you either get knocked out, or you get cut – either way, the fight is stopped. Also, boxing has been around for a lot longer than MMA, therefore there is bound to be more statistical information floating around. That said though, MMA is more brutal to the casual viewer and that, I feel, is the problem.

    Boxing is quite straight-forward. Two guys punch each other. Good MMA is a much more subtle affair. If the bout goes to the ground, it can be a chess game that many people (who i’ve watched with) don’t understand. If the fighters stand up and trade though, it can look like a brawl outside a bar on a Saturday night, and nobody wants to see that.

    I think the perception of MMA is one of the UFC marketing. The perception is one of violence (not a ‘sweet’ science like boxing) and despite the UFC success, I really doubt it will get close to the general acceptance of boxing.

  17. Calvin Tang says:

    Boxing should be winner take all. The boxers would train and fight harder. None of this ‘you lost but here’s your 35mil’ bs, that takes all the fun out of it since in the end they both win.

  18. Mike, whatever you saw, it wasn’t someone dying in an MMA match.

    I have no idea when “MMA sanctioned” even became a meaningful term. Maybe after too many injuries or deaths?

    As noted above, there has only been 1 death in MMA, and the injuries in any given fight are similar to those found in boxing.

    I’m not sure how so many otherwise intelligent people have the idea that mixed martial arts is a rule-less affair. It’s been sanctioned by multiple state athletic commissions and has been using rules similar to boxing (weight classes, safety equipment, numerous rules and fouls) for 7 years now. 7 years is a long time.

    Clearly you’re not opposed to combat sport in general. Instead of being turned off by something that you didn’t actually see (although I can think of a few sickening knockouts that certainly *looked* like the poor guy was expired), think of it like this:

    Picture 2 guys doing freestyle collegiate wrestling.
    Now picture 2 guys boxing.
    Now picture 2 guys kickboxing.
    Now picture 2 guys doing all three at once.

    That’s mixed martial arts. With all the same skills and rules that any of the component sports have.

    You’re not an ignorant sports fan, Mike, so please don’t make ignorant statements.

    I think the perception of MMA is one of the UFC marketing. The perception is one of violence (not a ‘sweet’ science like boxing) and despite the UFC success, I really doubt it will get close to the general acceptance of boxing.

    I don’t know about acceptance, but in 2006 UFC alone generated more PPV revenue than all the boxing PPVs. It seems that people are accepting it with their wallets, if nothing else.

    I think the boxing/mma argument is silly. You have two fantastic combat sports who each offer their particular flavor for a viewer. I’m not sure why people continue to bash mma with ignorant and incorrect statements about the skill level involved, the rules, etc., but it’s sad to see otherwise sharp sports fans turn into knee-jerk know-nothings and sport-bashers when the subject of mixed martial arts comes up.

  19. Arrrgh. Mike, you’ve got me curious now. I love a good mystery. :)

    Yeah, I can’t watch the UFC stuff because about ten years ago someone sent me a video clip of a guy getting his neck snapped in a UFC match and dying instantly (I didn’t know what it was when I opened the clip). He was just getting pummeled with punches and after one of them hit, his head snapped back and every muscle in his body went limp as he crumbled to the canvas. Normally when people get knocked out, it’s a slow gradual sinking to the ground, but this was just instant. It was one of the most disturbing things I’ve ever seen and I couldn’t get it out of my head for weeks.

    Hmmm. I can only think of one KO that fits this description: Tank Abbot vs. Steve Nelmark. Here’s the fight:


    The KO happens just after 1:10 in the video. It really is a disturbing KO to see, but it was just a KO.

    You don’t need to look at the KO again, just check the first few seconds of footage and tell me if these are the same 2 guys you remember from the video that originally put you off UFC.

    I love playing Fight Detective. :)

  20. Dave says:

    Look, I’m reading that people think Oscar won because he took the fight to Floyd. Well, a smart fighter, who knows he doesn’t have the reach, and may be giving away something in the power category knows that it is better to counter punch, than to go toe to toe. Make him come to you. Also, just because you throw punches, and hit nothing but air or gloves, does not mean you won the fight. You have to connect. Oscar’s only good showing was when he threw the consecutive body punches, that Floyd was laughing at. The connect percentage was waaaay in favor of Floyd, as it should’ve been, because he connected much more, and that is what matters. People who’ve been around long enough, should have learned this from the Leonard/Hagler fight. Same thing, Sugar didn’t hurt Hagler, but he outscored him. He was too fast, and was smart enough to know not to get in a toe to toe with Hagler. People always want to ask why don’t fight like Corrales would, or Gatti, I believe Floyd fought Corrales, and Gatti, and destroyed both. Diego Corrales was supposed to get him, but he got knock down 5 times in one fight, and to that point had never been knocked down at all. Gatti was supposed to get him, TKO in the sixth. Then it was the at the time champ Carlos Baldomir, well he didn’t succeed either. Mayweather is a great fighter, and a smart one, and he showed that against DLH. Hey, here comes the rematch. Maybe this time, Oscar will land more than 8 punches a round, to Mayweather’s 20

  21. Mike D. says:

    Christopher: I’m not the one that said MMA people were any less talented than boxers. I think I said the opposite actually (in the form of “the best MMA fighter could beat the crap out of the best boxer”). My argument is not that MMA is any less of a sport than boxing… only that I don’t enjoy watching it. With regards to the video, I’m not going to watch it but I’ll take your word for it… I don’t remember the details very well.

    Dave: My stance is not necessarily that De La Hoya beat Mayweather. Only that neither fighter seemed to really do any beating at all, and with a different scoring system, I wonder if you could change this. Also, as Calvin mentioned above, split purses really take away a lot of the incentive to fight. The purse should always sway heavily towards the victor. By the way, Mayweather’s reach is longer than De La Hoya’s if I remember correctly. :)

  22. Dave says:

    With De La Hoya standing around 6 ft tall, and Floyd at around 5′ 8″, the reach would be neutralized if Floyd’s is longer. He has to punch up, as opposed to DLH punching down. DLH’s mistake was reducing himself, when he started crouching. As for the purse, that is hard one, since both have the status they have in the game. I agree that it wasn’t a brutal fight, but then thats kind of what you get when each really has that kind of respect for the other. People can say what they want about Floyd’s talking, but that is purely a mind game tactic, and for show. He did the same with Gatti, and then showed him as much respect as I have seen any boxer show, after the fight. In the old days, it was all about who hurt who the most, but that changed, to who scores or connects the most. It is what it is. I agree that it was definitely the setup for the rematch, but that is also due to there really not being another match up as appealing as the Golden Boy v the Pretty Boy.

  23. Hey bud, I *HATE* comments in blog posts that don’t relate but i want to get your attention and this is the best way i can think of.
    if you email me your emailaddress (or just email me obviously i would get it) I want to invite you to use Joost.. its really cool!

  24. Mike D. says:

    Travis: Yeah, I already tried to use Joost but unfortunately I don’t have an Intel Mac yet. It doesn’t work on G5s. Thanks for the offer though!

  25. Ross says:

    Mayweather fought a safe, intelligent fight. He certainly didn’t deliver the whuppin’ that he promised. Big deal! Pre-fight jabber is just that, a lot of hot air designed to do two things, psyche out one’s opponent and sell tickets. Muhammed Ali was the master on this front and occassionally he even delivered on his prognostications, “Ali in three” and all that.

    What I saw from Mayweather was someone who won at least seven of the twelve rounds on the ten point must system. In truth, he should have won a unanimous decision. Surprisingly, the one judge one might have been expected to do a terrible job scoring, Cianci, who is routinely incompetent, wasn’t the one who botched his scorecard.

    The Pretty Boy is a counterpuncher and has spent his entire career as one. If he is going to knock out an opponent it’s with combinations of four and five punches. He was playing it too safe to have a chance at hitting De La Hoya more than once or twice per exchange. He was not going to get drawn into even a semblance of a slugfest. For that I can only admire him.

    Acting as the agressor in boxing, admirable though it is, is not a ticket to victory unless the agression translates into physical domination. De La Hoya tried, boy did he try, but he did not have nearly enough to cope with Mayweather’s brilliant technical abilities. I seriously doubt he would’ve done any better three years ago. Oscar’s lurching bull style was not only ugly to look at, it was, for all the menace it seemed to promise, ineffective. And I agree with those who observed that save for the last part of the last round, Oscar seemed to run out of gas towards the end of the fight. That’s no way to get a decision unless you’ve won most of the early rounds which he clearly didn’t. As for Mayweather’s father, he seemed only marginally coherent, and clearly has an axe to grind against his son. Perhaps De La Hoya will adopt Mayweather Sr. as a second dad.

  26. u knw says:

    Well we all know who won the fight…. dela hoya won it of course he was the agressor and its really true if he didnt push the fight mayweather would of been sanding there the whole time. I think the commentadors are racist towards hoya he should of won hte match but o well he still won 20 more million dollars than mayweather

  27. Greg says:

    MMA is the future. Boxing has been dying due to industry asses like Don King. Damn shame to. I love watching the classic boxing bouts of the greats.

    As for mayweather, he’s just soar. If he’s so hard why dosen’t he challenge UFC lightweight Champ Shawn “The Muscle Shark” Shrek to fight?

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