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The Oscar De La Hoya of old punched out a tough Oba Carr
If necessity is the mother of invention, then Oscar De La Hoya
must be the father of reinvention. The WBC welterweight champion
changes tactics as often as he changes trainers--which lately
seems to be about every other fight.
Reacting to the advice of his handlers, De La Hoya has
oscillated between ferocious toe-to-toe banging and tentative
jabbing-and-retreating. "My last few fights, opponents made me
back up, something I never used to do," he said before facing
Oba Carr last Saturday in Las Vegas. "People tried to make me a
boxer, which I'm not. I'm a slugger."
In his Feb. 13 split decision over Ike Quartey, De La Hoya built
a slim lead on finesse until Round 12, when he charged through a
blockade of glove and muscle, sent the challenger sprawling with
a left hook and battered him against the ropes. "That was the
old Oscar," De La Hoya said. "From now on I'm the new old Oscar.
That's the style that got me here."
Here was the just-opened Mandalay Bay, a $950 million casino
roughly the size of Burma. Winning the $5 million Carr fight
would position De La Hoya for a much bigger Mandalay payday--a
proposed Sept. 18 showdown with unbeaten IBF 147-pound champ
Felix Trinidad, who must first get past Hugo Pineda this
Saturday in San Juan.
Carr, 27, arrived in Vegas a year older than De La Hoya and more
experienced (48-2-1) by 21 pro bouts. His only losses were to
Quartey and Trinidad, both of whom he knocked down. De La Hoya
didn't take Carr, a 7-to-1 underdog, lightly. "Every opponent
turns it up with me," he said. "Carr will become a different
opponent, maybe even a braver opponent."
Brave, and mystical. "I have achieved a serenity in this
hemisphere, this galaxy, this plateau by coexisting within my
existence," Carr said at the weigh-in. Carr has been coexisting
ever since Feb. 2, 1998, the day he had a "vision" before duking
it out with Jesus--fighter Jesus Guttierrez--at the Forum in
Inglewood, Calif. "In my vision I knocked De La Hoya cold," Carr
said. Minutes later he entered the ring and knocked Jesus out.
The Almighty, said Carr, would make him all mighty against De La
Hoya. Indeed, not only was God on Carr's side, but science, as
well. "I've analyzed the mathematics," Carr said, "and come up
with an equation to make me victorious."
Evidently the equation was unbalanced. Bulling in from outside,
the new old De La Hoya lunged at Carr from the opening bell,
stunning him with a left jab, dropping him with a left hook and
then, at the end of the round, staggering him with a third left.
Despite spraining a ligament in his left hand in Round 2, De La
Hoya pressed forward until the seventh, piling up points. Carr
landed a couple of chopping rights but lost a point for butts and
another for low blows. By the end of the 10th, he was far behind
on the judges' cards.
In the 11th, De La Hoya countered a glancing left with an
awkward, sweeping left hook that sent Carr crashing to the floor.
The challenger rose at the count of four and, dazed and helpless,
stood silent while referee Richard Steele stepped in and waved
the fight to a close.
For those now looking ahead to a De La Hoya-Trinidad showdown in
September, Carr offered his own perspective. "Oscar could prevail
against Felix if he attacks him like he did me," said the man who
has now lost to both.
What of Carr's vision? Was it faulty? "No, the vision was right,"
he said. "It was just misinterpreted by the ref."
Mayweather and Son
THE JOYS OF BOXING
Last Saturday was Boys' night out. An hour before the Golden Boy
parked Oba Carr, WBC super featherweight champ Floyd (Pretty
Boy) Mayweather manhandled Justin Juuko, a Ugandan who was a
last-minute substitute for the ailing Goyo Vargas. Unable to
weather a whirlwind that seemed to buffet him from all sides,
Juuko fell in Round 9. Asked before the fight what chance Juuko
had against him, the unbeaten Mayweather had said, "Honestly?
None." His trainer-father, Floyd Sr., added, "With great speed
and great endurance/The fool fight Floyd better increase his
Double Trouble is how the Mayweathers bill themselves, though
Rhyme and Reason seems more appropriate. A former top-rated
welterweight contender, the elder Mayweather modeled himself
after Muhammad Ali by speaking in verse: "Some people say I've
got a lot of malice/When I get through my opponent, he'll need
What does that mean?
"Not a damn thing," he replies. "It's boxing poetry."
The younger Mayweather, a 1996 Olympic bronze medalist (box,
left), is a thoughtful 22-year-old whose flashing speed and
shadowy elusiveness is poetry in motion. His middle name, Joy,
was his old man's ring name. "Came from the Supremes song, Floyd
Joy," says Dad, offering a hoarse a cappella: "He's the kind of
guy puts tears in my eyes...."
Though Joy was not the kind of pug who put fannies in seats, he
gave fans their Wordsworth. On the eve of a '78 bout with Sugar
Ray Leonard, he predicted, "The Ray is young/He must be
taught/The Joy will turn/His Sugar to Salt." Alas, Leonard took
the joy out of Mayweather, stopping him in the ninth.
Junior's first ring was a crib in Grand Rapids. "Been boxing
since he was in Pampers," says Senior. "Aimed uppercuts at
doorknobs." Little Floyd's Uncle Tony once aimed a shotgun at
Big Floyd. "I asked Tony to move out of our house," recalls Big,
who was holding Little in his arms at the time. "He replied by
filling my left leg with buckshot."
Within months Floyd was back in the gym. "Had to," he says.
"Boxing's in my blood." By the early 1990s so was cocaine. In
'93 he was convicted of conspiracy to sell coke. "Never snorted,
but my urine came up dirty," he says. "When you break up a
block, the fumes go up your nostrils and into your system." He
spent five years in the prison system. "Hard part wasn't doing
time," he says. "It was losing time with my son."
Under the watchful eye of his Uncle Roger, a two-time world
junior lightweight champ, Young Floyd turned pro in 1996 and won
his first 13 bouts. When Old Floyd was released last year, he
took over his son's career. Now, as Saturday's bout made clear,
Joys reign supreme.
STOP THE INSANITY
A near Battle of the Century (agewise, that is) fell through in
January when a scheduled bout between George Foreman, 50, and
Larry Holmes, 49, was canceled. Now, it seems, Holmes wants to
take on a younger foe: He announced last week that he will face
James (Bonecrusher) Smith in Fayetteville, N.C., on June 18.
Smith's age? He's 46.
COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO De La Hoya's trademark left had the visionary Carr seeing stars.