By Eric Raskin
On May 5, 2007, Oscar De La Hoya came up a round or two short in his bid to hand Floyd Mayweather his first defeat. At age 30, “Money” was more or less in his prime. At age 34, De La Hoya most definitely was not.
“Against a younger Oscar, who knows what would have happened?” De La Hoya reflected this week in a one-on-one interview with HBO.com. “I can’t say for sure I would have won. But I like my chances.”
We’ll never see Mayweather vs. a young De La Hoya (unless the Mayweather in question is Floyd’s uncle Jeff, who fought Oscar back in ’93). The closest thing we might get is this Saturday’s fight between Mayweather and the 24-year-old Ortiz, who reminds some of a young De La Hoya and has been blessed and cursed with that “next Oscar” label since signing with Golden Boy Promotions in 2008.
“I truly feel that with Victor reaching his peak in his career, being 24 years old, he has a tremendous, tremendous shot at beating Mayweather. It’s not a tough fight for Victor; it’s a tough fight for Floyd,” opined De La Hoya, who has acted as a mentor to Ortiz the last few years. “Victor’s youth is going to make a big difference. Twenty-four years old with all the energy in the world. If Victor Ortiz catches him, it’s going to be all over.”
For all of the superficial similarities, being a young Mexican-American fighter with a telegenic smile doesn’t automatically make someone the new “Golden Boy,” and there are significant differences between Ortiz and De La Hoya. Ortiz is a natural righty who fights southpaw, whereas Oscar is a lefthander who fought orthodox. Ortiz didn’t earn Olympic gold, hasn’t fought under a bright spotlight from the day he turned pro.
He’s not Oscar 2.0. But that doesn’t mean he can’t implement elements of the strategy his promoter used to almost defeat Mayweather four years ago.
To De La Hoya, the challenge his protégé faces is more mental than anything else.
“A lot of fighters get frustrated trying to fight Mayweather,” De La Hoya said. “Victor has to not let the crowd get into his head. He has to forget about the crowd in the arena, because Mayweather doesn’t care. He doesn’t care if people are booing, he doesn’t care if people want to see more action. Mayweather just sits back and waits for you and potshots you. That’s his strategy. That’s his game. He wants his opponent to get frustrated, he wants his opponent to fall into that trap.