From the Vault | Blood Sport: The Story Of Oscar De La Hoya vs. Fernando Vargas

They called the fight “Bad Blood.” It was a marketing angle that wrote itself. In 2002, Oscar De La Hoya and Fernando Vargas met in a clash of Mexican-American U.S. Olympians from southern California, bringing the two biggest draws at 154 pounds together for a monster pay-per-view event that was powered by a bitter grudge.

In a special edition of the HBO Boxing Podcast, Eric Raskin speaks to De La Hoya, Vargas, and numerous insiders who were at the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas that night and lets them tell the story of a modern classic, a showdown in which scores were settled and blood was spilled.

The Greatest HBO Fighter of All-Time Tournament Round 1: Lampley Region

By Eric Raskin

We’re crowning the greatest boxer ever to compete on HBO, as determined by you, the fans. Among the countless icons and Hall of Famers who’ve battled on the HBO airwaves, we’ve selected an elite field of 32 fighters for entry in a bracket-style tournament. All matchups are previewed in depth on the HBO Boxing Podcast, and you can vote for the winners on Twitter (@HBOboxing) or the article below. Who is truly the greatest? That’s for you to decide.

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LAMPLEY REGION

Named after longtime HBO Boxing blow-by-blow announcer Jim Lampley, this region features a pair of three-time heavyweight champions, a pick-’em matchup of power punchers, and a potential second-round showdown that would determine who goes down as the best boxer of the 1990s.


(1) Muhammad Ali vs. (8) Miguel Cotto

It’s the ultimate personality clash, pitting the soft-spoken, stoic Puerto Rican against the godfather of modern trash talk, the man who dared to declare himself “the greatest of all-time.” And you won’t find two bigger hearts anywhere. You could knock Ali or Cotto down, but you couldn’t keep them down.

Muhammad Ali
Heavyweight Champion
56-5 (37 KOs)
Years fought: 1960-1981
Best Wins:
KO 6 Sonny Liston, 2-25-1964
KO 8 George Foreman, 10-30-1974
KO 14 Joe Frazier, 10-1-1975

Miguel Cotto
Junior Welterweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight Champion
41-6 (33 KOs)
Years fought: 2001-2017
Best Wins:
W 12 Shane Mosley, 11-10-2007
KO 9 Antonio Margarito, 12-3-2011
KO 10 Sergio Martinez, 6-7-2014


(4) Thomas Hearns vs. (5) Lennox Lewis

Whose corner would Emanuel Steward work? The Kronk Gym legend’s two greatest students — one he trained from the start, the other a mid-career reclamation project — make for a slam-bang matchup of two of the most explosive pure punchers the sport has ever known.

Thomas Hearns
Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight/Light Heavyweight Champion
61-5-1 (48 KOs)
Years fought: 1977-2006
Best Wins:
KO 2 Pipino Cuevas, 8-2-1980
KO 2 Roberto Duran, 6-15-1984
W 12 Virgil Hill, 6-3-1991

Lennox Lewis
Heavyweight Champion
41-2-1 (32 KOs)
Years fought: 1989-2003
Best Wins:
KO 2 Razor Ruddock, 10-31-1992
KO 4 Hasim Rahman, 11-17-2001
KO 8 Mike Tyson, 6-8-2002


(3) Roy Jones vs. (6) Oscar De La Hoya

It’s time to settle the primary pound-for-pound debate of the latter half of the ‘90s, a clash between the most talented fighter and the most popular fighter of a generation. If there was one man who could go left hook for left hook with 1988 Olympian Jones, it was 1992 Olympian De La Hoya.

Roy Jones
Middleweight/Super Middleweight/Light Heavyweight/Heavyweight Champion
66-9 (47 KOs)
Years fought: 1989-2018
Best Wins:
W 12 James Toney, 11-18-1994
KO 1 Montell Griffin, 8-7-1997
W 12 John Ruiz, 3-1-2003

Oscar De La Hoya
Junior Lightweight/Lightweight/Junior Welterweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight/Middleweight Champion
39-6 (30 KOs)
Years fought: 1992-2008
Best Wins:
KO 2 Rafael Ruelas, 5-6-1995
W 12 Ike Quartey, 2-13-1999
KO 11 Fernando Vargas, 9-14-2002


(2) Pernell Whitaker vs. (7) Roman Gonzalez

It’s “Sweet Pea” vs. “Chocolatito,” a tasty pairing of two pound-for-pound kings. Do you prefer the relentless offensive fire power of Gonzalez or the unsurpassed defensive mastery of Whitaker? Either way, the skill on display in this matchup is off the charts.

Pernell Whitaker
Lightweight/Junior Welterweight/Welterweight/Junior Middleweight Champion
40-4-1 (17 KOs)
Years fought: 1984-2001
Best Wins:
W 12 Greg Haugen, 2-18-1989
W 12 Jose Luis Ramirez, 8-20-1989
W 12 Azumah Nelson, 5-19-1990

Roman Gonzalez
Strawweight/Junior Flyweight/Flyweight/Junior Bantamweight Champion
46-2 (38 KOs)
Years fought: 2005-present
Best Wins:
KO 4 Yutaka Niida, 9-15-2008
W 12 Juan Francisco Estrada, 11-17-2012
KO 9 Brian Viloria, 10-17-2015

Boxing Podcast: Ep. 139 - Top 10 Breakthrough Performances

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney offer their top 10 breakthrough performances in HBO Boxing history.

Canelo-Khan Fight Week Podcast #5 - Radio Row

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney are joined by Oscar De La Hoya, Brian Campbell, and Gareth Davies to discuss Canelo-Khan fight week and the official weigh-in results.

The Latest From The Fight Game with Jim Lampley

De La Hoya Coaches Canelo to Learn From His Own Past Mistakes

Canelo and Oscar De La Hoya pose for a photo during training camp Photo: Hogan Photos

Canelo and Oscar De La Hoya pose for a photo during training camp
Photo: Hogan Photos

By Diego Morilla

The young fighter arrived at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas for the high stakes mega-boutsurrounded by the same team that had accompanied him since his beginnings as an amateur. An iron-fisted, smooth-boxing champion with matinee-idol looks who thrilled Mexican fight fans, he felt he had already amassedenough achievements to secure the respect of fans and media alike – all he needs is a career-defining win against his respected Puerto Rican foe to silence the few remaining isolated doubters.

The above description applies not only to Canelo Alvarez as he prepares to face off against Miguel Cotto on HBO Pay Per View this Saturday night, but also to his promoter and mentor Oscar De La Hoya, who faced a similar situation against Felix Trinidad back in September 1999. 

De La Hoya lost that fight in a highly controversial decision, and today in his role as promoter, the "Golden Boy" is in position to earn a measure of revenge for his loss 16 years ago.

“I have great memories,” De La Hoya said of the fight that handed him his first defeat as a professional. “The passion that people felt back then in the Mandalay Bay Arena, the rivalry between Puerto Rico and Mexico and all that – it was very special.”

On September 18, 1999, the then-unbeated De La Hoyawalked up to the ring of the then-brand-new Mandalay Bay Events Center for a then-record-breaking boxing event dubbed the “Fight of the Millennium.” The event would set new records for pay-per-view and live gate revenue, and generated enormous interest worldwide.

“It was a big fight, everyone was thinking about that fight, and the press from all over the world was there to watch us,” reminisced De La Hoya. “And that is what we hope for this fight, we have media from all over the world, and we are hoping for a big fight as well.”

There is one big difference, however, that De La Hoyawould like to see this time around. “The last three rounds,” he said, when asked about his biggest regret from that fateful night, repeating those words once again with a heavy sigh behind them. “I would have gone for the KO. That’s what I would have done."

De La Hoya is referring to his taking the result for grantedthree quarters of the way through the fight and resorting to backpedaling and celebrating in advance – a move that allowed Trinidad to win what would become the three decisive final rounds of the fight.

It's a mistake Canelo is unlikely to repeat. He is a pressure fighter from bell to bell. "Canelo is an aggressive puncher," De La Hoya said. "And he is a strong fighter who goes all out, and he can do it if he wants to.” 

De La Hoya feels his pupil's youthful energy will play a pivotal role in his battle with the veteran Cotto.

“Experience is worth a lot, but youth can help you overcome certain situations,” said De La Hoya, who was 26-years old when he faced Trinidad – only one year older than Canelo on fight night. 

“That’s what makes this fight so interesting. You have the young lion and the more experienced veteran in Cotto, and this makes for a close, unpredictable fight.”

Cotto is more than 10 years older than his foe and hassurvived countless wars against the best fighters through four weigh classes. Trinidad was once as technically sound as Cotto or even more so, and Cotto is roughly the same age with the same amount as professional experience as Tito was at the time of his high-profile Mexican match-up. But while Trinidad had a well-defined, easy-to-guess style, Cotto is known for continuously adding new weapons to his arsenal and coming up with new tactics for every fight.

Ultimately, De La Hoya sees one key intangible that will make all the difference in this fight, which opens a new chapter of the fabled Mexico-Puerto Rico boxing rivalry.

“The only experience that I transmitted to him was to fight with passion,” said the fighter-turned-promoter. “We’ve talked, we have discussed a few things, and he’s ready.The only advice that I would give him is to fight with the Mexican flag close to his heart. You need to put passion into it, because that’s what people expect from you. My experience could help him a little bit. But he is a professional and he is ready for a big fight.”

WATCH: Cotto vs. Canelo Final Press Conference

Watch: Miguel Cotto and Canelo Alvarez final press conference replay. Cotto vs. Canelo happens Saturday, November 21 live on pay-per-view beginning at 9pm ET/6pm PT.

 

Common Opponents: How Did Floyd and Manny Fare Against Five Shared Foes?

By Eric Raskin

CLICK to enlarge

As opposite as they may be in many ways, from their personalities to their fighting stances, Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather actually have quite a bit in common. They’re both rich and famous beyond any expectation they ever could have had. They’re both guaranteed first-ballot Hall of Famers. They’ve both been boxing professionally since the mid 1990s and are now in the back half of their 30s. They’ve both held alphabet titles in every weight class from 130 to 154 pounds (with Pacquiao boasting a few lighter ones as well), and they’ve both held lineal titles in four divisions.

And they’ve both prevailed in fights against Juan Manuel Marquez, Oscar De La Hoya, Ricky Hatton, Miguel Cotto, and Shane Mosley.

After May 2, we’ll be able to compare Mayweather and Pacquiao based on direct evidence. Until then, the best we can do is infer based on indirect evidence. In other words, a comparison of their performances against common opponents is our most telling source. So here we’ll tap that source, analyzing all of the fights in question and determining whether Pacquiao or Mayweather gets the edge for each common opponent. (The opponents are listed in chronological order based on their first fight with either Mayweather or Pacquiao.)

HBO Boxing Insiders Eric Raskin and Kieran Mulvaney discuss Mayweather and Pacquiao's common opponents on the HBO Boxing Podcast.

OPPONENT: JUAN MANUEL MARQUEZ

Pacquiao’s Results: Marquez proved to be Pacquiao’s toughest, trickiest rival, and it isn’t close. They fought four times, producing three Fight of the Year candidates, three controversial decisions, and one of the greatest knockouts of all-time. In their first fight, Pacquiao knocked Marquez down three times in the opening round, but Marquez called upon remarkable guts and guile to battle his way to a split draw. The second time around, Pac-Man won a split decision in another grueling fight. The third fight was less fulfilling for all involved, as Pacquiao won a controversial majority decision in a slightly slower paced bout. And in the fourth fight, Marquez finally got into the win column with a one-punch knockout in the sixth round, just when Pacquiao seemed on the verge of finishing him off.

Mayweather’s Result: Not nearly as much drama here. In his first fight back after a 21-month “retirement,” Mayweather schooled a puffed-up Marquez, a second-round knockdown powering him to a near-shutout decision win. Mayweather’s critics will point out that he chose not to pursue a knockout in the late rounds, but as sterling boxing displays against elite opponents go, this one is tough to top.

Edge: Although the pudgy version of Marquez that Mayweather fought in 2009 was probably a lesser fighter than the versions Pacquiao fought before or after, you still have to give the overwhelming edge to “Money.” Pacquiao had life and death with the guy for 42 rounds en route to a record of 2-1-1 that could arguably have been 1-3 or even 0-4; Mayweather never had to shift beyond second gear.

OPPONENT: OSCAR DE LA HOYA

Mayweather’s Result: This was the event that pushed Floyd from star to superstar, but his performance inside the ring was more “acceptable” than “exceptional.” Neither man succeeded in landing many clean punches and it was in could-go-either-way territory for about eight rounds, until the aging De La Hoya began to tire and stopped jabbing. Mayweather pulled away to win a split decision that probably should have been unanimous.

Pacquiao’s Result: Oscar had lost fights before, but never like this. Nineteen months after his close defeat to Mayweather, De La Hoya dropped back to welterweight for the first time in seven years and walked into the buzzsaw that was prime Pacquiao. Some predicted Manny, who fought at junior lightweight earlier that same year, would be too small, but instead he turned out to be too fast and too accurate, drubbing “The Golden Boy” for eight rounds until De La Hoya surrendered in the corner, never to fight again.

Edge: Mayweather fans can rightly argue that Pacquiao took on an older De La Hoya who ruined himself making weight. But that case isn’t strong enough to outweigh the fact that Pac-Man annihilated a fighter Mayweather eked past. And for what it’s worth, Mayweather was a slight favorite to beat Oscar, whereas Manny was perceived as a substantial underdog. The edge goes to the guy who exceeded expectations and finished the job, not the guy who met expectations and heard a scorecard in his opponent’s favor.

OPPONENT: RICKY HATTON

Mayweather’s Result: As a follow-up to his win over De La Hoya, Floyd kept the PPV train rolling with a battle of unbeatens against the beloved British “Hitman” and scored a rare knockout. It took Mayweather a few rounds to adjust to Hatton’s swarming, energetic, mauling style, but once he did, it became one-way traffic, culminating with a check-hook that propelled Hatton WWE-style into the turnbuckle pad. A few punches later, Mayweather had a 10th-round TKO win.

Pacquiao’s Result: Hatton had rebuilt from the Mayweather loss with lopsided wins over Juan Lazcano and Paulie Malignaggi, only to get wrecking-balled by probably the best version of Pacquiao we’ve ever seen. Pac-Man dropped him twice in the first round, and just when it seemed like Hatton was starting to get his legs back, the Filipino iced him with a perfect left hand with one second remaining in round two.

Edge: Again, Mayweather fought Hatton first and a case could be made that he softened the Brit up. But that doesn’t fully account for the violent mismatch Pacquiao-Hatton turned out to be. It was largely stylistic—Mayweather is not a seek-and-destroy fighter who blows people out in two rounds—but you still have to give Pacquiao the edge. Watch his KO of Hatton again if you need convincing.

OPPONENT: MIGUEL COTTO

Pacquiao’s Result: Riding the momentum of destructive wins over De La Hoya and Hatton, Pacquiao took on the younger, stronger Cotto and danced through the danger to detonate and dazzle. The first few rounds featured sensational back-and-forth action, but Pac-Man took over with knockdowns in both the third and fourth and doled out a frightful beating until the fight was stopped 55 seconds into round 12.

Mayweather’s Result: While he won by comfortable scores of 117-111 (twice) and 118-110, the fight was anything but comfortable for Money May. Cotto’s aggression and fearlessness, combined with Mayweather’s seemingly heavier legs, made for an entertaining 12-round chore for the usually untouchable pound-for-pound king. Nevertheless, Floyd finished strong, hurting Cotto in the 12th to put an exclamation point on a hard-earned victory.

Edge: Since Pacquiao got to Cotto first, you can’t chalk this one up to Floyd softening up the Puerto Rican badass. You can, however, wonder if Cotto was fighting at too low a weight and hadn’t yet shaken off the effects of his infamous TKO loss to Antonio Margarito. So it’s up for debate whether Pacquiao or Mayweather beat the better version of Cotto. What isn’t up for debate is that Pacquiao beat him up far more convincingly. It’s another verdict in favor of Pac-Man.

OPPONENT: SHANE MOSLEY

Mayweather’s Result: “Sugar Shane” produced the scariest moment of Mayweather’s 47-fight career, but the rest of the production belonged to Floyd. Mosley hurt him with a pair of right hands in round two, the second one causing a pronounced knee dip. Mayweather proceeded to bite down and take the older man apart over the remaining 10 rounds to win a lopsided decision. Despite being hurt, Mayweather chose to play the role of aggressor, and it suited him so well that we were left to wonder why he employs that approach so rarely.

Pacquiao’s Result: This was one of Pacquiao’s most disappointing performances, as he carried a washed-up Mosley for 12 uninspired rounds after it seemed an early knockout win was there for the taking. Manny dropped Sugar Shane in round three, only to let him off the hook and settle for a shutout decision win. The fight is remembered more for the amiable boxers touching gloves excessively than for any glove-on-face contact.

Edge: Although you might think Pacquiao has the edge based on Mosley scrambling Mayweather’s brains briefly in round two, the edge actually belongs to Mayweather for the way he responded to that moment of peril. He beat a less cooked version of Mosley and, for the most part, looked better doing it.