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Old 05-06-07, 12:42 AM
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Mayweather's speed, De La Hoya's power make for dynamite title fight
By GREG BEACHAM, AP Sports Writer
May 5, 2007

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Floyd Mayweather Jr. hadn't stopped talking since he signed up for the one thing he really wanted, a megafight with Oscar De La Hoya that put boxing back in the spotlight.

When the two met at Friday's weigh-in, though, even Mayweather had run out of things to say.

The loquacious Pretty Boy did little more than give a dead-eyed stare to De La Hoya during their weigh-in at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where they will meet Saturday night in one of the most anticipated -- and hyped -- fights in years.

There was nothing left to be said after months of preparation and name calling. Besides, both fighters know the 154-pound WBC title bout will be determined not by posturing or pay-per-view buys, but by tactics and tenacity in the ring.

"Anything he's said about me, anything I said about him, we can settle it in the ring," Mayweather said. "Can't say nothing to protect you there."

The fight has much more to offer than the personality clashes and family drama so endlessly chronicled in recent weeks seemingly everywhere, including on their own reality series. It's a compelling contrast of styles and skills, with Mayweather's superb defensive game contrasting with De La Hoya's punching power and size advantage.

Though De La Hoya (38-4, 30 KOs) seems more likely to really hit Mayweather (37-0, 24 KOs) than most of his previous opponents, can the Golden Boy do enough damage to hurt one of the quickest and most gifted fighters in recent times?

And will Mayweather risk trading punches with De La Hoya, or will he take the safe way out and try to box his way to a decision in what could be a lackluster fight?

Most oddsmakers and prognosticators favor Mayweather in a decision, but the odds have steadily dropped in De La Hoya's favor during fight week.

"I think everyone will be surprised to see what I can do," De La Hoya said. "We have a solid game plan for this fight, and he's motivated me every step of the way by the way he acts."

Though the hype promises a fight that could live in boxing history, true fight fans understand this matchup could be a huge anticlimax. That's because Mayweather has remained unbeaten largely by using his spectacular defensive techniques and speed to avoid getting seriously punished by any of his 37 previous opponents.

Both fighters made the 154-pound limit Friday, with Mayweather weighing just 150 pounds and De La Hoya hitting exactly 154. Rapper 50 Cent accompanied Mayweather to the stage and draped himself in Mayweather's numerous championship belts, while De La Hoya got most of the fan support from perhaps the biggest crowd ever to attend a weigh-in in this gambling city.

But De La Hoya could outweigh Mayweather even more by the time they step into the ring Saturday night, thanks to his larger frame. Mayweather, a champion in four weight classes, has never fought above 147 pounds, while De La Hoya has been fighting at 154 or heavier for the last six years.

Although De La Hoya is likely to throw harder punches, Mayweather is harder to hit than any fighter in the game. He's simply too fast for the average contender, bobbing his head and swiveling his hips away from everything thrown.

De La Hoya recognized the problem during his preparations, and trainer Freddie Roach worked on improving De La Hoya's speed and ring generalship, hoping to limit Mayweather's escape routes.

"There's one thing that people don't know about me -- when somebody fights fast, I convert myself into that," De La Hoya said. "I think people are going to be surprised that I can match his speed, or do even better. We knew early on that you have to challenge Mayweather."

If the fight goes the distance, Mayweather believes De La Hoya will get tired, citing his history of late-round exhaustion. De La Hoya trained for the fight at sea level in Puerto Rico, and Mayweather thinks his higher-altitude training in Las Vegas will serve him better.

"He probably would have got tired later, but now he's going to get tired earlier," Mayweather said. "Don't be surprised if I stop him. He's already showed he's a quitter against (Bernard) Hopkins. He already showed he gets fatigued."

The crowd will be dotted with celebrities and past champions in seats currently re-selling for the highest prices ever reached.

The most conflicted spectator will be Floyd Mayweather Sr., resting uncomfortably in seats provided by De La Hoya, his longtime pupil. Though the elder Mayweather still feels loyalty to the Golden Boy, he won't root against his estranged son, either.

Although De La Hoya wants a win to prove he still can beat the best and add to his legacy at the age of 34, Mayweather needs the victory to back up his chatter and affirm his unofficial status as the world's pound-for-pound king.

"I'm the excitement in the fight," Mayweather said. "They say I don't put on a show. I can't help it if I'm that good, that I can dominate opponents like that. And they're going to see a show, I promise that."

Updated on Saturday, May 5, 2007 3:29 am EDT

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