Voracious Pacquiao hungry for shot at De La Hoya

Updated: July 18, 2008

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

"Give me Oscar!" Manny Pacquiao has his sights firmly set on Oscar De La Hoya.

De La Hoya-Pacquiao more reality than fantasy

Immediately after new pound-for-pound king Manny Pacquiao finished wiping the floor with David Diaz to win a lightweight title June 28, Top Rank promoter Bob Arum began making plans for Pacquiao's next fight.

Publicly, Arum said Pacquiao would return Nov. 8 in Las Vegas to fight junior lightweight titlist Edwin Valero, who would move up in weight. But Valero, medically suspended in the United States for an old non-boxing related head injury until being licensed in Texas a few months ago, might still have problems securing a license in Nevada. So Arum had a backup plan: Humberto Soto, another top junior lightweight who would move up for the shot.

Unknown to Freddie Roach, Pacquiao's trainer and an integral part of the team that selects his opponents, Arum has been plotting something bigger behind the scenes -- for Pacquiao to move up to 147 pounds for a mega-money fight against Oscar De La Hoya on Dec. 6 in what the Golden Boy says will be his final fight.

The notion of that fight was first suggested several months ago by HBO broadcaster Larry Merchant. Although it was initially blasted as a fantasy mismatch by some, it has slowly gained steam.

Now, the prospect of the fight is real. It's the fight Roach wants for Pacquiao, and he just might get it.

Before Arum revealed his plan to ESPN.com, Roach, speaking this week from his Wild Card Gym in Hollywood, Calif., said it's the fight Arum should be negotiating instead of the lesser bouts with Valero or Soto.

Manny Pacquiao

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

No more soft touches for Pacquiao: The lightweight titlist is confident about his chances against De La Hoya -- at welterweight, no less.

"Oscar is looking for a fight. I think Pacquiao should fight Oscar next," said Roach, who knows De La Hoya well after training him for his May 2007 split-decision loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. "Oscar says he has one more fight left in him. If we can get Oscar to come down to 147 pounds, I told Pacquiao that maybe we weigh in around 140 and by fight time we'll be up to 145. I would never take a fight I wasn't confident my guy could win. I'm very confident he could win. Oscar is older and he can't pull the trigger anymore. If Steve Forbes can land shots on Oscar like he did [in their 150-pound fight May 3], Manny will hit him with ease. Manny will annihilate him, I feel.

"What does Soto bring to the table other than that he beat Manny's brother, Bobby? How many buys does that fight do? Less than David Diaz, I feel. He's a good fighter, but not a popular one. And Valero is unknown in the U.S. I think we should at least try to negotiate the deal, if Oscar is interested. He's shown interest before, and Pacquiao told me many times he would love to fight Oscar. The guy is going to fight one more time in his life and we don't want to miss the boat. Obviously, I want Manny to fight Ricky Hatton, but that fight isn't available right now because he's fighting in November, so let's fight Oscar. Manny could fight Oscar and then Hatton next year and retire as one of the greatest fighters of all time.

"Oscar does have that great left hook, but it's one shot. Oscar gets tired. Manny gets stronger and stronger. It's a no-brainer to make this fight. I think we can knock Oscar out. I've been dreaming about him jumping on Oscar in the first round. I know Oscar won't last. If Manny fights at a Pacquiao pace, Oscar won't last."

Little did Roach know that Arum was way ahead of him.

"Freddie is the trainer and nobody selects an opponent without running it by Freddie," Arum said. "But for Freddie to come out with these statements is counterproductive because behind the scenes there have been talks with [Golden Boy Promotions CEO Richard] Schaefer and myself about an Oscar-Pacquiao fight. So I didn't need this kind of grandstanding. The talks are serious. Richard doesn't f--- around. He's not jerking my chain."

Arum is also talking to Schaefer about De La Hoya facing one of his other stars, welterweight titlist Miguel Cotto, who would have to defeat Antonio Margarito next Saturday night.

"There is a possibility that Oscar will fight Cotto and there's a possibility he'll fight Pacquiao Dec. 6," Arum said. "Obviously, because it's Oscar, and it's ostensibly his last fight, he will get to pick who he wants to fight. My job is to make the best possible deal for whichever of my fighters he picks. Whoever De La Hoya wants to fight, I'll make a deal for."

Arum said that if a Pacquiao bout happens, Schaefer told him De La Hoya would come all the way down to 147 pounds. It would take place at Las Vegas' MGM Grand, which Schaefer has already promised De La Hoya's final fight to.

Tarver-Dawson finally set

More than a year in the making, light heavyweights Antonio Tarver (27-4, 19 KOs) and Chad Dawson (26-0, 17 KOs) finalized a deal to meet Oct. 11 at a site to be determined for Tarver's title on Showtime.

Showtime, which has spent time and money over the past couple of years on Tarver and Dawson fights against lesser opponents, finally got the big fight it wanted. Last week, Dawson even gave up his alphabet title in order to finalize the bout with Tarver rather than take a mandatory bout with interim beltholder Adrian Diaconu.

Dawson, Tarver

John Gichigi/Getty Images

Chad Dawson, left, vacated his alphabet title for a shot at Antonio Tarver.

"There's been a groundswell of anticipation for this fight for more than a year," Showtime boxing chief Ken Hershman said. "Two of the pound-for-pound best going toe-to-toe -- this is what Showtime Championship Boxing is all about."

Tarver and Dawson each won on the same April 12 card. Tarver outpointed Clinton Woods to win a title and Dawson narrowly outpointed former champ Glen Johnson to retain his.

Afterward, Tarver continued his attacks on Dawson, although he was the one who had been avoiding Dawson until now.

"Dawson would be easy pickings now,'' Tarver said. "He's not the fighter now that he was before this fight [against Johnson]. He's a wounded duck. Dawson took a lot of hard punches against Johnson, but there is a difference between getting hit by Glen Johnson and getting hit by me."

Said Dawson, upon finalizing the fight: "It's about time he stepped up to the plate. He has finally stopped making excuses and it's time we settle this. After this fight, I'm going to perform my own trick -- I'm going to make the Magic Man disappear."

Soto-Lorenzo rematch ordered

In the wake of Francisco Lorenzo's controversial fourth-round disqualification victory against Humberto Soto in an interim junior lightweight title bout June 28, the WBC (which refused to award the belt to Lorenzo) ordered a rematch. It is to take place following the Dec. 26 expiration of Lorenzo's medical suspension because of injuries in the fight.

Lorenzo, Soto

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Humberto Soto, right, will get his chance at revenge against Francisco Lorenzo.

Because of the length of the suspension due to severe cuts, Soto can fight for the belt by the end of October. In a symbolic move, the WBC also won't recognize Lorenzo's victory, instead calling it a no contest. However, the result still goes down officially as a Lorenzo win according to official record keeper Fight Fax. The WBC also fined Lorenzo $2,000 "for his unsportsmanlike actions in the ring, which were successful in influencing the referee's decision." The fine will be donated to a children's hospital in Lorenzo's native Dominican Republic.

Soto was thrashing Lorenzo and had knocked him down twice when he hit Lorenzo with a grazing shot behind the head after the second knockdown. Referee Joe Cortez, in a move universally criticized, ruled the blow was intentional and that Lorenzo was unable to continue.

Also, the WBC announced that Manny Pacquiao, its junior lightweight champion and now lightweight titleholder after defeating David Diaz in the main event, has until July 28 to notify the organization of which belt he'll keep. He's expected to keep the lightweight belt.

Dan Rafael is the boxing writer for ESPN.com.


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• Part of the fallout from Thursday's agreement for Kelly Pavlik to meet Bernard Hopkins Oct. 18 on HBO PPV means the Shane Mosley-Ricardo Mayorga HBO PPV fight slated for Oct. 11 is moving. The fight will shift to Sept. 27, and the good news for fight fans is that it will go on HBO instead of PPV, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the plan. The shift helps HBO and Golden Boy because it takes a marginal pay-per-view event and moves it away from Showtime's stacked Oct. 11 telecast, which will include the Antonio Tarver-Chad Dawson light heavyweight title bout and same-day taped coverage of the Samuel Peter-Vitali Klitschko heavyweight title fight. The Mosley-Mayorga move is not official yet, however, because Mayorga promoter Don King, who has a 45 percent stake in the promotion, hasn't signed off yet. The venue, Staples Center in Los Angeles, probably will move slightly south to the tennis center at Home Depot Center in Carson, a facility owned by AEG, which also operates Staples Center.


• Cruiserweight champion David Haye's jump to heavyweight, scheduled for Oct. 18 in London, has been postponed. Haye, who eventually wants to challenge Wladimir Klitschko, suffered a minor arm injury, according to Golden Boy, which recently signed him. Haye's fight will be rescheduled at the O2 Arena in November or December.


• Junior welterweight titlist Timothy Bradley (22-0, 11 KOs), who outpointed Junior Witter for a belt May 10, will make his first defense Sept. 13 in the televised opener on Showtime's Nate Campbell-Joan Guzman lightweight title bout, Bradley co-promoter Gary Shaw told ESPN.com. No opponent has been signed but two fighters being considered are ex-titleholders Juan Urango and Vivian Harris.


• Welterweight titlist Andre Berto (22-0, 19 KOs), who stopped Miki Rodriguez in the seventh round June 21 to claim the belt Floyd Mayweather vacated upon his retirement, is being lined up to make his first defense against Steve Forbes, an ex-junior lightweight titlist and the second-season runner up on "The Contender." Forbes also gave Oscar De La Hoya a tough fight May 3 despite losing a lopsided decision at 150 pounds. The tentative date is Oct. 4 on HBO's "Boxing After Dark," Berto promoter Lou DiBella told ESPN.com. "Forbes wants the fight and ['Contender' promoter] Jeff Wald and I have an agreement in principle, but it's pending a few things with HBO, which has no problem with the fight. Andre is a work in progress and Forbes can fight his butt off. He touched up Oscar even though Oscar won the majority of the rounds. I'd love to see what my guy could do against Forbes and let people draw their own conclusions." If HBO has its way, the card will include Gary Shaw-promoted bouts involving rising prospects Yuriorkis Gamboa and Alfredo Angulo. DiBella prefers not to share a date with Shaw, which is one of the issues he must work out with HBO.


• Unified junior bantamweight titleholder Cristian Mijares (35-3-2, 14 KOs), who unified two belts by outpointing Alexander Munoz May 17, returns Aug. 30 in Monterrey, Mexico, to face Chatchai Sasakul (64-3, 39 KOs), an ex-flyweight titlist who lost his belt to Manny Pacquiao via knockout in 1998. Should Mijares win, co-promoter DiBella told ESPN.com that he's talking with Showtime about matching Mijares in a unification match with the winner of the Aug. 2 Showtime fight between titleholder Dimitri Kirilov and Vic Darchinyan. DiBella said he's also talked to Kirilov promoter Cedric Kushner and Darchinyan promoter Shaw about the fight and everyone is interested in the scenario. If the fight is made, it could happen Nov. 1 on Showtime, DiBella said. He's also been talking with promoter Bob Arum about matching Mijares with Fernando Montiel in a unification bout, but he and Arum agree that it's too big of a fight not to be a main event on a major show and there are no dates left this year on Showtime or HBO. "Mijares wants to unify the division, so we can do the Kirilov-Darchinyan winner and then go for Montiel in the next fight when there are more dates available," DiBella said.


• Former heavyweight titleholder Oleg Maskaev (34-6, 26 KOs), who lost his belt when Samuel Peter stopped him in the seventh round March 8, returns Sept. 6, manager Fred Kesch told ESPN.com. Kesch said contracts have been signed for Maskaev to face Robert Hawkins (27-11, 7 KOs), who has lost seven of his last nine fights, outdoors at Moscow's Red Square. It will be the first fight to take place there. Maskaev also fought the first heavyweight title match in Russia when he defended his belt against Peter Okhello in December 2006. When they were both in their fourth pro fight, Maskaev stopped Hawkins in the fourth round in 1995. "We're anxious to see how Oleg looks and feels in his first fight back," Kesch said. "He still has the desire. We'll do whatever we can to move upwards. Hopefully, we can get him a title shot again."


• For months, Golden Boy and former three-division champ Marco Antonio Barrera, who plans to end his brief retirement, have not seen eye-to-eye. It came to a head when they agreed to end their association. Golden Boy announced it released Barrera from his promotional agreement and that Barrera was giving up a partnership position with the company that signed him with much fanfare in 2003. "Marco is ready to move in new direction with respect to his boxing career," Golden Boy boss De La Hoya said. "We respect him and want to honor his decision to make a change. We wish him the best of luck and look forward to the prospects of working with him again in the future." Said Barrera: "While I have a great respect for Oscar De La Hoya and Golden Boy Promotions, I have decided that I wanted to take a new path with respect to my boxing career. I am pleased that we will move forward as friends."


• Heavyweight Alexander Povetkin (15-0, 11 KOs), the 2004 Olympic super heavyweight gold medalist, looms as the mandatory challenger for unified titleholder Wladimir Klitschko, but only if Povetkin defeats heavy underdog Taurus Sykes (25-4, 7 KOs) Saturday in his home city of Chekhov, Russia. "There is a lot at stake for me," Povetkin said. "I need to win to get the Klitschko fight. And I will allow nobody to take that away from me. A victory over Sykes is all that matters to me now. I watched the tape of Sykes' fight against Hasim Rahman. He is a tough opponent and very uncomfortable to box." Sykes aims to be a spoiler: "I am not just filling the void ahead of the Klitschko fight. I came here to win. And I am very confident I will do just that."


• Joe Calzaghe has already vacated one of his super middleweight titles and it's just a matter of time until he also relinquishes his WBO version, so the organization is making plans to fill it. It approved a match between Canada's Jean Pascal (21-0, 14 KOs) and Karoly Balzsay (19-0, 14 KOs) of Hungary for the interim belt with the winner to become the full titleholder once Calzaghe officially vacates. A purse bid for Pascal-Balzsay is scheduled for Tuesday. Minimum bid: $300,000. The opportunity to fight for a belt is why Pascal withdrew from an Aug. 1 ESPN2 bout against Fulgencio Zuniga and was replaced by Sebastien Demers.


• The European Boxing Union has overturned the July 4 draw rendered in the bout between Sinan Samil Sam and Paolo Vidoz for the vacant European heavyweight title and awarded the belt to Sam. It was originally ruled a draw after a judge crossed out his scoring of the 12th round from 10-10 to 10-9 for Vidoz (25-5, 14 KOs). The change cost Sam (31-4, 16 KOs) the victory, but the judge, according to Sam promoter Arena-Box Promotion, admitted to making a mistake. The EBU accepted the admission, changed the round back to 10-10 and ruled a split-decision win for Sam.



"I'm sure he'll be watching. I'm sure he wants to see who will win the fight and how real fighters fight." -- Antonio Margarito, who challenges for Miguel Cotto's welterweight title July 26 (HBO PPV), taking a shot at Floyd Mayweather when asked if he thought the retired star would be tuning in to the much-anticipated match.