Pac-Man and the Golden Boy

At first it was an unlikely possibility. Then it was off. Now it's finally on. No, it's not the proposed Jesse Brinkley-Joey Gilbert matchup that Northern Nevada boxing fans have not so patiently been waiting for since 2004.

But when Oscar De La Hoya and Manny Pacquiao get in the ring 94 days from now, pugilistic aficionados worldwide will find out if all of the hype makes for all kinds of history.

From the standpoint of the 35-year-old De La Hoya, 39-5 with 30 knockouts, the only kind of history he can make by fighting a much smaller "Pac-Man" is if the Dec. 6 fight breaks the record $120 million in pay-per-view revenue and 2.15 million PPV buys his May 5, 2007, meeting with Floyd Mayweather generated.

De La Hoya, a 1992 United States Olympic gold medallist and the only boxer to win world titles in six different weight divisions, has pretty much done all he can do in the sport " and unfortunately that includes avoiding the path of most resistance in pursuit of the all-mighty dollar.

Rather than meeting someone his own size " say WBA welterweight titlist Antonio Margarito or WBO beltholder Paul Williams " the 5-foot-10 1⁄2 "Golden Boy" has chosen instead to face the 5-6 1⁄2 Pacquiao, who will move up from 135 pounds to 147.

And De La Hoya, ever the wheeler-dealer, will now take only a 67-33 slice of the pie rather than 70-30.

Not that being accused of ducking stronger competition in favor of megabucks will bother the already mega-wealthy, business-minded De La Hoya or his legion of fans, distaff or otherwise.

As for the 29-year-old Pacquiao, 47-3-2 (35), earning 33 percent of what could conceivably end up as the richest gate in history is not his primary motivation in meeting De La Hoya. It also will have nothing to do with belts, as the WBC lightweight champ will not acquire any new hardware if he pulls off the mother of all upsets at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

For Pacquiao, the most exciting boxer in the sport (even crime and war in his native Philippines comes to a halt during his matches), it's more about defending national and personal honor and undertaking a near impossible challenge more than it is taking home the biggest slice of the pie.

It's an interesting contrast: In one corner is the puling De La Hoya, who in his book "American Son" snivels about being unable to win over Mexican fans as a Mexican-American. In the other is Pacquiao, who with his hell-bent-for-leather style commands not only the undying loyalty of Filipino fans everywhere, but is winning over old-school Mexicans who covet machismo and a warrior's code more than the safety- and money-first model of De La Hoya.

As was the case with a young Mike Tyson, when Pacquiao takes to the ring, ethnicity takes a backseat to excitement and the awe of imminent destruction.

Now, rather than just monopolizing the hearts and minds of those who know only the here and now, the Fightin' Filipino also has a chance to infuse some new life into the hardened arteries of boxing historians, who will be forced to invoke the name of Henry Armstrong if Pacquiao can "historize" De La Hoya.

In the days before the evolution of the WBC, WBA, IBF and WBO " not to mention the junior divisions " Armstrong had arguably the greatest run of any fighter ever. In his 23rd fight of 1937 (he would have 27 bouts that year), "Homicide Hank," a.k.a. "Hurricane Henry," defeated Petey Sarron for the world featherweight championship.

Armstrong was not as busy in 1938, but in the 11th of his 14 fights that year he topped Hall of Famer Barney Ross for the lightweight crown. In his next bout, weighing in at 134 pounds, Armstrong defeated another Hall of Famer " Lou Ambers " for the welterweight title.

Along the way to defending his 147-pound belt a division-record 19 times, Armstrong defeated Ceferino Garcia, against whom he could manage only a 10-round draw when he met him for Garcia's middleweight crown in 1940. Many thought the 5-foot-5 1/2, 142-pound Armstrong, who ended his career 149-21-10 (101), was robbed of a victory.

Oh well, the desensitized denizens of the here and now proclaim, the days of fighting 20-40 times a year are over and Pacquiao and De La Hoya will be captured in High-Def, not forever imprisoned in black-and-white films.

Be that as it may, history will be center stage when Pacquiao, who weighed 106 pounds for his pro debut in 1995, will be at a 6-inch reach disadvantage when he faces De La Hoya.

Pacquiao will have nothing to lose " even with a loss " and everything to gain.

Unfortunately for the greedy Golden Boy, whose name has already begun to lose its luster, if the Pac-Man gobbles him up, history will be prove to be even more unkind.


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