LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Oscar De La Hoya has been in enough big fights to know what each one means. Some have helped build his reputation, others have made
So don't just chalk it up to hype when he says his fight Saturday night against Bernard Hopkins means more than all of them put together.
"This is for all the marbles," De La Hoya said. "This is the fight that will define my career."
For once, De La Hoya may not be exaggerating. By challenging Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight title, he's either picked a great way to stake
his claim to history or a spectacular way to end his career.
Fighting a bigger, stronger fighter who doesn't remember what it's like to lose, De La Hoya most likely will need the fight of his life to become an
undisputed champion for the first time in his spectacular career.
Oddsmakers don't figure he'll get it, making the Golden Boy a 2-1 underdog in a fight that could be the richest nonheavyweight bout.
"The only situation I've never experienced is being the underdog. It's burning me inside," De La Hoya said. "I just want to show everybody I'm a
So does Hopkins, whose hardscrabble life and stubborn insistence on doing things his way kept him from getting his first big money fight until age
"De La Hoya has done everything you can do in boxing. He made more money that any fighter probably in the history of boxing," Hopkins said. "But give
me a rich fighter and a hungry fighter, and I'll take the hungry fighter every time."
De La Hoya weighed in at 155 pounds Friday, while Hopkins was 156. The contract weight limit for the fight was 158 pounds.
Hopkins (44-2-1, 31 knockouts) will make at least $10 million for the scheduled 12-round fight, which will be televised from the MGM Grand Garden
arena on pay-per-view ($59.95) by HBO beginning at 9 p.m. ET. De La Hoya will make at least $30 million for only his second fight as a
Hopkins, who hasn't lost in 11 years and has defended his middleweight title 18 times, plans to make De La Hoya earn every penny.
"I'm going to set a fierce pace. It's going to be a Marvin Hagler-Tommy Hearns kind of fight," Hopkins said. "If he takes a deep breath, I'm telling
you, it's over."
Hopkins likes to compare himself to Hagler, another fighter who made a career out of stalking opponents with relentless pressure and wearing them down
on the inside. But he rejects this fight being compared to the 1987 middleweight title fight upset of Hagler by Sugar Ray Leonard.
"The concept may be the same, an Olympic medalist against a blue collar guy," Hopkins said. "There are similarities, but it won't be the same
Like Leonard did against Hagler, De La Hoya will have to box and move to beat Hopkins. He didn't show great power in his only middleweight fight
against Felix Sturm in June, and Hopkins figures to win any toe-to-toe exchanges.
But De La Hoya (37-3, 29 knockouts) has had a problem with stamina late in his fights, and he will have to stand up against Hopkins in spurts and hold
his own while hoping he's doing enough to win rounds.
"He doesn't have my legs, doesn't have my quickness," De La Hoya said. "Believe me, I can carry power. I will carry power."
De La Hoya hasn't been impressive since stopping Fernando Vargas in their 154-pound title fight two years ago. He lost a close decision to Shane
Mosley after fading in the final rounds last September, then had a lot of trouble against the little-known Sturm before barely pulling out a
At 31, he's made about $200 million in the ring and his fights have grossed more than a half billion dollars. De La Hoya has branched out to become a
businessman and promoter as well as a fighter, but insists his focus is back for what he sees as the biggest fight of his career.
De La Hoya said he sparred 130 rounds for Hopkins, compared with the 80 he usually spars, and went a full 12 rounds four different times.
"I'm in such great shape right now that there's no risk whatsoever," he said. "When you're prepared you feel nothing. Believe me, I'll feel
De La Hoya's trainer, Floyd Mayweather Sr., said De La Hoya will fight Hopkins much like he fought Felix Trinidad for the first nine rounds before
giving that fight away by running the last three rounds.
"He's going to get on his toes, do a little of that. He's also going to do some fighting," Mayweather said. "He's going to do it all."
De La Hoya originally wanted a rematch with Trinidad or a third fight with Mosley, but both balked at taking less money than De La Hoya. So he turned
to Hopkins, who has begged De La Hoya to fight him for years but never expected to get the challenge.
Hopkins fought for only $300,000 just two fights ago against William Joppy, and has never come close to the kind of money he will make to defend his
titles against De La Hoya. His career has been marked by battles with promoters, managers and even trainers and it seemed as if he would never get the
payday he felt he deserved.
Hopkins, who will enter the ring to a recording of Frank Sinatra crooning "My Way," sees even more opportunities ahead.
"I become the Golden Boy after this fight," Hopkins said. "I'm not Oscar, but I'll be able to say I beat the two Latin legends, Oscar and
[Edited on 17-9-2004 by Ocelot]