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July 24, 2014

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BOXING:

Buildup aside, this one feels big

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Steve Marcus

Oscar De La Hoya hits a speed bag during a media day workout at his high-altitude training camp in Big Bear, Calif., Wednesday. He’s slimmed down for his Dec. 6 welterweight fight with Manny Pacquiao.

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De La Hoya, center, is being trained at Big Bear by Ignacio "Nacho" Beristain, left, with consulting by the legendary Angelo Dundee, right, who worked with such champions as Muhammad Ali and George Foreman. De La Hoya says Beristain has identified flaws in the his performance in the five big fights he's lost since 1999, and he's working on them.

IF YOU GO

Who: Oscar De La Hoya vs. Manny Pacquiao

When: Dec. 6

Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena

Tickets: Sold out

TV: Pay per view, $54.95

His latest view from the corner suits Angelo Dundee just fine.

A hall of fame trainer who has worked with Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard, Dundee surveyed the scene at Oscar De La Hoya’s training camp last week, and he liked what he saw.

Across the gym at the Summit High Altitude Training Center, De La Hoya was holding court before a phalanx of TV news cameras, breaking down various aspects of his Dec. 6 showdown with Manny Pacquiao.

“I haven’t seen this kind of excitement since Muhammad,” Dundee said. “I’m getting a kick out of watching all the excitement from the background here. The fans are excited, and it seems like all of boxing is excited.

“If that doesn’t happen with these big fights, we’re dead.”

The welterweight showdown at the MGM Grand Garden Arena matches two of the most prominent names in the sport, a six-division champion in De La Hoya against the reigning pound-for-pound boss in Pacquiao.

Dundee, whose presence underscores the magnitude of the fight, accepted an offer to work as a special adviser to De La Hoya in the role of aide-de-camp to trainer Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain.

“My voice will be through Nacho, who I’ve known for years,” Dundee said. “I won’t be the man in corner. But I have been watching Oscar train, and he’s just blowing through these workouts. He reminds me of an old-time fighter with the way he works and his desire to work. He’s enjoying it, and that’s what important.

“If Oscar had been around during the era when we had 20-round fights, he would have fit right in.”

Dundee called De La Hoya, with his charismatic personality and international fan base, the modern-day “pied piper of boxing.”

The last man to hold that honorary title was Ali, Dundee said.

“We have two great boxers fighting each other,” Dundee, 87, said. “The public knows both fighters. They don’t have to speak Russian for a change. We need this fight for boxing.”

The announcement of De La Hoya-Pacquiao generated a bit of controversy because of the size difference between the two men.

De La Hoya, at 5-foot-10 1/2, stands four inches taller than Pacquiao. He holds a reach advantage of 73 inches to 67 inches.

It will be De La Hoya’s first fight at welterweight (147 pounds) since he stopped Arturo Gatti in 2001. Since then, De La Hoya has fought mostly at 154 pounds but as high as middleweight.

Pacquiao has fought as high as lightweight (135 pounds) only once in 52 professional bouts.

Dundee, in his inimitable way, dismissed any concerns.

“Height, weight, that’s all (malarkey),” Dundee said, except he didn’t say malarkey. “This is a tough fight against a tough, aggressive fighter. Oscar ain’t gonna listen to that (malarkey). You’ve got two guys who are very pliable, very talented guys. Manny Pacquiao is a hell of a fighter.

“But the thing is, in this profession, there’s always one guy who can lick the other guy. You’ll see it that night. De La Hoya is gonna show him who’s in charge.”

Certainly there are no worries about De La Hoya failing to make weight. Looking noticeably slimmer and with more defined facial features than in the buildups to his recent fights, De La Hoya weighed in at 146 pounds Wednesday, a pound below the welterweight limit.

Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 knockouts) weighed 150 to 151 pounds at his training camp in Los Angeles last week.

“It’s official,” said Richard Schaefer, De La Hoya’s business partner in Golden Boy Promotions. “Manny Pacquiao is the bigger man.”

Schaefer quipped that even the boxer’s silhouette in the Golden Boy logo had been resized to reflect De La Hoya’s more slender physique.

“His weight has been perfect,” said Rob Garcia, De La Hoya’s strength and conditioning coach, “although I’m not really concerned with weight per se at this particular moment. I’m concerned with strength and stamina. If his diet is giving him enough energy to expend so that he can do these hard workouts and not be completely drained or look weak, then we’re doing our job.

“And he is filled with energy. He can’t wait for the next apparatus and what’s next for him in each workout. We take him through the course and see how his energy level is, and it’s right where we want him to be.”

De La Hoya’s resting pulse rate is 35 beats per minute, Garcia said, which compares favorably with a typical rate of 40 to 41 for an Olympic marathoner.

“We’ve done our homework,” Garcia said. “Now it’s just a matter of letting Nacho put the finishing touches on Oscar’s defensive schemes and his offensive attack.”

Beristain has paid particular attention to De La Hoya’s left hook, which figures to be his most effective weapon in the fight — if he can establish it.

“Coming down in weight has actually brought out more power in my left hook, which is incredible,” De La Hoya said. “That’s Nacho’s influence. He’s helped me to become more flexible and to bring out more snap on my punches. He’s helping me make my punches longer, when in other fights they were often too short.”

The rap against De La Hoya — as the members of Pacquiao’s camp are sure to emphasize as the bout approaches — is that he has lost his five biggest fights since 1999, including close decisions to Felix Trinidad, to Shane Mosley twice and to Floyd Mayweather Jr. (He was also knocked out by Bernard Hopkins in 2004).

“Nacho saw some flaws in some of my past fights,” De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) said. “In the big fights where the decision could have gone either way, his point was that I would sometimes be inactive in the ring for 30-second stretches. If I would have been able to just throw one good jab in there, it would have kept me active and maybe made the difference in winning the fight.”

Training with Beristain is a fresh approach for De La Hoya, who has had the likes of Floyd Mayweather Sr. and Freddie Roach in his corner in previous fights. So does his return to Big Bear, with its 6,752-foot altitude, after an absence of six years. De La Hoya trained in Puerto Rico in the interim.

“I missed what Big Bear was all about,” De La Hoya said. “The altitude is a killer, and you have to work twice as hard to get in shape. But returning here is the best decision I could have made.”

He also draws inspiration from Dundee and his years of boxing experience, De La Hoya said.

“Just listening to the stories he has to tell of all of the great champions he has worked with is motivation for me,” De La Hoya said. “To think that I have these two men, Nacho and Angelo Dundee, in my corner, two legends who combined have trained so many world champions, is mind-boggling.”

Dundee, for his part, never fails to blanch at terms such as “legendary.”

“I ain’t done nothing,” Dundee said. “My fighters did it all. You’re only as good as the guy on the stool.”

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