Tonight marks the biggest night of the year for the sport of boxing, although the welterweight matchup between Oscar de la Hoya and Manny Pacquiao is nothing more than a curious exhibition with tens of millions of dollars on the table. De la Hoya, who at this point in his career is more of an executive than a world championship boxer picked this fight for two clear reasons, the first of which is that Pacquiao is universally considered to be the top pound-for-pound boxer on the planet who brings with him a massive fanbase eager to fork over their currency (be it American, Phillipino, or otherwise). Secondly by selecting an opponent whose walking around weight is roughly 30 pounds lighter than his own, meaning he's confident that Pacquiao, for all his speed and ability, cannot hurt him. What does make this fight interesting however (aside from the pedigrees of the two competitors) is how they had to alter their training regimens to meet at (actually under) the welterweight limit of 147 pounds.
Both fighters surprised pretty much everyone at yesterday's weight in, de la Hoya for weighing a couple of pounds less than expected at 145 and Pacquiao for coming in a couple of pounds more than expected at 142. What this means is that de la Hoya probably pushed himself a bit too far in order to come down in weight for the fight, something Pacquiao's camp noted when he was seen running the track in a plastic suit in recent days. For de la Hoya the big question is going to be conditioning, and whether or not he can hold on in the championship rounds, something that's dogged him in the past.
For Pacquiao coming in at 142 is a pretty clear sign that his camp was concerned over the size difference, and wanted to even things up as much as possible. I have no damn clue how Pacman put on that weight, because as you can see doesn't have any extra flesh on that body despite jumping up two weight classes. Regardless, he may not be quite as fast as we've seen in the past, but he'll still be able to run circles around his competitor.
As for a prediction, frankly I have no damn clue what's going to happen. For months I've been operating on the presumption that de la Hoya is just far too big for Pacquiao, but now that the fight has arrived I'm not so sure. If Pacquiao can keep things close in the first half of the fight he can steal this thing in the final rounds as de la Hoya begins to wilt with age and the effects of his weight loss. Frankly I wouldn't be surprised by any outcome, but for now I'm sticking with de la Hoya in a decision. Because hey, Vegas is more his turn than it is Manny's, and I don't see Pacman doing enough to over the course of the fight to win on points.
If you are planning to order the fight tonight be sure not to miss the lead-in fights, which promise to provide the best action of the evening. The undercard may not be stacked with names recognizable to the casual observer, but promoters Bob Arum and Golden Boy Promotions have included a few of the sports most sensational rising stars in the festivities. So forget about the Big 12 title game (the Okies are going to roll anyways) and tune in to watch the incredible knockout power of guys like "Vicious" Victor Ortiz and Juan Manuel (Juanma) Lopez. Guys like this are the future of the sport, and it's great to see them getting a piece of the spotlight on what's sure to be the biggest pay-per-view event of the year.