Two completely contrasting characters, both at the pinnacle of the sport, finally meet in an almighty clash that would shape boxing for years to come…
This supreme matchup needed a legendary venue to do it justice, so it was only fitting that the fight would take place at the MGM Grand Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.
This was a fight boxing fans had been clamouring for years before this. At the age of 34, De La Hoya was a six-weight world champion and had already created his own legacy in the sport.
Adored by fans all over the world, and nicknamed the “Golden Boy” by the media, De La Hoya was the cash cow of boxing when it came to PPV sales. In the opposite corner was “Pretty Boy” Floyd - the glorified bad boy of boxing according to some.
Mayweather always thrived as the villain, and this came even more to the fore for this one. Ahead of the super-fight, Mayweather was four years younger than De La Hoya (30) but he was undefeated from his 37 fights and a four-division world champion.
Mayweather was also rated by the Ring Magazine as boxing’s #1 Pound for Pnd fighter in the world but there was a question mark to his name as to whether he could go up to 154-pounds and beat De La Hoya.
This fight did not really need any selling. Just knowing that the two would meet in the ring was already enough to sell the clash to the public. But there was still a lot of hostility between the pair in the lead-up.
De La Hoya-Mayweather rivalry
There was a huge build-up to this fight on HBO. To hype up the fight as much as possible, the network produced a four-part series titled ‘De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7’. It gave an insight to each fighters preparation in the weeks building up to fight night, with the final episode being released just a couple of days before they met in the ring.
At the time, this was a unique concept as a show like this had never been done before in boxing. Fast forward to today, and this type of show is the norm. Whether it is with Sky Sports, DAZN, FOX or BT Sports, we regularly see extensive preview shows to promote fights in the weeks before.
This really was a genius move from HBO and each fighters team. By the time fight night came, fans were itching at the bit to see De La Hoya and Mayweather battle it out.
During the whole build-up, De La Hoya refused to waver from his nice-guy persona, as Mayweather did everything he could to bite away at the champion.
More often than not there will be some support scattered on either side, but here it is fair to say the majority of people tuning in were hoping to see De La Hoya silence the obstreperous American.
Mayweather played his role to perfection, becoming more and more insufferable as the fight drew closer. This meant that once we finally got to Cinco de May weekend, the anticipation was quite unprecedented.
As good as the countdown was between the fighters, the drama between the trainers was equally as dramatic. Mayweather’s father - Floyd Mayweather Sr. - had been De La Hoya’s trainer for seven years starting in 2000.
The relationship between the father and son was known to be difficult, but Mayweather Sr. demanded a $2million fee as payment if he was to train De La Hoya against his son. The champion refused to pay that amount and the duo could not come to an agreement as they eventually parted ways.
De La Hoya instead went with the highly respected Freddie Roach as his trainer for this fight, which was the first time the two had worked together.
Mayweather Sr. would then reunite with his son to attend his training camp. But he was just there in the background and did not have much involvement, as Mayweather’s late uncle Roger Mayweather took on the role as sole trainer for the fight.
Being left out of things appeared to play on Mayweather’s mind, however, as weeks before the fight he decided to leave the camp after derogatory comments were made about him by his son and Roger during HBO’s 24/7 tapings.
The time for talking was finally over and the pair were in the ring ready for the first bell. As the fight started, as predicted by many, De La Hoya came out firing looking to hurt Mayweather in the early going. It was clear what De La Hoya wanted to do, as he was always looking to get his opponent on the ropes to engage in a back and forth brawl.
Unlike Mayweather, he allowed De La Hoya into the fight by allowing him to trade shots, with many believing it was an attempt to tire him for the later rounds
De La Hoya continued with his tactics for the opening four or five rounds, and had success - but Mayweather’s refusal to engage with his onslaught had an impact on his plan with Roach. Mayweather predicted before the fight that De La Hoya would gas out in the early rounds and tire in the championship rounds.
Sadly, for De La Hoya supporters, it is hard to argue that Mayweather was not right. ‘Pretty Boy’ utilised a lot of counter-punching in the early going to counteract De La Hoya’s attacks. Round by round this continued to chip away at De La Hoya, as Mayweather was gaining more control as the fight went on.
You could argue that De La Hoya was the aggressor and the better fighter during most of the first half of the fight but in the second half, momentum had swung in Mayweather’s favor.
Mayweather was producing a lot more power punches late on and he finished the stronger of the two boxers. The fight was a really intriguing watch that lived up to its billing with people torn as to who won the contest.
The scorecards read 115-113, 112-116 and 115-113 in Mayweather’s favour via split-decision.
Box Office success
Holyfield and Tyson scored an estimated 1.99 million buys while De La Hoya-Mayweather earned 2.45 million buys, which generated a record $136,853,700 in revenue.
Both fighters benefitted from this occasion with huge paydays, as De La Hoya earned around $52million, with Mayweather earning $25million.
There was due to be a rematch between the duo in September 2008 but it would never happen with Mayweather retiring for the first of three times. De La Hoya followed him 12 months later after a crushing defeat to Manny Pacquiao.
The event is a reminder of the sensational coverage by HBO, who delivered so many memorable fights during their time in boxing. Since that fight, De La Hoya has continued to promote under Golden Boy while Mayweather recently confirmed his intentions to become a trainer to the likes of up-and-coming world champion Devin Haney.
Both of them may now be retired for good but perhaps we could see the pair lock horns again in the future as promoters - now that’s something which would whet the appetite of boxing fans.
By Lewis Oldham, follow Lewis on Twitter.