Wed, Dec 03, 2008 - Page 19 News List

De la Hoya, Pacman set to face off in Vegas

AFP , LOS ANGELES

Boxer Oscar de la Hoya lifts his arms in front of a statue of himself in Los Angeles, California, on Monday.

PHOTO: AP

Oscar de la Hoya saw a statue of his likeness unveiled in front of Staples Center arena on Monday, while Manny Pacquiao kept a relatively low profile as both boxers prepared to head to Las Vegas for their “Dream Match” megafight on Saturday.

“Golden Boy” de la Hoya was his usual outgoing self as fans turned out to see the statue unveiled before the arena in downtown Los Angeles, home of the NBA’s Lakers and the NHL’s Kings.

“If I can touch one person and make them think, ‘I can do it,’ my goal is accomplished,” de la Hoya told the crowd as his likeness joined those representing basketball star Magic Johnson and ice hockey great Wayne Gretzky.

De la Hoya was scheduled to fly later on Monday to Las Vegas for the final build-up to his fight against Filipino hero Pacquiao — the reigning World Boxing Council lightweight champion and acknowledged top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

The intriguing 12-round, non-title bout will be contested at the 147 welterweight limit.

De la Hoya, who has won world titles in six different weight classes, hasn’t fought at as low a weight as 147 pounds in seven years.

Pacquiao will, in contrast, be moving up to welterweight for the first time. He will enter the ring 47-3 with two drawn and 35 knockouts, while de la Hoya brings a record of 39-5 with 30 knockouts.

Trainer Freddie Roach insists Pacquiao’s speed will help make up for what he gives away in size, and the fighter himself said the support of his legion of Filipino fans will lift him.

“I feel their strength behind me,” Pacquiao said. “Whenever I fight, I fight for my country.”

The blockbuster bout between the sport’s marquee names is expected to generate a total purse of some US$100 million, with 65 percent going to de la Hoya and 35 percent to Pacquiao.

The 16,000 tickets — most with a face value of US$1,500 — sold out within two hours of going on sale.

While de la Hoya set off for Vegas from his native Los Angeles amid the hoopla of the Staples Center ceremony, Pacquiao toned down his departure.

He canceled a planned public event on Monday to concentrate with Roach on putting the finishing touches to their plans for taking on de la Hoya.

Both fighters were to be officially welcomed in Las Vegas yesterday, with the weigh-in scheduled for Friday.

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