I settle in at Joy’s Diner to my usual Crab Benedict with red potatoes and a cup of black coffee. I’ve been coming to Joy’s for almost ten years now and the Crab Benedict never disappoints. I’m just about to take my first cup of coffee when my dear friend Jeff Soriano sits down next to me.
It’s our ritual before each big fight to meet the week prior and make our predictions. I’m a huge Joe Calzaghe fan and prodigiously predicted his domination over Roy Jones Jr. just a few weeks back. We're here to discuss the upcoming Oscar De La Hoya—Manny Pacquaio fight in Vegas on Saturday night.
“Manny in a decision.” He says as a matter of fact.
“You’re crazy.” I reply before taking a gulp of the black nectar. It’s got to be some kind of Columbian roast. Not freeze dried, but fresh and beautiful.
“I know. De La Hoya is the heavy favorite. He’s taller, bigger, and he’s got a left hook that could stop a train.”
“You forgot about a jab that could break a brick.” I remind him.
“Right, who can forget about the De La Hoya jab?” Jeff agrees before ordering a ham and cheese omelet.
“So why exactly will Manny Pacquiao win this fight?” I ask.
“Well, De La Hoya will sit back and use his height and jab. He’ll wait for Manny to come inside before barraging him with left hooks, right?”
“Yes.” I agreed.
“And Manny is accustomed to being the stronger fighter. The pursuer. Against Oscar, he won’t have the strength advantage. He’s a brawler and he’ll have to be a boxer.”
My Crab Benedict is delivered with steam rising from the eggs and potatoes. I douse it with salt and Tabasco and took my first big bite, allowing the fresh crab to dissolve on my tongue and the tasty hollandaise to settle down my throat.
“You’re not exactly convincing me.” I said.
“The intangibles.” Jeff explains.
I nodded my head and waited for him to explain his rationale. Jeff was a pure bred Filipino and I knew, deep down, he could never vote against a countrymen. His father had been a boxer as well as his brother and just about every male in his family. He knew the pugilistic art.
“Manny is being trained by Freddie Roach. Some nice drama to this fight is that Roach was a fill-in in the De La Hoya loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. Oscar blames Roach for the loss and a lousy game plan. Roach blames Oscar for that loss and that Oscar reneged on a promise that Roach would train him for the rest of his career.”
“OK.” I said, that sounded reasonable enough.
“Oscar isn’t being trained by Floyd Mayweather Sr., his usual trainer, for this fight. He’s being trained by Ignacio “Nacho” Beristain. Someone he’s never trained with before. I don’t care what anyone says. Changing trainers against a world-class fighter like Pacquaio just isn’t a good idea. And, Roach knows De La Hoya inside and out.
He’ll have Manny move laterally and constantly bob and weave. He'll come a Oscar from various angles with wild hooks and upper-cuts. Oscar is going to be surprised by Manny’s power as well. For a little guy, he hits very, very hard.”
I continued to munch on my Benedict and slurp my coffee. The warm crab filled my belly and I immediately felt a deep contentment. Jeff’s omelet was delivered and he took a few bites, allowing the cheddar cheese to drip down his fork, before continuing.
“Oscar is 8-5 in his last thirteen fights. His last fight against Steve Forbes was more of a sparring match. He looked thoroughly outclassed against Floyd Mayweather Jr. I have to wonder, at 35, how much he has left in the tank? I think he’s lost a lot of his quickness.” Jeff continued.
I thought about his reasons and still wasn’t convinced. Oscar just looks too big, too long, and too smart for Manny.
“I don’t think that Manny has ever fought anyone as smart as De La Hoya. All those Mexican boxers he beat such as Marquez, Berrera, and Morales were brawlers. They were tough and hard but, like most Mexican fighters, lived the philosophy of getting hit three times for every one punch. De La Hoya is too smart. He’ll stay away and jab him to death. Wait for his openings.” I countered.
Jeff thought about this for a moment, dug into his omelet, before offering a reply.
“I think Manny’s going to bring De La Hoya down to the street. I think he’s going to make this a brawl. Guess what? I don’t think Oscar, at this point in his career, wants that fight. He’s the Pretty Boy. He’s more concerned with gate receipts than anything else. You think he’s going to risk that face at this point? Heck no. Manny will win this fight because he’s hungrier and has something to prove.”
I finished my Benedict, thoroughly satisfied and content. I paid both our bills, took a last sip of the black coffee, and got up to leave.
“Sorry pal, you’re being sentimental. Oscar will drop him in eight and it won’t be that close.” I said before slapping him on the back, exiting Joy’s, and looking forward to, what could be, a pretty decent fight.