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SCOTT SIMON, host:

This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Coming up, what happened to all those jetpacks we were supposed to wear? Somebody got burned. But first, time for sports.

(Soundbite of music)

SIMON: Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather will tap gloves tonight at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. There hasn't been this much excitement about a championship fight since, well, a young person can't remember when. We're joined now by our sports commentator here on WEEKEND EDITION, Ron Rapoport.

Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON RAPOPORT: Thank you, Scott.

SIMON: Sports Illustrated cover story. You know, I almost can't remember the last time there was a cover story about - really, I can't. It calls it the fight to save boxing. Is that what it really amounts to?

RAPOPORT: Oh, poor Oscar. I mean, he's beefed up for this fight, Scott, but may be not enough to carry the whole sport on his back - and he's been carrying this load a long time. You know, Scott, I covered Oscar De La Hoya when he was first supposed to save boxing in the Olympics. That was the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. So it's been a long haul.

SIMON: Now, I remember when we used to say that boxing was having problems because, you know, the most talented athletes don't want to get their faces smashed in, so they'd play baseball or football or basketball. Now, is it the rise of these sports where men just take off their clothes and pummel each other in cages that makes it hard for something like boxing that has, you know, rules and referees to compete?

RAPOPORT: Well, that's a part of it. But really, Scott, here is the whole problem with boxing. Can you tell me the name of the heavyweight champion of the world?

SIMON: No. But there are eight or nine of them at this point.

RAPOPORT: Well, it's a trick question because there are four, and any of them could walk down the street and not get arrested. Now, all you have to think is the Muhammad Ali, George Foreman, Mike Tyson.

SIMON: Actually, of those four, probably a couple of them could easily get arrested but it wouldn't make the news because we don't know who they are, yeah.

RAPOPORT: There you go. There you go. But that - it's the heavyweight division that carries the sport. They are not just doing their part, and so that leaves it to a guy like Oscar, and he's really the only one out there. And Scott, nobody can say he hasn't done his part.

SIMON: Yeah.

RAPOPORT: His fights, when this one is over, will have generated close to half a billion dollars in revenue on pay-per-view. But, Scott, he's only one guy. And if he's going to be responsible for saving boxing, well, in the last 15 years, I'm afraid it's going downhill on his watch.

SIMON: Floyd Mayweather is a very fine opponent, and he's four years younger than Oscar De La Hoya, and he has dominated all of his recent opponents.

RAPOPORT: Well, that's why I think he's going to win, Scott. He also wants this fight very, very badly because this would be the one thing that he hasn't done, which is beat, you know, the Golden Boy.

Now, Oscar, on the other hand, is getting older. He has lost two of his last three fights. He's got all the money in the world. He doesn't have the kind of motivation. So I really think that this is Floyd's fight.

SIMON: Have you seen any of these HBO reality-type series that's been following both the fighters?

RAPOPORT: Oh, it's hilarious. I just love this stuff. It's kind of what it's come to now. You've got to sell the fight. And it's funny because they've done some of the traditional things, Scott, this old-fashioned 11 city barnstorming tour. But then you go to this wonderful HBO series, which is just so funny and so modern and something brand new, and, you know, HBO is sponsoring the pay-per-view, and they are the ones who are going to show you the fight, you know, a week or two out of it. So they're kind of promoting the thing. But it's really interesting that they have to go to these new ways of promoting. I expect maybe, one day we'll see a fight on YouTube. What do you think?

SIMON: Well, I think you can already see them. They're just unlicensed but it's free.

Ron, thanks very much.

Ron Rapoport, our sports commentator here on WEEKEND EDITION.

RAPOPORT: Thank you, Scott.

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