DEBBIE ELLIOTT, host:
Boxing is no longer the staple of American sports when the likes of Muhammad Ali, Joe Frazier and Sugar Ray Leonard were household names. But boxing enthusiasts are hoping a fight tonight in Las Vegas could change that.
The bout between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather has been touted as the fight of the decade and is being hyped accordingly. In the lead up to the pay-per-view match tonight, HBO has been running a reality series, following the boxers as they train, and the characters are classic. Squeaky-clean Hollywood heartthrob De la Hoya, up against the arrogant, money-flashing Mayweather.
(Soundbite of HBO's "De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7")
Mr. OSCAR DE LA HOYA (Boxer): It takes a great deal to get my motors running. But when you get them going, you don't want to make me your enemy.
Mr. FLOYD MAYWEATHER (Boxer): That boy (unintelligible) away from you.
Unidentified Man: The unprecedented access, the unvarnished truth.
ELLIOTT: To find out if this fight can really save the sport, we turned to Jackie Kallen, a boxing manager and promoter who has known both fighters since they started their careers. She joins us from Detroit.
Thanks for being with us.
Ms. JACKIE KALLEN (Promoter; Boxing Manager; Author, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot: A Fight Plan for Dealing With All of Life's Hard"): My pleasure.
ELLIOTT: So how can this fight raise the profile of boxing?
Ms. KALLEN: Well, this fight is the most exciting match-up that we have had in years in boxing. You see, we've lost a lot of our audience to mixed martial arts - UFC.
ELLIOTT: When you say UFC, you're talking about Ultimate Fighting Championship, and this is where people do more than box when they're in the ring? They have to use their feet, their arms.
Ms. KALLEN: Their elbows, basically, no-holds barred. It's just, for some reason, caught on and it outsells boxing in every market.
ELLIOTT: Do you that's the only reason that boxing has been on the decline, or are there other reasons that boxing...
Ms. KALLEN: Well, there's other reasons too. I mean, boxing has been on the decline because we don't have any real stars right now in the sport. The most significant champion that we have in the heavyweight division is Russian.
ELLIOTT: Let's talk a little bit about these two fighters. First, we have Oscar De La Hoya who is known as the Golden Boy, a nickname he earned - 21 gold at the '92 Olympics in Barcelona. And he has been a popular figure in boxing ever since, has he not?
Ms. KALLEN: Well, he's an absolute doll anyways. He used to fight - his early fights were on the undercards of James Toney, a fighter that I used to manage. So we saw a lot of Oscar in his early years. His early problems were that the Mexicans didn't consider him a Mexican fighter because he is Mexican American born in America.
So when he would fight a fighter like Julio Cesar Chavez who was a true Mexican fighter, they weren't pulling for Oscar. But now that Oscar is fighting an African-American, all the Mexican Americans are a hundred percent behind Oscar. So right now, he has really developed a strong fan base among Latinos and Hispanics.
And conversely, Floyd Mayweather, who's the antithesis of him in every way, has more of a street following, more of the hip-hop crowd. And so all of his followers love the fact that he is fresh. He is right out there, wears all the bling, and he really puts himself out there. So they really love that.
But that makes for a really, really good match-up because in every good match-up, you have the good guy that you're pulling for and you have the bad guy. And they've each become, defined, as the good guy, Oscar, and bad guy, Floyd.
So I think that's...
ELLIOTT: Is that for real, though, or is this all just part of a hype?
Ms. KALLEN: No. It's pretty much - I know them both. I've known Floyd for years. We're both from Michigan. He's a nice kid. He is a really nice kid. But he does have that street edge to him. You know, a lot of it's because Oscar is a very successful, wealthy businessman. He runs his own promotional company now.
Floyd, who's also made not as much as Oscar, but he's made a lot of money, lives a very lavish lifestyle. He's just flashier about it. So if you like that kind of flash, you like Floyd. If you don't, then you want to see him get his head knocked off.
ELLIOTT: Now, he doesn't get his head knocked off very often. He's unbeaten.
Ms. KALLEN: Floyd Mayweather is undefeated but he's never been in with anybody quite like Oscar De La Hoya. So I think that he's in for a real lesson tonight in adversity. I really wouldn't sell Oscar short. A lot of people are, you know, clear-cut predicting that Floyd's going to totally annihilate him, and that seems to be the popular opinion.
But knowing both of them and knowing boxing, the fight could go one or two ways. If Floyd boxes him, you know, jabs and moves and stays on his, what they call in boxing, stay on your bicycle and just keep pedaling back, it could be a very boring fight with Oscar trying to chase him all night, and one round blending into another. And I can't see that as being a fabulous fight that people are going to talk about for months.
But if Oscar can get him to stand still on one spot and engage with him in actual, you know, hand-to-hand combat and he gets on the inside and they start brawling, then I think you're going to see a hell of a fight, because I think they are both going to really dig deep and try to knock each other out.
ELLIOTT: Jackie Kallen, thank you for speaking with us.
Ms. KALLEN: My pleasure. Enjoy the fight tonight.
ELLIOTT: Jackie Kallen is a boxing manager and promoter, and the author of "Hit Me With Your Best Shot: A Fight Plan for Dealing With All of Life's Hard Knocks."
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