De La Hoya Wins UnimpressivelyDateline: 05/23/99
Oscar de la Hoya (31-0, 25 KOs) did what he had to do against Oba Carr (48-3-1, 28 KOs) to retain his WBC welterwight title and preserve his September 18 date with Felix Trinidad, but make no mistake -- this was no ordinary tune-up fight. De La Hoya looked unsure of himself at times and caught more punches than he would have liked before scoring a one-punch knockout in the 11th round. Carr is a crafty, hard-working veteran who - fortunately for Oscar - doesn't pack much of a punch.
De La Hoya hurt Carr with a straight left jab in the first round and followed up moments later with a left uppercut that sent Carr briefly to the canvas (the impact of the punch was aided by the fact De La Hoya was holding Carr behind the head with his right hand). Both men had their moments in rounds two through six, but in the seventh the fight became virtually unwinnable for Carr when referee Richard Steele deducted two points from the challenger -- first for an accidental head butt which drew blood from De la Hoya's left cheek, and then for a marginally low blow. Both deductions appeared unnecessary. Once again it appeared as if Steele's questionable judgement might impact the outcome of a big fight.
The fight remained competitive in rounds eight, nine and ten, but in the first minute of the eleventh De la Hoya caught a slightly off-balance Carr flush on the side of the head with a wide left hook. After visiting the canvas face first, Carr got to his feet before the count reached ten but remained unstable and Steele - this time correctly - stopped the fight. De La Hoya landed 240 of 518 punches for an impressive 46% connect percentage, while Carr - who has now lost to De la Hoya, Trinidad and Ike Quartey - landed 157 of 759 (21%).
De La Hoya was ahead on all three cards when the fight was stopped and no doubt would been awarded a unanimous decision had the fight gone the full 12 rounds. Nevertheless, De La Hoya seems to be struggling to find a style with which he's comfortable -- often electing to engage in unnecessary toe-to-toe brawling instead of setting his punches up with his sledgehammer jab. Based on this performance, De La Hoya would have to be considered a slight underdog in his September mega-fight with Felix Trinidad -- who has a far easier tune-up bout next weekend against Hugo Pineda (36-1-1, 28 KOs). Let's just hope the fight comes off as scheduled.
On the undercard, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (21-0, 16 KOs) retained his WBC super featherweight title with a ninth round stoppage of a very game Justin Juuko (33-2-1, 25 KOs), who took the fight on just three days notice as a replacement for Goyo Vargas. In the decisive round, Mayweather stunned Juuko with two clubbing rights and finished him off with a straight right. Juuko got to one knee but couldn't beat the ref's count of ten. Mayweather was the quicker and more accurate fighter throughout (landing 209 of 385 punches, or 54%), but Juuko was actually the busier fighter (throwing 488 punches, but landing only 147 or 30%). Mayweather and Prince Naseem Hamed would be a great match-up, but doesn't appear likely any time soon. Too bad.