INDIANAPOLIS - The Lakers have become the stars of Southern California, and the moon and the sun as well. They're the real LA Galaxy.
The promoters of Saturday night's Oscar De La Hoya-Shane Mosley megafight at Staples Center -- the most fascinating LA matchup since Bobby Chacon and Little Red Lopez three decades ago -- must have forgotten the emotional hold on the region seized by the Lakers during a title run.
Oscar and Shane have been largely neglected outside the insular world of boxing, a dark sphere inhabited by sharks, schemers and misanthropes. This bout should have been arranged for July or August, giving these men the full month of pre-fight hype their talents and stories warrant.
But it's coming Saturday night barring a late-hour mishap of some sort -- and don't ever discount that possibility if ticket sales hover closer to the rumored 10,000 than the reported 15,000. Remember, boxing exists for movers and shakers puffing on fat cigars to profit on the blood and toil of fighters.
If De La Hoya (guaranteed $8 million) and Mosley ($4.5 million) do step in to face each other sometime after 8 o'clock, I like Sugar Shane to reach deep within his fighting soul and prevail by decision.
When two pugilists are as closely matched as these two, I go with the man who has more to prove. That man, in this fight, is Mosley.
It won't take long for Oscar to realize that Shane is neither intimidated nor reduced to a defensive shell by the Golden Boy's reputation.
Mosley and De La Hoya fought as kids. Shane, older by a year, won by a decision. Shane has sincere respect for Oscar but shows no fear, privately or in public. Mosley's style is to come out smoking, and De La Hoya has been vulnerable at times to early attacks.
Oscar could have his beautiful world rocked very quickly.
The prevailing view within fight circles is that De La Hoya has a significant physical advantage. He is what they call a natural welterweight, while Sugar Shane, they claim, has been artificially beefed up to 147 from the designated 135 of lightweights.
That is nonsense. Having seen both men up close and personal, I'd say Mosley is the true, pure welterweight, perfectly sculpted to 147 pounds.
It's De La Hoya I'm not so sure about. Ike Quartey and Felix Trinidad both stayed erect. It remains to be seen whether his lightweight power carries into the welters. His slender legs could be wobbled by the all-out assault of Mosley.
Mosley is a fierce body puncher, something no fighter, including Oscar, welcomes.
No, I haven't forgotten how hard De La Hoya hits, his assassin's heart, his warrior mentality. Forget the Trinidad fiasco; Oscar had a brain cramp that night when he jumped on his bicycle the last third of the fight thinking he had a decision in the bag.
De La Hoya, the pride of East LA, is a wonderful talent.
But so is Mosley, Pomona's own.
For a long time, I was among the skeptics, accepting this notion that Shane was more suited to turning out the lights on lightweights. Oscar, I felt, would prove too big and too strong for Mosley.
One of Shane's handlers wrote long, impassioned letters, basically telling me I was clueless. He said Shane "walks around at 155 pounds and has to kill himself to get down to 135" to make lightweight specifications. He swore that Oscar is the target Mosley has been training for, waiting for, praying for his whole life, that Shane would be ready to do damage when the time came.
I dismissed it as feverish bias.
Sure enough, when Mosley finally did move up to the welters against rough-and-tumble, hardened veteran Wilfredo Rivera at Pechanga Casino's outdoors arena in Temecula, he was a revelation. What I saw ringside as Mosley pounded out a ninth-round KO amazed me -- the speed, the heart, the power of a tremendous fighter in his prime.
Only legendary Barney Ross, Henry Armstrong and Roberto Duran have made the leap straight from lightweight champ to welterweight champ. Mosley, in a war to remember, makes it a foursome.
Lyle Spencer can be contacted by mail at P.O. Box 792, Riverside CA 92502; fax (909) 782-6009; e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org