.CARSON, Calif. (AP) – Oscar De La Hoya showed he could still beat a contender. Next up is cashing in again like a champion.
In what was little more than a tuneup for a much bigger fight, De La Hoya kicked off his retirement tour Saturday night before an appreciative crowd by pitching a near shutout over a game but overmatched Steve Forbes.
De La Hoya got a chance to shake off ring rust and put on a show in front of his hometown fans, who came out in big numbers to cheer him on against a fighter whose previous biggest claim to fame was losing in the final of the “Contender” reality series. He didn’t disappoint, battering the smaller Forbes around on his way to an easy 12-round decision win in his first fight in a year.
The win set up a September rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr., who beat De La Hoya by split decision last May in what was the richest fight ever. And, even though De La Hoya was a 17-1 favorite, his dominating performance against Forbes will likely do what De La Hoya wanted by helping sell the second fight with Mayweather.
“This is the same style I’m going to use for Mayweather,” De La Hoya said. “This is the same plan for Mayweather.”
De La Hoya won all 12 rounds on one judge’s scorecard and 11 out of 12 on the other two. He bloodied Forbes face, but he failed to knock out an opponent who had never been stopped in 38 previous fights, like he had vowed to do before the bout.
The Associated Press had De La Hoya winning every round, and scored it 120-108.
“I was hoping I’d stop him or knock him out,” De La Hoya said. “I’m a little disappointed.”
Forbes seemed happier that he had made it through 12 rounds than De La Hoya seemed about winning the fight.
“It was an excellent fight and an honor to fight Oscar,” Forbes said. “I felt strong and it was great to be in there like that and have the opportunity to get in there and not go down. I hope by fighting him I proved I am a top level fighter.”
De La Hoya had little to fear from the light-hitting Forbes, a former 130-pound champion fighting at 150 pounds, and it showed. De La Hoya attacked from the opening bell, and the fight soon settled into a predictable pattern, with De La Hoya stalking Forbes and punishing him with combinations to the body and head.
But De La Hoya was greeted by scattered boos by the crowd at the end of the fight after failing to either put Forbes down or stop him.
“I’m happy I fought Forbes,” De La Hoya said. “Now I feel sharp after a year’s layoff.”
De La Hoya, who says he will retire at the end of the year after two more fights, needed an impressive performance to help set up a second fight with Mayweather. De La Hoya hand-picked Forbes, a decent fighter with little power, to be an opponent who would showcase his skills while at the same time not pose too much of a threat to his plans.
Forbes cooperated by doing his best, but he rarely was able to get inside De La Hoya’s reach or mount any sustained attack. As he kept losing rounds, his corner became as desperate as the fighter, imploring him to land one big punch.
“Try and make him walk into something,” trainer Jeff Mayweather told Forbes after the fourth round.