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Underdog Forbes faces long odds

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports

The little guys win.

Occasionally.

Seabiscuit was one of the great thoroughbred race horses ever and defeated the legendary War Admiral in a famous 1938 match race despite being only marginally bigger than the pony your kid might ride at the local carnival.

Darrell Green was one of the smallest players in the NFL for most of his nearly two decades in the league, but he was also one of its best and will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame later this year.

Spud Webb, all 5 feet 6 inches of him, won the NBA's slam dunk contest once.

So the little guys can win. But let's be honest here. They usually don't. More often than not, the good big man beats the good little man.

And when the big man is more talented, punches harder and is probably quicker, well, the little man had better make sure his personal affairs are in order.

In this case, Steve Forbes is the little guy. When he faces Oscar De La Hoya on an HBO-televised card on Saturday at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., he'll give up size, speed, strength, punching power and the home court advantage.

Other than that, everything is going his way.

Forbes, though, is hardly concerned. In fact, he's downright giddy. When he got the call in the winter that it was he whom De La Hoya was interested in fighting, he was almost in disbelief.

When a journeyman boxer gets a call from the biggest attraction in the game, it invokes the same sort of reaction a trash collector might have if he got a call telling him Warren Buffet wanted to have a meeting to give him tips on investing in the stock market.

"I got the call and when I knew it was a serious call, I was in a little bit of shock," Forbes said. "Because I was like, things like this don't happen for me. So of course you kind of get the unreal attitude like this is not serious, you know. But I think after maybe an hour or so, it's like, 'OK, now we get to work.' This is serious. Of course this is a huge opportunity, but I best believe Oscar's going to come to knock my head off."

There seems little way that Forbes can win. Darrell Green sometimes gave up eight inches and 50 pounds to men he was guarding, but he made up for it by being faster than anyone this side of the U.S. Olympic relay team and by having the kind of athleticism God only gives to the Michael Jordans and Bo Jacksons of the world.

Forbes, though, cedes nearly every physical advantage to De La Hoya. And even the non-physical advantages go to the Golden Boy. It is his night, this is his hometown, these are his fans and it is his promotion.

So the only way Forbes can win, it would seem, would be by somehow conjuring up the perfect game plan. But that's going to be difficult to do, because Forbes' trainer for most of the last few years has been Floyd Mayweather Sr., the same Floyd Mayweather Sr. who will work De La Hoya's corner on Saturday.

Mayweather knows that Forbes has skill and has harped on De La Hoya to be ready and not look past him.

But Mayweather knows better than anyone the limits of Forbes' talents. He knows Forbes' vulnerabilities probably better than Forbes himself.

So it's a game of he knows that I know that he knows. Forbes can't count on surprising Mayweather, so he'll have to take another tack.

It's no secret that De La Hoya gasses in fights that exceed eight rounds or so, which prompted Mayweather to rail against the thought of conditioning coaches.

So maybe Forbes is hoping he can survive until De La Hoya tires, and then push the pace as the Golden Boy wilts so he can pull out a close decision.

It's not the kind of strategy to inspire a lot of confidence but, then again, it worked for Muhammad Ali when he waited out George Foreman and went on to regain the heavyweight title in 1974 in the middle of Africa. Ali famously dubbed it the "Rope-a-Dope" when he laid against the ropes and let the ponderous Foreman pound at his midsection until he wilted.

Forbes, a congenial sort who rarely has a bad thing to say about anyone, believes he's spotted a few flaws in De La Hoya's game that he can exploit. You'd have to imagine he's watched hours upon hours of film so he can be ready for every move De La Hoya makes, because he has to know he's physically outmanned.

"Absolutely, I have (seen some flaws)," Forbes said. "Will I divulge that information? No. But no, I've seen — I mean, it's not really weaknesses, it's just kind of a little lapse as far as in concentration at moments in a fight. You don't become a legend like Oscar by having too many weaknesses. So I wouldn't say that. I would say little lapses in focus, which a lot of fighters have, which I have, which 99 percent of all fighters have. So I've found little cases where I think it will work for me."

You hope, for the sake of a fun evening, that he has. Because the evening features a woeful undercard and the main event isn't a particularly even match. It's not going to be a night to remember if De La Hoya comes in and overwhelms Forbes.

Jeff Wald, Forbes' outspoken promoter, boasted the other day about how Forbes has never been down in a fight in his life.

But he's also never faced anyone like De La Hoya, either.

I was thinking of Seabiscuit's pluckiness and was beginning to think that, yeah, maybe somehow this guy can find a way to win.

But if Forbes is Seabiscuit, then De La Hoya is Secretariat.

And that's no an even match no matter what kind of a track it's on. It's guaranteed to be a tough night for the little guy.

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