Oscar-Forbes a Mayweather referendum

Kevin Iole
Yahoo! Sports

Floyd Mayweather Sr. ambled slowly out of the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas after a mid-afternoon weigh-in 13 months ago.

The buzz throughout the posh resort was strong about the upcoming super featherweight title fight scheduled for the next night between a pair of future Hall of Famers, Marco Antonio Barrera and Juan Manuel Marquez.

But the colorful Mayweather was convinced the focus of attention would change in a little more than 24 hours.

Steve Forbes, Mayweather Sr. said in an almost conspiratorial tone, can fight. A largely forgotten former world champion, Forbes was scheduled to fight unbeaten prospect Demetrius Hopkins in a bout clearly designed to raise Hopkins' profile as a contender. But Mayweather had little doubt that Forbes would make Hopkins look silly.

"When he's with me, he's like a totally different fighter," the none-too-shy patriarch of the famous boxing clan said that day. "A lot of people who don't believe that are going to be shocked tomorrow night."

Forbes proceeded to go out and back up Mayweather's claim. He outboxed Hopkins so thoroughly, there were some in the crowd who believed he'd won each of the 10 rounds. Before the decision was announced, Mayweather leaned over the ropes and pointed to someone seated at ringside.

"I told you so," he said, beaming. "I told you."

Then the decision was announced — arguably the most blatantly incorrect call of the decade — and Hopkins was declared the winner.

Later, Mayweather was mystified by the judging, as was nearly everyone but those with financial ties to Hopkins. The outcome, though, didn't sway him from his pre-fight belief.

"When Steve Forbes is with me and he concentrates and puts his time in, he's an outstanding fighter," Mayweather Sr. said.

But Forbes finds himself in an eerily similar position to the one he was in on March 17, 2007, when he met Hopkins on a Golden Boy Promotions show in Las Vegas.

He's facing the biggest fish in the Golden Boy stable —owner, president and resident superstar Oscar De La Hoya — and he's again been brought in not to win but to help De La Hoya get a win and build up his confidence before his September rematch with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

This is a bout that Forbes has almost no chance to win. De La Hoya is simply a different class of fighter, far superior even at 35 than anyone Forbes has faced.

"My man is bigger, stronger, punches harder and I think he's faster," said Mayweather Sr., who has prepared De La Hoya for the fight and turned Forbes over to his younger brother, Jeff.

The bout is going to be a referendum on the Mayweather training style as much as it is on how much De La Hoya has left in his tank.

Forbes holds a rare distinction as the only man to have been trained by all three Mayweather brothers. At varying times, he has worked with Floyd Sr., Roger and Jeff Mayweather.

He was prepared to work with Roger Mayweather until Mayweather Jr. intervened and threatened to fire his uncle if he continued to work with Forbes. Mayweather Jr. was concerned that if his Uncle Roger led Forbes to an upset of De La Hoya, it would cost him an eight-figure payday.

So Uncle Roger, possessing the ability to count to a few million, made the wise move and stepped aside.

And that sent Forbes across town to Jeff Mayweather, whose style more closely resembles Floyd Sr.'s rather than Roger's.

"We were boxers in our own careers," Jeff Mayweather said. "I stress defense. He stresses defense. Roger was a puncher and so he stresses aggression."

Forbes can't afford to get into the kind of shootout with De La Hoya that the offensive-minded Roger Mayweather may have encouraged. He wasn't a puncher at 130 pounds and definitely won't be anything more than an annoyance to De La Hoya at 150 pounds.

But with Jeff Mayweather employing many of the techniques that have led his oldest brother to declare himself the greatest trainer of all-time, the bout will serve as something of an indicator of whether Mayweather Sr. can help De La Hoya close the gap against Mayweather Jr.

Mayweather Sr. and his son, who has been the top-rated fighter in every iteration of the Yahoo! Sports poll of the world's best boxers, are estranged and rarely speak. They had a brief reunion before Junior's bout with De La Hoya, but have since gone their separate ways.

De La Hoya didn't use Mayweather Sr. to prepare him for what turned out to be a split decision loss to Mayweather Jr. last year because he had concerns about the implications of a father training against his son.

But he's gone back to the man who had trained him exclusively from 2001 through 2006, when he compiled a 6-2 record, knocked out arch rival Fernando Vargas and won a middleweight title.

Forbes isn't nearly as gifted as Mayweather Jr. — then again, who is? — but he employs a style that is reminiscent of the pound-for-pound champion's.

Mayweather Sr. doesn't want to give away any secrets on how he'll prepare De La Hoya to beat his son, but have no doubt that Jeff Mayweather is aware of all those secrets and is working with Forbes on them now.

Jeff Mayweather, who admitted he still doesn't speak with his nephew, understands the task and why he's there.

"Steve is the closest fighter out there (who can) emulate Floyd Jr.," Jeff Mayweather said. "That's one of the reasons this fight is happening."

Jeff Mayweather is far less boastful than either of his brothers and wasn't making predictions of a Forbes victory during a conference call on Monday. He was, rather, pleading for fairness from the judges, while admitting he hopes the media and the fans are impressed by Forbes even if the judges are not.

But if Jeff Mayweather is able to devise a plan that makes things difficult for De La Hoya on Saturday in Carson, Calif., that spells trouble for the Golden Boy against Mayweather Jr. in the rematch in September.

However, if Mayweather Sr. makes the adjustment's to the slick defensive style Forbes employs, it will be a sign, however small, that maybe he can, indeed, make a difference for De La Hoya against his son.

And that's why the real fight on Saturday isn't Oscar against Steve, but is rather Floyd against Jeff.

The result of that battle will mean so much to what will occur in September.

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