CARSON, Calif. – It was designed as more of an event than an athletic competition and that's what it turned out to be.
Oscar De La Hoya's professional farewell to the Los Angeles area ended predictably Saturday at the sold-out Home Depot Center with a lopsided victory over Steve Forbes.
Two judges gave De La Hoya 11 of the 12 rounds and the other gave him all 12 as he rebounded from a loss nearly a year earlier to Floyd Mayweather Jr.
It was a workmanlike, professional performance by a workmanlike, professional fighter. But De La Hoya certainly didn't give anyone who was looking for it an indication he's improved enough to close the gap between himself and Mayweather, the world's top fighter.
De La Hoya jabbed more and fought more straight up, which he believes will make him more effective against Mayweather.
But despite thrilling the largely pro-De La Hoya crowd of 27,000, he left many doubters about his ability to close the vast gulf between him and his newest rival.
"That was a big, significant drop," said Hall of Famer Alexis Arguello, who watched from ringside. "Don't misunderstand me: Oscar is a tremendous spectacle. He's a great draw, a big attraction and everyone likes him. But he needs a little more to be able to do something like (beating Mayweather)."
De La Hoya was bigger, stronger and faster than Forbes, who fought most of his career as a super featherweight and a super lightweight. Forbes showed a brilliant chin, as De La Hoya chased him around the ring repeatedly and raked him with hard shots.
Forbes' eyes were swelling early, he was cut outside the right eye in the sixth and he was generally being moved by De La Hoya's blows. But De La Hoya could stalk with impunity because he didn't have to worry about what was coming back. Forbes came into the fight with just nine knockouts in 38 fights and didn't have the pop to make a naturally bigger man spend too much time thinking defense.
As a result, much of the night was spent with Forbes trying to fight going backward and De La Hoya stalking.
"I left my heart and soul in the ring," Forbes said.
De La Hoya varied his attack, throwing 406 jabs and 404 power punches and landed an equal number of each. Unlike in the loss to Mayweather last year, he didn't abandon the jab in the second half of the fight, which will be significant if he can repeat that against Mayweather.
De La Hoya, who has a history of fading in bouts, maintained his conditioning throughout and was desperate for the knockout that would have thrilled his adoring fans. But though he landed many clean, hard blows, Forbes finished on his feet as he has in every one of his pro bouts.
"I was a little disappointed because I wanted to stop him or knock him out, but I knew it would be hard to do that because that's the way he fights," said De La Hoya, an 18-1 favorite who is now 39-5. "He's no 2-Pound Steve. He's 800-pound Steve."
As much credit as Forbes deserves for his grit and pluck, the reality is that he's nowhere in the league of fighters like Mayweather or Miguel Cotto, whom De La Hoya hopes to fight in his next two bouts.
Mayweather is naturally much bigger and is far better defensively. Cotto is simply one of the best offensive fighters in the game and wouldn't have been backing away as De La Hoya jabbed his way in.
De La Hoya's commitment to the jab caught Forbes a bit by surprise, because he hadn't done that against Mayweather. But Forbes had been trained by Mayweather Sr. nine times and knew well of the elder Mayweather's insistence on the jab.
"It was a really sharp jab," Forbes said. "I didn't expect it. Well, I kind of did with him being with Floyd Sr. Watching Oscar without Floyd Sr., he didn't jab as much. But he was using that a lot."
Arguello, whose first bout with Aaron Pryor was one of the most memorable of the second half of the 20th century, said he didn't see the speed nor the conditioning he expected from someone who envisions himself as an elite performer.
Arguello said De La Hoya will have to be significantly quicker and sharper if he's to beat Mayweather.
"I saw it as a weak one," Arguello said. "I didn't see the same old De La Hoya with the strength and the quickness he used to throw his punches with. I don't know why, maybe dropping down in weight had something to do with it. I think when he lost that weight, we'd see more speed and sharpness, but I didn't think we did.
"In my professional opinion, he ought to invest a little more time in his conditioning. Fighters these days, they fight 12 rounds, but they don't prepare themselves enough. Let me put it this way: When you throw three punches and back up, that's avoiding competition, especially when you have the guy hurt. When we fought, we used to throw six, eight, 10, 12 punches at a time."
De La Hoya reunited with Mayweather Sr. as his trainer with the hope that the elder Mayweather could make the changes necessary to reverse the outcome of last year's bout, which was the richest fight of all-time.
The bout is planned for Sept. 20, though it's not signed, and it's clear Mayweather Sr. will need all of that time in the laboratory to work out the kinks.
"This was basically preparing for my son," Mayweather Sr. said. "Floyd's a better fighter than Steve and they're both really tough, but Floyd doesn't throw as many punches. If Oscar feints well, uses his jab a lot and counterpunches, he's going to have a great fight. It's not going to be a problem. I thought Oscar looked really good. There are a few more things we're going to tighten up."
De La Hoya, who had a large welt above his right eye and said he injured his left hand in the middle of the bout, seemed eager to back into camp to get another crack at Mayweather.
He has a laundry list of items to work on – he wants to jab more, move his head, work the body and fight tall – but he was clearly eager to get back at Mayweather.
"I'm going to beat him. You watch. I'm going to beat him," De La Hoya said, grinning. "It's about having the perfect game plan. I can't go in there and be stiff and (go) 'Arrrgh!' It doesn't work. The harder you try, the better it is for Floyd Jr. You have to take your time, be on your toes and 'Pop, pop, pop, pop.' We'll get it done."