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DE LA HOYA IS EXPERTS' CHOICE.

Byline: MICHAEL ROSENTHAL Boxing

The Oscar De La Hoya-Fernando Vargas junior middleweight fight May 4 is more than three months away, far too early to speculate .... aw, what the heck. Let's ask the question.

Who's going to win?

Twenty boxing experts - trainers, promoters, members of the media and others in the boxing world - weighed in for the Daily News on what certainly will be one of the most talked-about fights of the year.

The early verdict? De La Hoya wins easily.

Of the 20, 18 picked De La Hoya to win and only two went with Vargas, although several of those who believe De La Hoya will win also expect a close fight.

The majority laid out their reasoning and these were the two major themes:

One, many suggested that Vargas isn't the same fighter after his five- knockdown knockout loss to Felix Trinidad in 2000. He stopped Wilfredo Rivera last May but looked shaky in doing so and knocked out limited Shibata Flores to win the vacant WBA 154-pound title in September.

And, two, others pointed to what they believe is De La Hoya's superior hand speed and boxing ability.

Here are their comments:

Ron Borges, Boston Globe: ``I think (De La Hoya) is too patient and too skilled a boxer for Vargas. I also believe, and have always believed, that Vargas' psychological makeup will get him beat in big fights, as it did against (Felix) Trinidad.

``How does a professional fighter get hit with the hook he got hit with 30 seconds into the fight? He doesn't. Lastly, he is simply not the same fighter he was before the Trinidad beating. Although he may do well for a time, at some point fairly early De La Hoya will remind him of that night. He may not hurt him as badly as Trinidad did, but he will hurt him badly enough to remind him of what can follow. After that, Oscar will lead and Fernando will follow. De La Hoya by decision.''

Kevin Iole, Las Vegas Review-Journal: ``I think Oscar is a lot quicker than Vargas and I don't think Vargas will be able to deal with that. Oscar will box Vargas' ears off and win by a decision.'' Former champion Carlos Palomino: ``I always thought Vargas would be too much (for De La Hoya). Since Trinidad, though, I haven't seen the same Vargas. The (two) fights since Trinidad, he's looked terrible to me, he didn't look like the same guy, he didn't look like he could take the same shot any more.

``I think I'll go with Oscar's hand speed. He'll probably outbox Vargas. I'm sure Vargas will do what he did against Trinidad, try to go to war, and that will be his undoing.''

Norm Frauenheim, Arizona Republic: ``Vargas has great power, which will make him dangerous early. But his emotions in this bitter rivalry will get the best of him. Vargas will expend a lot of energy in an attempt to land a big punch in the first two or three rounds. Then, Oscar should take control. It ends in the eighth when a tiring Vargas walks into one of De La Hoya's powerful left hands.''

Neither the two dissenters - nor Vargas - should be dismissed. Obviously, trainer Joe Goossen and Doug Fischer, editor of maxboxing.com, know their stuff.

Their arguments: What they perceive as Vargas' edge in strength - can De La Hoya, whose power has dwindled as he's moved up in weight, hurt Vargas? - and underappreciated boxing ability will give De La Hoya trouble.

Their comments:

Goossen: ``If I give anyone a slight edge, it's Vargas. ... Face it, Vargas is under house arrest (for a conspiracy-to-commit-assault conviction). I wish all my fighters could be under house arrest. It will be all boxing for Vargas, no distractions, and you always have side issues when you're as big a star as De La Hoya. ... I think he'll be super motivated. He's in lockdown right now; he'll be an animal when he gets out. He has a big heart, a huge heart, and I don't think De La Hoya will be able to hurt him like Trinidad did.''

Fischer: ``I like Vargas by a close decision. He's too big for De La Hoya, who didn't give himself enough time to acclimate to the higher weight class or (trainer) Floyd Mayweather Sr.'s defensive style. If De La Hoya plays it safe and uses his hard jab and legs (i.e. fight like he did at 140 pounds), he can trouble and hurt Vargas, but he can't box (Vargas) the way he did against Trinidad. Vargas will cut the ring off better than Tito.

``... De La Hoya's best bet is to keep that strong left in Vargas' face all night, hook off it to the body and head, and backpedal when necessary. Problem is, I don't think he hits that hard at 154.

``I know Vargas has been shaky since the Trinidad fight, but he's had time to get back into form and he'll be more motivated than ever at the chance to humiliate a man he truly hates.''

Who do I think will win? De La Hoya.

Why? I think he's a more-talented boxer and has a good chin. That'll be tough for Vargas to overcome.

What do you think?

--Freitas-Casamayor: This time, both the judging and the refereeing were suspect.

Consensus at ringside was that Joel Casamayor clearly outpointed Acelino Freitas on Saturday in Las Vegas, yet Casamayor lost his WBA super featherweight title by a unanimous decision.

Referee Joe Cortez contributed to the dubious result by deducting two points from Casamayor, once on a blown knockdown call in the third round (Casamayor slipped) and another for a disputed hitting-on-the-break call.

Casamayor's camp has said it will protest the decision.

--Hall of Fame: Those who knew promoter Aileen Eaton when she presided over boxing in Los Angeles for almost 40 years will applaud her induction into the New York-based International Boxing Hall of Fame.

Eaton, who will be the first woman so honored, promoted more than 10,000 fight cards between 1942 and 1980 - most at the Olympic Auditorium.

Fellow promoter Don Chargin, who worked for Eaton for two decades, believes she's more than deserving.

``She never saw a fight until she promoted her first fight and all she did was have one of the all-time greats, Henry Armstrong,'' Chargin told the Associated Press. ``She had a mind like a steel trap. She left nothing to chance. She was a brilliant woman and a brilliant promoter.''

Eaton died in 1987.

--More Hall: The group of fighters who will be inducted in the modern- era category is not a particularly strong one.

Pipino Cuevas (35-15, with 31 KOs) had a terrific run of knockouts early in his career but petered out; Ingemar Johansson (26-2, 17 KOs) beat a marginal heavyweight champ, Floyd Patterson, to win the title and then lost twice to him; Victor Galindez (55-9-4, 34 KOs) was a solid but hardly spectacular light heavyweight champ, and Jeff Fenech (28-3-1, 21 KOs) had one great performance, a victory over Azumah Nelson.

The old-timers (Benny Bass, Aaron Brown, Sixto Escobar, Harry Harris, Charley Mitchell and Owen Moran) and pioneer (John C. Heenan and Young Dutch Sam) categories are more impressive.

--Fridge out: Former football player William ``The Refrigerator'' Perry pulled out of his bout with Eric ``Butterbean'' Esch on Feb. 2. Boxing will never be the same.

--Coming up: Julio Diaz takes on Carlos Ramirez in a 10-round lightweight bout at the Hollywood Paladium.

Also Friday, on ESPN2, Julian Letterlough faces David Telesco in a 10-round light heavyweight bout in Raleigh, N.C.

On Saturday, on Showtime, Juan Pablo Chacon faces Victor Polo in a 12-round featherweight bout in London. Also on Showtime, from Miami, Rosendo Alvarez defends his WBA junior flyweight title against Pitchit Siriwat.

On Jan. 26, on HBO, Sugar Shane Mosley defends his WBC welterweight title against Vernon Forrest in New York.

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Eighteen of 20 boxing experts polled by the Daily News have picked Oscar De La Hoya, left, to defeat Fernando Vargas in their junior middleweight fight May 4.

Laura Rauch/Associated Press
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jan 14, 2002
Words:1364
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