LAS VEGAS - There was a hint of controversy afterward, something about blue corners and red corners and colorblind judges. There had to be, because this is boxing and these kind of things are expected.
It passed quickly, though, and fans could celebrate a fight that said a lot of good things about the sport that has taken such a beating lately. Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Oscar De La Hoya gave us a fight between two proud champions, and both made their sport proud.
The crowd booed because their guy didn’t win. But reasonable people can disagree without someone yelling “Fix,” and even De La Hoya took the split decision loss with the kind of grace you don’t expect from someone who had just spent the previous hour trying to knock the other guy’s head off.
De La Hoya’s disappointment could be tempered by the $30 million or so he made in what might have been his last fight. But this fight wasn’t all about money, though there was certainly a lot taken in from the beautiful people who paid $2,000 to sit ringside and the not-so-beautiful who forked over $54.95 to watch with a few friends at home.
Anyone who thinks boxing is dead should have taken a roll call at the MGM Grand Garden, where politicians and movie stars rubbed elbows with athletes and rappers. Everyone wanted to be a part of this, and this Oscar party had more A-list celebrities than the one they hold every year in Hollywood.
Michael Jordan was there, and so were Will Ferrell, Jim Carrey and Leonardo DiCaprio among others. Presidential candidate John McCain watched intently, and Matthew McConaughey visited De La Hoya in his dressing room before the fight.
The only star of note missing was the queen, who might have shown up but she went instead to a horse race where you can wear a silly hat without someone screaming at you for blocking their view.
They came to see a fight, and that’s just what they got. De La Hoya pressed the issue for 12 rounds, and when the final bell rang the two fighters were exchanging blows toe-to-toe and the sellout crowd of 16,200 was on its feet cheering wildly.
But there also was no biting, no hitting below the belt, no eye gouging or choking. This was boxing at its most pure, and anyone who complained he didn’t get his money’s worth or there was something tainted about the decision simply doesn’t understand the sport.
Just the sight of Mayweather entering the ring with 50 Cent rapping his new song alongside him was worth the price of admission alone. Mayweather made it even better by wearing a huge sombrero on his way to fight a Mexican-American star on Cinco de Mayo.
De La Hoya fought the only fight he could to win, stalking Mayweather and trying to rough him up at every opportunity. It worked well until about the eighth round when, for reasons even his own trainer couldn’t understand, he decided to go into a crouch and give up using the jab that had been so effective early on.
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The Week in Sports Pictures
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
When athletes and celebs get together
A look at the many links between sports and Hollywood stars.
On the ropes
Click to see images from May's big fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather, Jr.