Can the fight match hype?

Times Staff Writer

Sam Flood, who will produce NBC’s coverage of the 133rd running of the Kentucky Derby, on Thursday called the race “the ultimate sporting event on the first Saturday of May.”

However, boxing aficionados may claim that is not the case this year.

There is a fight in Las Vegas on Saturday night that may steal some of the Derby’s thunder. It has already stolen some of the headlines.


The question now is: Can the fight between Oscar De La Hoya and Floyd Mayweather Jr. live up to the hype?

Jim Lampley, who will call the fight on the HBO pay-per-view telecast, is legitimately concerned about that.

“Frankly, the interest in this fight has reached such giant proportions, I fear people might be disappointed in what they see,” Lampley said by phone from Las Vegas Thursday.

He points out that people who have seen pictures of the boxers staring each other down or have read stories in which the two mock one another think the fight will be a blood-and-guts war.

“The styles of these two fighters do not promise a lot of combustion,” Lampley said. “Instead of blood and guts there will be tactics and strategy.

“Mayweather’s last fight against Carlos Baldomir [in November] was so lacking in entertainment that Tiger Woods and Charles Barkley, sitting ringside, got up and went out to the casino,” Lampley said of the lopsided contest.

And they weren’t alone.

“I wonder if Mayweather will figure an entertainment quotient into his game plan, giving the public what it wants, and risk giving the fight to Oscar?” Lampley said. “Or will he use the approach that has taken him this far?”

Despite such cautionary fears, HBO and Golden Boy Promotions say this bout could top the records for pay-per-view boxing: the 1.99 million buys set by the second Mike Tyson-Evander Holyfield fight in June 1997 (the bitten ears), and the $112 million in revenue set by Tyson-Lennox Lewis in June 2002.

De La Hoya is the reason for the optimism. In 17 pay-per-view fights, he has generated 10,450,000 buys and $492 million.

And HBO isn’t done promoting Saturday night’s fight. All four episodes of the reality series, “De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7,” that lead up to the fight will be repeated tonight at 8 as a “mini-marathon.”

HBO will use 18 cameras, including one in each locker room, to cover the fight.

Joining Lampley at ringside will be commentators Larry Merchant and Emanuel Steward. The show, which includes two 12-round undercard fights, begins at 6 p.m. Ross Greenburg, HBO Sports president, promises the main-event combatants will touch gloves at 8:15 p.m.

Short waves

The nationally syndicated “Tee It Up” golf show, heard Sundays at 6 a.m. on KLAC, has CBS’ Jim Nantz and ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who is passionate about golf, as guests this weekend.

From reader Scott Small of Manhattan Beach, who e-mailed his thoughts about the disappearance of Tony Bruno from the L.A. airwaves since KMPC 1540 is now owned by Radio Korea: “I don’t understand a word of Korean, but what I’m hearing now on KMPC is more entertaining and far more intelligent than anything Tony Bruno ever said.”