This matter gets sticky

Pugmire is a Times staff writer.

A dispute over how Oscar De La Hoya wraps his hands for a fight grew contentious Friday before the Nevada State Athletic Commission said his taping method can effectively remain status quo.

De La Hoya’s tape man, Joe Chavez, uses two-inch-wide brown medical tape around his fighter’s hands and then rolls up the tape between the fingers to help cushion what the De La Hoya camp describes as sensitive hands.

But Freddie Roach, who trains De La Hoya’s opponent, Manny Pacquiao, and who trained De La Hoya last year, objected to the use of the brown tape as too thick. Roach also complained the rolled-up portion leaves a ridge atop De La Hoya’s fingers that could cut Pacquiao’s face. The boxers had already agreed to use lighter eight-ounce gloves in this bout.


“The tape between the fingers becomes like a piece of rope, and that can cause a cut for sure,” Roach said. “Oscar’s people were saying he’s got away with it 20 times here and I said, ‘Oscar’s a prima donna, but he’s not going to get away with it now.’ Rules are rules.”

With athletic commission Executive Officer Keith Kizer presiding over an impromptu meeting at the MGM Grand, chief inspector Tony Lazo and his assistant Alex Ybarra determined De La Hoya’s brown tape was allowed, but they also ruled that Chavez has to cut the tape in half to one inch when he rolls it up between the fingers.

“Tapegate,” De La Hoya’s business partner Richard Schaefer cracked before the ruling was made. Roach had said, “Oscar wraps illegally, and I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”

Kizer told Lazo to ensure the between-finger tape doesn’t protrude at Saturday’s pre-fight taping, which Roach can supervise. “If it looks like a ridge, re-do it,” Kizer instructed Chavez.

Later, Chavez assured his method “was not meant to hit harder, but to protect the hand.”

And with that episode over, Roach coyly nodded to the suggestion that his protest would irritate De La Hoya.

“That’s what I’m here for,” Roach said.

Lighter weights

Pacquiao’s ability to easily make the 147-pound weight limit for tonight’s fight means he can make a long visit to the dining room; when he weighed in Friday afternoon the scale measured 142 pounds.


De La Hoya’s official weight, 145, was also surprisingly low because he had fought above the 147-pound welterweight limit since 2001. But Pacquiao’s official weight did nothing to alter the pre-fight attention on De La Hoya’s significant height and reach advantages.

Pacquiao, 29, who hasn’t fought above the 135-pound lightweight limit in 52 previous pro bouts, quickly said that he wasn’t bothered by his official weight. Pacquiao camp officials say a scale in his Mandalay Bay hotel room consistently read around 146, and they maintained he’ll be closer to 147 pounds by fight time.

“Speed will be the key to this fight,” Pacquiao said on the stage at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, where thousands filled a section for the event. “We decided early in training that speed is the most important factor and that’s why I came in at this weight.”

De La Hoya said he felt “energetic, happy, ready to go. I’m going to keep the speed; the power is already there.”

Roach expressed satisfaction at seeing De La Hoya’s lower weight, speculating that effort to come in below 147 pounds could tax his energy Saturday night.

“I don’t know why he came in that low, but I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth,” Roach said.


Mosley update

Nevada has rules allowing sanctions on fighters who violate certain drug restrictions, but they were not in effect when Shane Mosley defeated De La Hoya in 2003. As a result, Kizer said, he cannot change that result to a no-contest despite this week’s release of BALCO grand jury transcripts in which Mosley admitted he knowingly had taken the banned oxygen-boosting drug EPO. Mosley also used an undetectable steroid. He won a close decision over De La Hoya five years ago by winning the late rounds in that bout.

“De La Hoya can file something for us to look at it, but he’d have to get over a big [legal] hurdle,” said Kizer. De La Hoya has said he’s not willing to revisit the defeat against his current business partner.

Vazquez recovering

Huntington Park’s super-bantamweight world champion, Israel Vazquez, says he has undergone three surgeries to repair a detached retina in his right eye he suffered in his thrilling third fight against Rafael Marquez in March.

Vazquez underwent the latest surgery in August. He said the eye “should be OK” for him to fight Marquez in the spring. For now, he said his sight in the eye is “like looking through a bag filled with water.”