LAS VEGAS Oscar De La Hoya wasn't the only one stunned when Shane Mosley beat him the first time they met. Promoter Bob Arum was, too, though it had nothing to do with the outcome of the fight.
Arum was more concerned with the numbers outside the ring, and they were dismal. De La Hoya had always been a heavyweight draw, but now it seemed like the Golden Boy's allure might be fading.
Just a few months earlier, 1.3 million people had paid to watch on television as De La Hoya lost to Felix Trinidad. When it was all tallied, only 585,000 bought the June 2000 fight with Mosley.
''Oscar was not at the high point of his popularity,'' Arum said. ''His fans were disappointed with his performance against Trinidad, particularly the last three rounds. They were a little down on him.''
De La Hoya meets Mosley on Saturday night in a rematch that should prove how well the former Olympic gold medalist has been able to resurrect both his career and his fan base as he fights the final few bouts of his remarkable career.
Mosley will provide the opposition, but there is little doubt who is the draw. One look at the crowds that mobbed De La Hoya when he arrived at the MGM Grand hotel Monday night was proof enough that the Golden Boy is boxing's biggest attraction outside of a faded Mike Tyson.
The 16,274-seat MGM Grand arena has long since been sold out with a gate of more than $11 million. Some 30,000 others not lucky enough to get tickets are expected to watch on closed circuit from other Las Vegas hotels.
Predictions of pay-per-view sales range from the 1 million mark on up, topping the 900,000 for De La Hoya's fight last September with Fernando Vargas.
''People are realizing this will be a very good fight,'' De La Hoya said.
Anyone who saw the first fight would probably agree. Undefeated at the time, Mosley came on strong in the late rounds to outbox De La Hoya and win a split decision in a fight that thrilled fans at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
A rematch seemed inevitable, but it took three years to make. In between, Mosley lost two fights to Vernon Forrest, and De La Hoya scored perhaps his most spectacular win with a knockout of Vargas.
''I went on with my career, he went on with his and time just went by,'' De La Hoya said. ''Mosley wanted a ridiculous amount of money and it just didn't happen.''
Now, the economics of the fight had changed. Instead of being guaranteed $10 million for a rematch, Mosley had to threaten not to fight if he didn't get $4.5 million. De La Hoya will make at least $12 million, but probably millions more of the pay-per-view sales take off.
De La Hoya may have lost, but when it comes to money he's still the boss something even Mosley ruefully acknowledges.
''It doesn't bother me to see Oscar making the money he's making,'' Mosley said. ''It bothers me that I don't make the money I should be making.''
Mosley did win an agreement that De La Hoya would pay him $500,000 from his purse should he win. The money at least a portion of it was on display at Wednesday's final pre-fight press conference, where Arum and the two fighters did their best to sell even more television buys.
''This is not a baloney gimmick,'' said Arum, who would know. ''This is part of the negotiations that made the fight happen.''
There were more than enough other gimmicks to go around.
De La Hoya's trainer, Floyd Mayweather, read a poem he wrote forecasting a tale of woe for Mosley on Saturday night. Mosley then got up, took a quarter and deposited it in Mayweather's water glass as compensation.
Mosley's promoter, Gary Shaw, then held up a giant card mocking De La Hoya's claim that he would retire if he lost, and also an oversized deposit slip for the $500,000.
The gimmicks stop Saturday night when the two get in the ring for what is the most anticipated fight of year. De La Hoya is a 2-1 favorite, despite having lost the first fight.
''I can't wait to get in the ring,'' De La Hoya said.
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