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'Rocky' road ahead for De La Hoya before Pacquiao showdown
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11:32, November 14, 2008

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BIG BEAR CITY, California: Perhaps more "Golden Guy" than "Golden Boy" now, 35-year-old Oscar De La Hoya still has a childlike enthusiasm for the job.

"Hey, I love this. I love boxing. I love training," De La Hoya said, his eyes sparkling. "I see other guys in here, my sparring partners or other guys just training here, and I'll see them sitting down between rounds and drinking water.

"And I say to myself, 'What the heck is that?' I would never do that. If you're going to be a champion, train hard. After all these years, I still surprise myself how much I love this."

Does that mean he won't be hanging up his gloves anytime soon?

"It's not looking like it," De La Hoya said, chuckling.

Next up is Manny Pacquiao in Las Vegas on Dec 6, and De La Hoya is back to being a mountain man as he prepares for the fight.

Looking trim and energetic as he entertained a large group of reporters, photographers and cameramen at his camp on Wednesday, De La Hoya said he was happy to be back where he prepared for many of his memorable bouts in the past.

"I didn't realize how difficult training in Big Bear was until I came back," he said. "I think it's been about six years since the last time I was here. I think it was the best decision I've made, at this point of my career."

The elevation in the mountain resort area is 6,752 feet (2,000 meters), obviously a factor in training. So he decided to hold camp in Big Bear, rather than at his home in Puerto Rico.

"The thinner air is the difference. Training in Puerto Rico is nice; I work hard regardless, I'm focused, regardless," De La Hoya said. "But the altitude is a killer. You have to work that much harder to get in shape."

Comedian George Lopez, a friend of De La Hoya's who was at the training camp opening, said, "I can't imagine running at this altitude, what kind of condition that would put you in. Or the isolation factor up here. If you want to be alone, bro, this is the place to be."

Richard Schaefer, CEO of De La Hoya's Golden Boy Promotions, said the fighter already was in excellent condition.

"He's made the weight. He's really strong. He tells me he's got a great chef who makes him some great omelets, and he loves running at night," Schaefer said. "So the things he's needed to do, he's done."

De La Hoya, whose regimen includes chopping wood and slamming an old tire with a sledge hammer, said he already was down to 145 pounds (66 kilograms).

"I was shocked because I feel so strong. About a month ago, I was trying to make 150, 149, and I was feeling weak, was feeling lightheaded," he said. "My biggest concern was my power and my speed. Coming down to welterweight has actually enhanced my speed and my punching power.

"Welterweight is natural for me. Now we just have to maintain for three weeks. No tamales, nothing like that. I even have to skip Thanksgiving. It's a tough life."

Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 knockouts) is 5-foot-6{ (1.69 meters), 4 inches (10 centimeters) shorter than De La Hoya (39-5, 30) and has a smaller frame, although Pacquiao, coming up from 135 pounds (61 kilograms), now weighs 151 (68). De La Hoya doesn't believe all that will be much of a factor in their 147-pound (67-kilogram) match.

"I don't think weight is going to be a problem for anybody. I think the fact that I'm 35 and the fact that he's fast and strong and young and full of energy, I think it's going to balance out. It kind of evens the field," he said of his 29-year-old opponent.

Source: China Daily/ Agencies

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