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No shortage of dollar signs, story lines in megafight

At the sports book inside the MGM Grand, the squares were trickling in to bet the big fight. As squares usually do, they were going for the ‘dog, who on this day wore a big smile underneath his ball cap.

Oscar De La Hoya hasn’t been in this position much, but he doesn’t seem to be bothered. Maybe that’s because he’s going to make $30 million or so no matter what the odds are when he steps into the ring against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in a megafight that harkens back to boxing’s glory days.

The wiseguys who bet the big money mostly will be putting it on the favorite in this fight. But casual fans, or squares to the bookies who take their money, are believers when their fighter talks about himself.

Or maybe he just believes in himself more than he believes the wiseguys who set the odds.

“Don’t be surprised if I’m faster than Mayweather,” De La Hoya warned. “I don’t see this fight going the distance.”

Those are fighting words, though tamer than the ones the two boxers have been throwing at each other since they launched this promotion a few months back in a big-city tour.

By the time they finished Wednesday at a quiet final news conference, HBO had more than enough material to fill its reality show. And more than enough animosity was generated between the two fighters to guarantee at least some bad blood, if not real blood, will be spilled when the two meet Saturday night.

“This is not golf. This is not tennis,” Mayweather said. “It’s a brutal sport. Blood, sweat and tears.”

Money, too, if you’re a marketing machine like De La Hoya or good enough to be the fighter many consider the best pound for pound in the world, like Mayweather. Their fight probably will be the richest in a sport that’s supposed to be dying, and both fighters will be well compensated.

De La Hoya will take the biggest cut because, well, he’s the golden boy. He’s not only the main attraction in the fight, but the promoter as well, and he figures to bank twice as many millions as his undefeated opponent.

Not that Mayweather is lacking for cash. As he points out, he lives in a 12,000-square-foot mansion, drives Bentleys and Maybachs and employs people to take care of his every whim.

OK, so he was wearing an $8 T-shirt at the news conference. But on his left wrist was a diamond-studded watch worth $500,000. Around his neck was a glittering cross and chain worth another $300,000. On his pinky finger was a $200,000 ring, bringing this day’s jewelry tab to a cool million dollars.

In his pocket was a wad of bills. Some walking-around money, nothing serious.

“About 30 thousand,” Mayweather said.

Mayweather has earned more than his keep for this fight, even before he steps into the ring to challenge De La Hoya for the 154-pound title. He’s not only the most gifted fighter of his era, but he’s generated enough subplots for this fight to fill a full season of the “Sopranos.”

Chief among those is his relationship with his father, who taught him to box and trained him before the two split and Floyd Sr. went on to train De La Hoya. The elder Mayweather isn’t doing that for this fight, not out of love for his son but because De La Hoya wouldn’t meet his asking price of $2 million.

Father and son briefly reunited but split again when Floyd Jr. insisted on being trained by his uncle, Roger, instead of his father. Roger Mayweather became available when he was released from a local jail in March after serving a six-month sentence for domestic assault.

“Like the O.J. trial is how they had me,” Roger Mayweather said. “But it was OK. I did my time.”

Roger Mayweather sat next to his fighter on the dais Wednesday, while Floyd Sr. watched from the cheap seats of the Hollywood Theater. Floyd Sr. will be at the fight because De La Hoya gave him two ringside tickets.

That seemed to irritate Floyd Jr., who said he would have been more than happy to give his father tickets.

“I’ve got plenty of tickets for my dad. I’ve got a half million dollars worth of tickets,” he said. “I love my father.”

De La Hoya loves his family, too, as evidenced by video clips so sugary you wonder whether he was being nominated for fighter of the year or sainthood.

“When you have a good soul, good things happen to you,” De La Hoya intoned.

De La Hoya wasn’t the only one selling at this final opportunity to sell. The man representing the official tequila of the fight opened a bottle on the dais, poured a shot and drank it. Next to him, official cans of fight beer prominently were displayed, and a woman from Southwest talked about how she was honored to work for the fight’s official airline.

No one, though, was more honored than Jose Sulaiman, head of the World Boxing Council, which will make a nice chunk of change for sanctioning the fight. Sulaiman compared it to historic fights such as the two between Joe Louis and Max Schmeling — minus the Nazi overtones.

And, in a fight full of outlandish claims, Sulaiman saved the most bizarre for last.

“We hope this fight will show that boxing is the cleanest of all sports,” he said.

Tim Dahlberg is a Las Vegas-based national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at tdahlberg@ap.org.

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