"I've been thinking of a night like this since I was a little kid,'' Forbes said after a day of training in Las Vegas. "When I was growing up Sugar Ray Leonard was the guy. It was 1987 and he'd just beaten (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler. I remember watching them on TV fighting at Caesars Palace. I always envisioned that for myself. The Big Fight. Now it's here."
Thirty one years later, the former super featherweight champion will come to Carson, CA. on Cinco de Mayo weekend not to celebrate De La Hoya's homecoming but to honor his well-honed survival skills. Although his fight has been long and has not always gone well Steve Forbes is still punching, still '2 Pound,' still a survivor with a reason to believe in miracles.
A call to Forbes' two phone lines in Las Vegas answer any doubts you might have about this. Dial either and before you can leave a message you first have to listen to a personally delivered infomercial for May 3. Who in their right mind would do that if they didn't believe their performance was going to be, well, miraculous?
"I've been thinking of a night like this since I was a little kid,'' Forbes said after a day of training in Las Vegas. "When I was growing up Sugar Ray Leonard was the guy. It was 1987 and he'd just beaten (Marvelous Marvin) Hagler. I remember watching them on TV fighting at Caesars Palace. I always envisioned that for myself. The Big Fight. Now it's here.
"Oscar is the new megastar. To be able to fight a megastar in his farewell year in boxing is a dream. I'm a thrill seeker type fighter and this is a big thrill. It's a thrill to be part of it but I'm not in awe of it. It's not like the event is taking over. It's more like, 'It's about time I got an opportunity.'''
Some would say that would depend on how you define "opportunity.'' The critics who have labeled this a mismatch see it as an opportunity for De La Hoya to shine in front of his hometown crowd for the first time since he last fought in the Los Angeles area eight years ago. They see it as a tune-up fight against a significantly smaller man in which everything will be out of tune for the opponent De La Hoya has hand picked to bring to the dance.
De La Hoya is three inches taller, has a five-inch reach advantage and is a far more natural 150-pounder than Forbes, who has spent most of his career boxing at between 129 and 143 pounds. Yet while all that is true, Forbes sees things differently. He sees this as the opportunity he never got, even during the 20 months when he was briefly a world champion eight years ago. He sees it as an opportunity to rain on someone else's parade...or maybe just to start his own.
"I'll be well prepared,'' Forbes said. "I'm going to be the spoiler. People ask me what my plan is. That's my plan.''
The Hall of Fame baseball manager Sparky Anderson once said, "No spoilers don't cash no checks'' when asked if his haphazard Detroit Tigers team was going to be excited about the possibility of knocking better teams out of a chance at post-season play in 1982. In team sports that may be true but in boxing spoilers often do cash checks. Some times several of them, which is what Forbes concludes is the real blessing of this fight.
"Nobody gave me a chance when I was born and I've done all right,'' Forbes (33-5, 9 KO) said. "Nobody is giving me a chance against Oscar but look at the kind of guys who have beaten him. With the exception of (Bernard) Hopkins they were all small guys.
"(Shane) Mosley. (Floyd) Mayweather. Small, quick guys with good boxing ability. I'm a smaller guy but I'm a guy with boxing ability. I'm a skilled fighter. Oscar's not a full-time fighter any more. To fight a guy like me, you got to be a full-time fighter.
"At his age (35) and him not being an active fighter we'll see how his body reacts. He hasn't fought at 147 (150 actually) in seven years. You can't keep being a part-time fighter and stay sharp.
"When you start saying this is your last year in boxing it's a warning sign right there. This man is a millionaire so many times over. He's thinking about other things. He's thinking about another business deal with Mayweather (in September after tuning up against Forbes). With the odds and him supposedly handpicking me, he's got to come in thinking he can intimidate me with the crowd and his size advantage. There's a chance he'll just overlook me. That'll be his mistake. Maybe a few years ago he would have taken my lunch money but not today.''
A few years ago Forbes was barely fighting for lunch money when he was fighting at all. After losing his title to the scales when he missed making weight by nearly three pounds for a fight against David Santos that he would win on points 5 1/2 years ago, boxing became a part-time job for Forbes too but not by choice.
He would lose two more shots at the world title, one to a cut resulting from a head butt and one by decision and then face a 14-month layoff before his career was resurrected by a most unlikely ally. The former world champion would get his second chance on a reality TV show designed to discover the next unknown contender.
"The Contender'' TV series was not designed for guys like Steve Forbes, guys who had already not only been discovered but who had had their hand raised in a world championship fight.
It was supposed to be about new faces and Forbes was not that. Then again, he'd disappeared for so long that's exactly what he seemed to be to a lot of people not living on the inside of boxing.
So on Jan. 29, 2006 '2 Pound' entered into another fight for survival - the survival of his career. Nine months later he would lose the Contender championship by split decision to Grady Brewer but he would have won much more. He would have won a second chance in a no chance business.