PECHANGA INDIAN RESERVATION, Calif. -- Vernon Forrest has such fond memories of training for the Olympics that he goes back to the Olympic gym in Colorado Springs to get ready for his big fights.
His memories of the Olympics themselves aren't as good.
While Oscar De La Hoya won the gold medal in the 1992 Olympics, Forrest lost his first fight in Barcelona and was done.
The difference between winning a gold medal and losing in the first round was millions of dollars. It took Forrest nearly a decade to win his first pro title, and when he did so it was in virtual anonymity.
"For whatever reason my career didn't take off like I thought it would," Forrest said.
That changed last year when Forrest upset Shane Mosley for the WBC welterweight title, then beat him in a rematch. He not only won a title, but gained a lucrative six-fight deal with HBO that guarantees him financial security.
On Saturday night he risks his newfound stature in the first fight of that contract when he meets WBA 147-pound champion Ricardo Mayorga in a unification fight at the Pechanga Indian casino north of San Diego. The fight will be televised on HBO beginning at 10 p.m. EST.
"My goal was to become a world champion and now I feel I'm the best welterweight in the world at this particular moment," Forrest said. "My goal is to unify the title and this is the first step toward that goal."
Forrest (35-0, 26 knockouts) is a 6-1 favorite to add Mayorga's title to his own, but the fact he choose Mayorga to be his first opponent says something about his increasing confidence in himself.
Mayorga (24-3-1, 22 knockouts) is a wild but big puncher, the kind of fighter who is always a threat because he can change the course of a fight with a big punch.
Forrest isn't terribly worried, though he sequestered himself in Colorado Springs for weeks to get ready for the fight.
"I don't know that he'll cause any problems but he is unorthodox, kind of unpredictable," Forrest said.
Forrest, whose big 2002 included his two wins over Mosley, was a 7-1 underdog when he and Mosley first met last January. Mosley was being touted as the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Forrest had beaten Mosley to get on the 1992 Olympic team and he figured he had his number.
Forrest dropped Mosley twice in the second round and had him in serious trouble in the 10th before settling for an easy decision win. To prove it was no fluke, he beat Mosley in a lackluster fight last July in Indianapolis in the rematch.
None of that impresses Mayorga, a free spirited fighter from Nicaragua who won his version of the title by stopping Andrew "Six Heads" Lewis in the fifth round last March.
"He hit the biggest lottery there is when he fought Mosley," Mayorga said. "He got real lucky, hit the right number and was able to cash in on Mosley."
Mayorga hopes to cash in on his biggest shot, a fight that will give him a $400,000 payday but the promise of much more if he can find a way to overcome the technical skills of Forrest with his big punching power.
If he does, Mayorga promises to light up a cigarette and have a beer, just as he did at the post-fight press conference after he beat Lewis.
"I plan to whip him like a man whips a boy," Mayorga said. "I'll hit him like a man should hit somebody to fall down and he'll fall down."
The fight tops a Super Bowl Eve boxing card at the Indian casino resort that includes former 130-pound champion Joel Casamayor against undefeated Nate Campbell in a scheduled 10-round lightweight fight.
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