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Oscar the octopus will predict Saturday's Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz winner

The Mandalay Bay Shark Reef exhibit in Las Vegas will be slightly more crowded Thursday morning when a 40-pound giant Pacific octopus will be called upon to predict the winner of Saturday night's Juan Manuel Marquez-Juan Diaz world lightweight title fight.

The octopus will decide which Juan to pick around 9:45 a.m., when reef keepers will drop two plastic boxes filled with food -- one marked "Marquez" and the other "Diaz" -- into the octopus tank.

The Mandalay Bay octopus was nameless until late Wednesday, when a suddenly comedic boxing promoter Richard Schaefer said he had decided to call the creature Oscar, in tribute to business partner Oscar De La Hoya.

The stunt by De La Hoya and Schaefer, who own an MLS franchise in Houston, clearly is influenced by the uncanny ability of an octopus at a German aquarium named Paul, who correctly picked every World Cup soccer match that he was called upon to project.

"They're just cashing in; Paul was unique," said sports reporter Kevin Baxter, who was part of The Times' World Cup coverage in South Africa. "Near the end of Paul's success, we were hearing about a parakeet in Malaysia and an elephant somewhere. They've come late to the party."

-- Lance Pugmire

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