This past Saturday was the 50th birthday for Oscar De La Hoya. Yeah, there have been a myriad of articles penned on 'the Golden Boy' but I've decided that I need to pay tribute to this career. And besides, I'd much rather write about this than O’Shaquie Foster- Rey Vargas.
In his prime ,De La Hoya was the biggest star in the game, and the sport of boxing was better off for it. This career harkens back to a time when boxing was bigger and better.
For all his sizzle, there was a lot of steak, here.
While he was certainly telegenic, De La Hoya was also a well-schooled fighter who possessed a lethal left hook, and above-average speed. The native of East LA was also blessed with a lean frame that allowed him to move up in weight easily.
You didn't have to like him, in fact, many didn't. But one way or the other you cared when he performed.
Oscar De La Hoya Greatest Hits(HBO)
Coming out of the 1992 Olympics as the lone gold medalist from a US boxing squad that included the likes of Vernon Forrest, Chris Byrd, Tim Austin, Raul Marquez and Montell Griffin, he was earmarked for stardom early on, and fast tracked by his handlers.
And De La Hoya was given exposure on ABC, unlike prospects today who are buried on afternoon slots on a stream. You could argue that Oscar was the very last boxer to truly be pushed early on by the major over-the-air networks.
Boxing: De La Hoya vs. Avelar Prefight and Postfight (1993)
Soon after, De La Hoya won this first major title in 1994 by stopping Jimmi Bredahl in 10 rounds for the WBO 130-pound title. But where he really established himself was the next year when he came out victorious in bouts versus Rafael Ruelas and Genaro Hernandez in Los Angeles-based rivalries. Then in 1996 in what was his first big mega-fight, he faced his idol, Julio Cesar Chavez, which was notable for not being on pay-per-view but only closed-circuit as Bob Arum wanted to thwart piracy issues.
After stopping Chavez in four, it was clear that De La Hoya -- alongside Mike Tyson -- was the biggest star in the sport. And you could argue he was the first crossover Latino star the sport has ever had, and he brought in a new demographic -- females. He was the guy hardcore fans hated, while their girlfriends had a crush on him.
In 1997, De La Hoya did something that is now unthinkable: he boxed five times versus the likes of Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Pernell Whitaker, David Kamau, Hector Camacho and Wilfredo Rivera.
Five title fights in a year? Oscar De La Hoya recalls his memorable 1997
His status as a pay-per-view franchise, and being in the HBO galaxy (while they were still the most important platform in the sport) gave him this opportunity to be this active. And to his credit, he was willing to capitalize on this.
How bright did his star shine at this point? He drew over 48,000 to the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas against the hopelessly overmatched WBC mis-mandatory, Patrick Charpentier.
In 1999 he took on in succession: Ike Quartey, Oba Carr and then Felix Trinidad. The Trinidad fight, one that many believed De La Hoya won, took place while both were unbeaten and 26 years old. Yeah this wasn't Errol Spence-Terence Crawford.
You're favorite boxer of today wouldn't, or couldn't have such a year.
This was apex of De La Hoya. His skills were the sharpest, and his passion for the sport at it's highest. While the back end of his career still had some notable achievements and memorable fights, he more or less became a part-time fighter. But make no doubt about it, whenever he fought, it mattered, and it was appointment viewing for boxing fans all across the board.
And with that, not only did he headline at the Madison Square Garden (versus Jesse James Leija and Derrel Coley), but was also the darling of Madison Avenue. De La Hoya had more than his share of corporate sponsors and national endorsements.
While current day fighters talk about 'sides of the street', De La Hoya was his own metropolis. For over a decade he was one of the pillars of the sport. He had such a status that it was defeating him that launched Floyd Mayweather into a transcendent figure in the American consciousness.
You could argue that he got a few A-side breaks, you could opine that Pernell Whitaker nipped him, Felix Sturm was certainly the victim of a 'business decision', but at the same time, most observers think he should've got his hands raised in victory against 'Tito' and the rematch with Shane Mosley. But ask yourself this, how many boxers can you honestly say that Oscar avoided?
Maybe, Winky Wright?
But that's about it.
De La Hoya's career ended in ignominious fashion in 2008 as he was thrashed by a whirlwind from the Philippines named, Manny Pacquiao, who by virtue of this win, became an international star himself. Again, that was the power of Oscar.
The personal issues surrounding De La Hoya, which are well-chronicled, have probably clouded the memory we have of him as a fighter. Yeah, he's been used as a punchline over his various foibles and his sobriety is a constant battle. No, he wasn't a saint, he's a sinner like the rest of us. But he seems to be in a good place currently with his newly etched abs and renewed enthusiasm to rebuild Golden Boy Promotions. Right now, his troll game on social media is pound-for-pound quality.
Yeah, I can't lie, I wasn't always a fan, in fact, as I began on this beat in the mid-90's I was a rather staunch critic. But over time my begrudging respect has turned into admiration. It was a fun and memorable career to have been able to cover. Seeing what's taking place today, gives me more appreciation for what he accomplished.
So with that Oscar, happy, belated birthday.
FINAL FLURRIESShowtime will air a card this Saturday from the Alamodome in San Antonio that features Foster-Vargas for the vacant WBC 130-pound title....Thompson Boxing has it's monthly show from the Double Tree Hotel in Ontario on Friday night that will be streamed on YouTube and their Facebook page....Golden Boy Promotions announced that Gilberto 'Zurdo' Ramirez will take on the badly faded Gabe Rosado on March 18....Heavyweight Richard Torrez, has been added to the March 25 card in Fresno that features Jose Ramirez-Richard Commey on ESPN.....While Emiliano Vargas has been placed by Top Rank on their April 1 card in Tulsa, OK, at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The main event that night is Isaac Dogboe-Robeisy Ramirez. Xander Zayas is also on this card.....So 'Succession' on HBO is coming back in late March? OK, I got my calendar circled....I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org