Friday, February 9, 2007


Saying goodbye to boxing is never an easy thing for a fighter to do. Only a few have turned their back on the hardest game and left on their own terms. No matter who they are they tend to go out in a most humiliating and cruel fashion - either bleeding, broke or both. Oscar De La Hoya AKA "The Golden Boy" vows to go out differently than most pugs and said today during a chat with reporters that, "My farewell fight will be one of the biggest things out there."

Speaking from his training base in Puerto Rico, where he is preparing for a May 6th bout in Las Vegas against WBC Super Welterweight titlist Ricardo Mayorga, De La Hoya mentioned several times that the end is near for him in boxing. "September 16th is the last night I will lace up a glove," he solemnly declared.

Few fighters have transcended boxing the way that Oscar De La Hoya has. Only Muhammad Ali, Ray Leonard and Mike Tyson are bigger in recent times. Oscar is far and away the largest box office draw in professional boxing and when he meets Mayorga in Las Vegas the glitter seats will be filled with the "Who’s Who" of the Hollywood set.

De La Hoya has won title belts in six different weight divisions and fought many of the best fighters the world has had to offer since he won an Olympic gold medal at Barcelona, Spain in 1992. In his 15th year as a professional fighter he is all that his nickname implies - "The Golden Boy". HBO boxing analyst Larry Merchant calls the strikingly handsome De La Hoya, "George Clooney with fists." With varied business interests, a Latin Grammy Award nomination, a pop-star wife named Millie and his own boxing promotional company, De La Hoya clearly sees a life for himself after boxing that most big name fighters often never do. He’s not far from walking down that golden brick road to retirement while clicking his heels the entire way.

In spite of his vast personal fortune and bustling business empire, De La Hoya has not grown lazy or soft and he says he is not distracted from the immediate task at hand which he says is "to teach Mayorga a lesson." When Oscar speaks about fighting Mayorga, he does so with a blend of eagerness, excitement and anger in his voice. The boorish Mayorga will never be confused for a charm school graduate and he has been confrontational in the promotion leading up to this fight. Mayorga has continually taunted Oscar by insulting his family and heritage, questioning his manhood and going so far as to slap Oscar in the back of the head during a press conference. "I’m not a mama’s boy like Oscar," barks "El Matador".

HBO boxing commentator Jim Lampley sees nothing endearing about Ricardo Mayorga and said recently, "Mayorga is a guy about whom you could develop a serious hatred for in 10 or 15 minutes if he chooses to rub you the wrong way. He intensely believes that a huge part of this is the intimidation game."

De La Hoya, ever the diplomat, said that as a result of all of his actions that Mayorga is "bad for boxing" and that he would not want the Nicaraguan as part of his boxing promotional stable. Richard Schaefer, De La Hoya’s business manager and partner was less diplomatic saying he had a term he uses to describe Mayorga: "A lowlife."

This fight is fraught with risk for De La Hoya because although Mayorga is rumored to train on a diet consisting of one part Budweiser and two parts Marlboro - he can punch - scoring 23 knockouts in 28 wins and he swings for the fences on nearly every shot. Adding to the drama is that this will be De La Hoya’s first fight back since his ill-fated knockout loss to former Middleweight Champion, Bernard Hopkins eighteen months ago. For his part, the happy-go-lucky Mayorga claims he hasn’t had a drink in two months, "hasn’t really gone near sex" and is only smoking "three or four cigarettes" a day. "When I drop De La Hoya he’s gonna piss his pants," Mayorga says in Spanish - and then he smiles.

Oscar brushes aside Mayorga’s caustic comments and says that he and his trainer, Floyd Mayweather, Sr. have "prepared for everything" and that despite training for the past four months it was only about three weeks ago that he felt everything "click" and that he’s now comfortable with his progress and conditioning. De La Hoya said his "body feels rested" from the long layoff and that when he hits the scales next Friday afternoon at the MGM Grand in Vegas he expects to weigh a trim and ready "151…152, tops."

Looking to the future, and as long as everything goes according to plan on May 6th, the thirty-three year old De La Hoya said he will fight one more time on September 16th and then he will go somewhere over the rainbow to a land called retirement. The only prerequisite is that Oscar wants that last fight to be a blockbuster and that the bout, in his words, "has to be a mega fight."
Of course, in order to have a mega fight one needs a mega opponent and Oscar mentioned only three names today: Winky Wright who will face Middleweight champion Jermain Taylor in June, undefeated Floyd Mayweather, Jr. who is considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world, and Felix Trinidad who is rumored to be itching to come back to fight and who holds a disputed win over De la Hoya dating back to 1999.

Of the three, it would seem that Mayweather, Jr. is the clear front runner. Winky Wright has difficulty making the 154 pound limit where De La Hoya currently resides and should he beat Taylor for the title in June he is contractually obligated to fight Taylor in an immediate rematch. Trinidad is whiling away his days relaxing in his native Puerto Rico and his return to boxing is nothing more than idle speculation and rumor.

That leaves Floyd Mayweather, Jr. as the one and only mega opponent ready, willing and able to try and crash the De La Hoya retirement party. The rumor mill is in full grist on that fight and should De La Hoya get by Mayorga next week he says he is going to "sit down" with Floyd, Sr. and discuss the possibility of fighting his son saying, "Floyd, Sr.’s opinion would matter a lot here." Only a few months ago Oscar was on record as saying a fight against Mayweather, Jr. would "never happen."

Of course, in order to make it somewhere over the rainbow and get to the mega fight in September, De La Hoya has to skip down the golden brick road with Mayorga who says about Oscar, "I just really don’t like him. I want to damage him."

And that’s no lullaby.

April 2006

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