Oscar and Combat
By Tom Gray (March 10, 2005) 
Photo © HoganPhotos.com
“I want to fight the very best champions out there, because I want to be recognised as the very best! Whoever – let’s do it!” – An undefeated Oscar De La Hoya in 1998.

The year 2004 was the worst of Oscar De La Hoya’s entire career. He looked terrible against the unheralded Felix Sturm, in a decision victory that many felt he didn’t earn, and Bernard Hopkins stopped him for the first time in his career. As far as boxing superstars go, only Roy Jones Jr. would have had more reason to look at the sky and ask; “Why me?”

There are many who feel that The Golden Boy should call it quits. At 32 years of age, he has won world titles in six weight classes and proved himself against the best in the business on numerous occasions. He could live ten lifetimes and never spend the fortune he has already amassed and his growing promotional company is looking to become enormously successful.

However, De La Hoya has already said that he shall return to the ring as a welterweight. While I think that this is a good idea, there is no reason to have a twelve month lay off. The competition will just be staying busy, while Oscar runs around promoting other fighters. This is not a recipe for success, especially when you consider that the 147lb division is about to become one of the best in the sport.

It seems to me that Oscar has a major problem staying active and the only reason he can’t retire completely is that he knows he will miss the challenge and not necessarily the competition. While that is understandable considering what he has already achieved, it could become a terrible hindrance if he prolongs that approach. In 1997, he had five fights including a 140lb title defence against Miguel Angel Gonzales and a title winning effort at 147lbs against Pernell Whitaker. He fought forty-seven professional rounds that year and was regarded as one of the best pound for pound fighters in the world. To put things into perspective, Oscar has fought just over fifty rounds since the summer of 2001.

It may be selfish of me, but I hope he is around for at least another couple of fights, because he attracts such attention and competes in such big events. Who wouldn’t want to see Oscar against Judah or Tszyu? You would have to have a real good excuse not to shell out the dollars for either one of these fights. However, a cynic could argue that Oscar has lost his last three fights and the only one I personally think he won was the Mosley rematch. Therefore, should he not have to prove himself against a ranked contender at welterweight? Of course he should, so what’s wrong with doing that in the next few months and fighting a big fight at the end of the year. His old rival Sugar Shane Mosley takes on David Estrada in a tune up fight, because his form dictates that is what he needs. I think it would be a good idea for Oscar to employ a similar approach and quash his ego for once.

There is no doubt that De La Hoya still loves the sport and marvels in his success as a fighter and a promoter. When Marco Antonio Barrera defeated Eric Morales in November, you would have been forgiven for thinking that Oscar had just beaten Vitali Klitschko, such was the passion in his immediate reaction. He really gets involved in his promotional activity and has a welcome and refreshing approach to his work. As a fighter, if he were to retire tomorrow he is a lock for the Hall of Fame and has enough big names on his record to be considered a great champion. He won when he should have lost and lost when he should have won, but he was never dominated until Hopkins knocked him out, which is hardly an embarrassment.

Let us hope that De La Hoya changes his mind and fights sooner rather than later. His presence in the ring is sorely missed and if he wants to go out a winner, then he should take it seriously and work for it. Here are four good reasons to take that advice; Zab Judah, Kostya Tzsyu, Sugar Shane Mosley and Felix Trinidad.

You don’t beat any of these guys by fighting part time
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