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Hopkins - De La Hoya: A Look Ahead to the Sports Page of September 19, 2004
By Krishen Rangi (August 6, 2004) 
Photo © Chris Farina
Las Vegas–In a ring career that has spanned 26 of his 31 years, won him millions of dollars and made him a celebrity worldwide, Oscar De La Hoya, boxing’s 'Golden Boy', had experienced little but success.

After capturing Olympic gold as a 19-year-old, he won world titles in six different weight classes, with defeats coming only in the form of close controversial decisions. Perhaps most convincing of his legendary status was his ability to avoid major punishment, often the rarest attribute in this frequently vicious and uncompromising industry.

No more.

In front of a star-studded audience of nearly 17,000 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bernard Hopkins administered one of the worst beatings in major prizefight history, coursing seven and a half brutal one-sided rounds. The end came mercifully at 1:34 of the eighth round when ring doctor Margaret Goodman, who had been monitoring massive swelling and cuts above and below both of De La Hoya’s eyes for most of the night, ordered referee Joe Cortez to stop the fight.

“I told everyone this would happen from the day the fight was signed,” said a smiling and satisfied Hopkins, his face totally unmarked. “It’s been over eleven years since anyone even challenged me – eleven years.”

De La Hoya, looking intimidated from the start, appeared overmatched in size and strength, and was never able to do the things that made him famous: establish his jab or seize control of the fight’s tempo. The massive shoulders and arms of Hopkins, a former 175 lb fighter, proved impervious for De La Hoya, who began his career at 130 lbs, and every punch he threw was countered immediately and with great effect by Hopkins, who looked less methodical and cautious than in past fights, appearing focused instead on ending the action dramatically.

“Every time he threw a jab I welcomed him with a right cross,” said Hopkins, 39, whose hulk over De La Hoya was as much physical as it was psychological. “People said his speed and his jab would be too much, but guess what, I turned his speed against him. After a while he quit throwing it (his jab) altogether.”

While both fighters came out tentative, looking to see what the other would give, it quickly became clear that Hopkins’s edge in power was too substantial to overcome. As the second round ended, with De La Hoya backed onto the ropes, Hopkins unloaded several thundering combinations to the head that left the former singer quivering as he walked back to his corner. De La Hoya’s caution the remainder of the fight only seemed to hurt him as Hopkins quickly aborted his traditional boxing technique in favor of what resembled a street fight.

Some of the evening’s more dramatic moments occurred between rounds 6 and 7, and 7 and 8 when Floyd Mayweather Sr., De La Hoya’s trainer, suggested they call it a night. An unrecognizable and enraged De La Hoya unloaded a series of expletives, prompting Mayweather’s refusal to enter the ring during the next break. Joel De La Hoya, Oscar’s older brother and second trainer in charge, jumped into the ring and said to De La Hoya, “What are you doing? – it’s over. You can’t win, you don’t know what you’re doing anymore.” Moments later the fight was over, the carnage stopped.

The evening was not a loss altogether for De La Hoya, however, as he earned a guaranteed $30 million. Hopkins, meanwhile, earned $12 million plus a share of the pay-per-view revenue, which was expected to reach 1.5 million buys, a record for a non-heavyweight fight.

By taking the match, De La Hoya had spurned the advice of close advisors and knowledgeable observers alike, in hopes of aligning himself historically with champions like Sugar Ray Robinson and Sugar Ray Leonard, champions who had moved up in weight to capture middleweight crowns. One thing that remained constant about De La Hoya, however, in taking the match was his desire to fight the best, a pattern he has maintained throughout his career.

There was significant speculation ringside that it was De La Hoya’s last fight considering the damage, though none of it from De La Hoya himself, who was immediately taken for medical treatment without offering comments.
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