Sharkie’s Machine - The Oscar De La Hoya Golden Boy Sweepstakes
By Frank Gonzalez Jr., exclusive to Doghouse Boxing (Aug 18, 2008)  
What prize fighter wouldn’t want to fight “The Golden Boy” Oscar De La Hoya? It’s got to be the richest payday and most exposure a fighter can get. Who will be the lucky fighter that gets this opportunity to make that big money in the Oscar De La Hoya Sweepstakes?

With his once sharp boxing skills that included his famous jab and signature left hook, Oscar used his good looks and charisma to become one of the most recognized figures in boxing today. Oscar is an icon in boxing and his name alone is enough for HBO to produce a Pay-Per-View event to feature him. Here’s to hoping someone deserving wins the “DLH Sweepstakes” and gets to be Oscar’s last opponent.

There are some logical candidates, like Shane Mosley, who beat Oscar twice. How the Judges gave Mosley the decision in that rematch was very curious. There’s no way Mosley won that second fight. A rubber match for these two golden siblings of boxing might decide once and for all, who was the better fighter. Maybe not. Either way, they match up well, so why not go out concluding a trilogy fight?

Mosley’s name has not surfaced in Oscar’s recent quest to find his final opponent. It be that Mosley would rightfully demand a 50-50 split based on his record vs. the Golden Boy. It could also be that Oscar isn’t interested in a good match up so much as an easy match up. Too bad he already beat Ricardo Mayorga! Oscar is more of a business man than a fighter these days. The ‘bottom line’ is his ultimate goal, not the glory of battle.

Oscar always wanted redemption for the Felix Trinidad loss, a fight that Oscar would have won if he hadn’t run away for the last few rounds. Surely Trinidad could be coaxed into a big money rematch with DLH. But would the fans want to see that at this time? I don’t think so but, it would make sense for Oscar’s legacy.

Oscar said he wanted to fight the winner of Margarito vs. Cotto. But when the smaller Cotto lost to the bigger, more durable Margarito, Oscar’s sense of self preservation changed his mindset. Suddenly, Oscar didn’t want to “end his career against a fellow Mexican.”

Instead of a potentially dangerous beat down from IBF Welterweight champ, Antonio Margarito, Oscar opted to fight the much smaller, Filipino Lightweight Super Star, Manny Pacquaio, who has only recently moved up to 135-pounds. Pacman is a brawler; Oscar is a boxer who had decent power in his day. After seeing his face vs. the relatively unscathed face of Forbes after that 12 round sparring session, Oscar’s power is another question mark at this point in time. The size and weight difference would put Pacman at considerable disadvantage.

After some hype, that fight fell apart. Manny Pacquaio opted out of the invitation after Golden Boy Promotions offered him an insulting 70-30 split on the purse. On his own, Pacman is a big star with a huge following. He can sell Pay-Per-Views too. Why should Oscar, a title-less Jr. Middleweight (154-pounds), who lost three of his last six fights get the lion’s share of the purse against a popular Super Featherweight, recently turned Lightweight champion? That doesn’t make good business sense for Manny, only for Oscar. Though 30% of the split with Oscar might be more than 10 million, why should Oscar make double the money? Because he’s the Golden Boy?

Manny was right to walk away, even though his trainer, Freddy Roach didn’t think so and is still campaigning to make the fight happen. Instead, Pacman wants to fight Humberto Soto, who lost two of his last three. This incensed Roach, who said, “Fighting Humberto Soto is ridiculous!” Roach trained DLH before and was already set to train Manny to fight him.

Freddie Roach spoke to Bob Arum and Pacquaio’s adviser Michael Koncz and said, “You know what, I talked to Michael Koncz and I told him, you know what if Manny doesn’t win this fight you can keep my money. You don’t have to pay me. That’s how sure I am,” said Roach. “The thing is some people tell me that I’m crazy, some people tell me that Manny’s too small, I don’t believe that. I honestly feel Manny can beat this guy.”

Clearly Manny Pacquaio can afford to pass on the Golden Boy Sweepstakes and take the path of least resistance at this point in his career.

Maybe Oscar didn’t really want to fight Pacman after all. Pacman is small but dangerous. What if Pacman were to pull it off by outlasting DLH and managing to land the more telling punches for 12 awkward rounds? Imagine Oscar losing to a man 20 pounds lighter than him? That’s probably not what The Golden Boy had in mind for his retirement party. Even if he beat Pacquaio—critics would smother him, saying he went after a far smaller fighter, it was a mismatch, etc, etc. It’s a lose/lose situation.

Oscar’s 70-30 deal to Pacman reminded me of how Roy Jones Jr. changed his mind about fighting the winner of Trinidad vs. Hopkins after Hopkins destroyed Tito, in 2001. Big name fighters have been known to use money to prevent fights from happening, all the while making it look like the other guy didn’t want the fight, since they wouldn’t sign an unfair contract. None of these shenanigans would exist if boxing had a legitimate rankings system.

You can bet Oscar’s last fight will be an HBO Pay-Per-View event. It should at least be a fight card worthy of the $54.99 charge. Make it an under-card that gives exposure to quality fighters who deserve it. How about a fight card of rematches, featuring DLH vs. Mosley or Trinidad and an under-card like, Kendall Holt vs. Ricardo Torres II or Rafael Marquez vs. Israel Vasquez IV or Glen Johnson vs. Chad Dawson II. Those are fights fans DO want to see. Nobody wants to see another Julio Caesar Chavez Jr. vs. ‘To Be Announced’ stiff on PPV! You start watching these hideously predictable match ups and by the time the main event begins, you’re half asleep.

To his credit, Oscar’s been a good ambassador for the sport. He’s polite, articulate, respects his opponents and has a history of fighting some top name fighters in a career that spans over twenty years, including his time in the amateurs. He won Olympic Gold in 1989 as a Featherweight, which dubbed him the Golden Boy in the first place and its all been golden since. If Oscar wants to end his career with a bang instead of a whimper, he should fight someone that’s at least 147 pounds and ranked within the top five of the phony rankings system currently in use.

That Oscar got rich from boxing is not a crime. He learned the business end of the sport and capitalized on that knowledge. He owns and runs Golden Boy Promotions, which is highly favored with HBO and looks to be paving the way for the charismatic Oscar to become the new kingpin of boxing, eventually replacing the aging Don King and Bob Arum.

Ultimately, I’m disappointed that Oscar hasn’t used his influence to make boxing better for the fighters, who still get a raw deal for a most dangerous occupation. The man I once thought would be instrumental in forming a strong boxer’s union, Bernard Hopkins, is now one of Oscar’s partners at GBP. The status quo remains safely intact.

That Oscar De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KO’s) is greedy and looking for another huge payday before he exits the game is understandable. It would do Oscar’s legacy well to pick an opponent with a career that in ways, parallels his own. Guys like Verno Phillips (42-10-1, 21 KO’s), Daniel Santos (32-3-1, 23 KO’s), Vernon Forrest (40-3, 29 KO’s), Shane Mosley (44-5, 37 KO’s), Roman Karmazin (36-3-1, 23 KO’s) or even Corey Spinks (36-5, 11 KO’s) come to mind. And none of these guys are Mexicans, so Oscar wouldn’t have to end his career against a “fellow Mexican”—as if we bought that crap in the first place.

Oscar’s fight date is set for early December and there’s still some time for him to find an opponent. The circus is coming full circle now as there is talk that Oscar wants to fight Sergio Mora, who recently beat Vernon Forrest to win the WBC Jr. Middleweight title. Excuse me but isn’t Sergio Mora a “Mexican”?.

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