Oscar De La Hoya Speaks on Mayweather vs Pacquiao, Marquez vs Diaz II, Catchweights and More By Gabriel Montoya, MaxBoxing (July 27, 2010) Special to Doghouse Boxing
It was a star-studded day at the Fortune Gym in Hollywood, CA, Monday afternoon as Juan Manuel Marquez, Jorge Linares, Dimitry Pirog and Frankie Gomez held an open workout to promote Golden Boy Promotions’ rematch between Marquez and Juan Diaz this weekend at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, NV, this Saturday night, live on HBO PPV. It is a rematch of the 2009 “Fight of the Year” that saw Marquez tested by the younger Diaz early only to win by knockout in the ninth round via a brutal uppercut that had Diaz out on his back.
It was a day of great opportunities because, in addition to getting to see Marquez workout in person, which was a display of masterful footwork, fluid combinations and an obvious lifelong love of the art of boxing, two other legends were present in the gym. Nacho Beristain, who trains Marquez as well as other boxing greats, watched over his charge, offering suggestions whilst never making a show of his work but, rather, ignoring the media chaos around him as he did his thing. (A Beristain one-on-one is forthcoming).
You’d be hard pressed to top a room filled with top fighters and a legendary trainer but that’s exactly what Golden Boy founder Oscar De La Hoya did as he entered the gym and was immediately surrounded by reporters and photographers. Some had been made of De La Hoya’s seeming absence from Golden Boy events this year but he returned quietly with a smile and a handshake for all who came near him Monday, ready to talk shop, weight classes, and anything else the press could come up with.
As I approached him, a reporter had gotten right to the heat of the moment and asked De La Hoya what he thought of the Manny Pacquiao vs. Antonio Margarito upcoming junior middleweight catchweight vacant title fight.
“Boxing is made up of weight classes,” De La Hoya criticized. “Stick to your weight classes.”
“You fought Hopkins for the title at a catchweight,” I reminded him.
“What weight class?” asked Oscar.
“158,” I replied.
“Well, yeah. That was the arrangement, you know?” He explained. “Would I have considered myself the champion at 160 if I would have beat him? No. There’s weight classes and there is a reason we have weight classes. But boxing is now a business. And it seems that people are heading towards that direction.”
I inquired about the recent “Cold War” happenings between Golden Boy Promotions and its perceived rival Top Rank, headed by De La Hoya’s old promoter, Bob Arum. Their last co-promotion was Pacquiao-Ricky Hatton over a year ago.
“We are open and willing to work with anybody,” said De La Hoya. “We work with Gary Shaw. We work with all the promoters out there. If Top Rank has their own agenda then so be it but we are always open and ready to make the best fights possible.”
Of course, the question why Mayweather vs. Pacquiao was brought up and De La Hoya expressed that while the fight won’t happen now, he did feel it was possible for the future.
“Well at least not now,” he said. “But, hey, it’s up to Mayweather. He has the answer and he calls the shots and whenever he wants the fight that’s when we are going to see it.”
Before the alleged negotiations for that fight fell apart, De La Hoya made a statement on Spanish language television saying, "Up until now, it’s been a very difficult negotiation process for various reasons but right now we’re very close” and also, “I think right now we are very, very close in finalizing the contracts. I can’t talk right now in detail about the negotiations but I will say that we are very close.”
Recently Leonard Ellerbe contradicted De La Hoya and issued a statement claiming negotiations had never taken place.
Late Monday as reported by RingTV.com’s Mike Rosenthal, HBO Sports President Ross Greenburg expressed regret at the failed negotiations and said “Fights like Mayweather vs. Pacquiao are significant because of these fighters’ ability to connect with sports fans around the world. It’s unfortunate that it won’t happen in 2010. I had been negotiating with a representative from each side since May 2nd, carefully trying to put the fight together. Hopefully, someday this fight will happen. Sports fans deserve it.”
Monday afternoon, De La Hoya explained his own comments about a negotiation that may or may not have ever taken place.
“I think I said it because I get the question asked so many times and obviously I was fed up and tired of it so I just said ‘Yeah, yeah. It’s going to be made.’” explained De La Hoya. “It was a quick answer that I should have obviously thought about. But obviously negotiations weren’t going on. Nothing was going on. Like I said, Mayweather has the key to making that fight happen.”
The subject of Marquez-Diaz II came about and De La Hoya, once a fighter and now a promoter, broke it down for the media accordingly.
“I think it is going to be a continuation of the first fight,” he said. “I think Juan Diaz and is going to get up off the mat and continue the tenth round. I was watching the fight over and again the other day and Juan Diaz was in that fight. He was in that fight until he got knocked out. I think the adjustments [Diaz’ Team] can make and obviously the adjustments Juan Manuel can make for another great spectacular show. Can it steal the show that night? Absolutely, but then again, we have other fights who can also steal the night. It’s going to be a great night for boxing.”
The undercard which has been criticized in some circles and praised as one of the best of the year features lightweight contender Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero taking on Joel Casamayor in what should be a showcase for Guerrero’s power and toughness. De La Hoya feels that “The Ghost” will appear refocused and ready to put on a show. Guerrero’s career has been up and down in recent years as he has taken breaks from the sport due to many issues, not the least of which tending to his wife, who has battled cancer in recent years.
“I believe Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero has the ability to go as far as he wants to go because he has been fighting distracted,” said De La Hoya. “He’s been fighting with all this anger in him. He’s been fighting with so many emotions because of his wife. Because of problems with other promoters. Now we are going to see the real Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero. He is going to fight worry-free and we are going to see the best of Robert Guerrero.”
In the past few months, rumors have swirled that should Mayweather need a dance partner, De La Hoya might be available to fill that spot. Another rumor went around that De La Hoya was planning a return against Julio Cesar Chavez Jr. De La Hoya put those rumors to rest.
“There’s no itch. There’s no reason. There’s no anything there,” said De La Hoya. “I haven’t even mentioned it to nobody. I haven’t even thought about it or discussed with anybody. I am completely, absolutely, positively, for sure retired. I maintain myself and I try to keep myself below 165 by running and by doing exercise. But there’s no…I do that because I want to stay in shape, not because I’m coming back. So there’s nothing there.”
“Would you say you are 165 or near middleweight?” I asked just to check if he was thinking like a fighter making weight.
“I keep myself at a catchweight,” he quipped.
“It does cross my mind,” De La Hoya admitted. “Because I think ‘Man, I still have the…I can still throw punches. It’s still there. The reflexes are still there. Not like before but…then you start realizing ‘Hey, I’ve done this for a long time. There’s no need. I’m happy doing what I’m doing. Reality starts to set in.”
After this interview, De La Hoya watched his fighters go through their paces while he playfully threw the hook to the head and body at a heavy bag. You could see that, despite accepting his retirement, the boxing gym is home to him. The camaraderie of joking with the fellas and the reporters hanging around and asking questions when they can, the smell of the heat of battle, the excitement of an upcoming event, all these things can’t ever be replaced. But, in a sense, they are for De La Hoya. That palpable excitement he once had about his own fights has been transferred to the fighters he hopes to watch and promote as they grow into champions.
When asked what is harder, promoting or fighting, De La Hoya’s answer was interesting.
“Fighting or promoting is not tough at all. It’s fun,” he said. “I love doing this. I was on a little hiatus for a few months taking care of some personal problems. I’m back. I’m here to promote. I had Richard [Schaefer, Golden Boy CEO] on the front lines for awhile. I’m back and we are ready to promote bigger and stronger and better than ever.”
Last Thursday, Golden Boy had another installment of their “Fight Night Club” series. In the opener, Oscar Andrade, 2-0 (1) and Ramon Valadez, 1-1, put on a scorcher of a four-rounder that left many saying it was a candidate for “Fight of the Year” while unanimously agreeing round three was “Round of the Year.” De La Hoya , who was in attendance, agreed with a fight fan’s enthusiasm and a promoter’s panache.
“Oh it was ‘Fight of the Year.’ ‘Fight of the Decade,’” he said. “I had a great time at Pechanga. We had it sold out. They hadn’t sold it out in a long time. So we started a relationship there that hopefully we will do a monthly series there. It was fun. I had a great time.”
The next night at the Pechanga Resort and Casino in Temecula, CA, Golden Boy prospect Charles Huerta knocked out Jonathan Arias in six rounds to cap off a good night at the fights. De La Hoya spoke on Huerta and his return following a hand injury in his last fight and a loss three fights back.
“[Huerta] was knocked out and to come back from a knockout like that takes a lot,” De La Hoya said. “And so [the Arias] fight really demonstrated what he is all about. Slowly but surely, we are going to get him back on track because he does have talent. I don’t know how far he can go. It’s up to him. We’re going to keep on matching him up with opponents that will take him to the next level and hopefully he will be ready for something big. Because he is a good talent. He is a good kid.”
When asked about Sergio Mora against Shane Mosley, September 18 at the Staples Center, a card that will feature junior middleweight Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, De La Hoya said, “It can be one of those fights…Sergio Mora is a fighter who can upset anybody. Beating Vernon Forrest obviously isn’t easy and he did. With Shane Mosley, you never know. All these questions are coming up. Did he turn old overnight? Did Mayweather take everything out of him? Is he going to bounce back and be stronger than ever? A lot of questions are being asked but it’s going to be a great, great card again with Victor [Ortiz] and we are going to bring Canelo. People are going to get a chance to see Canelo up close and personal. It really is something special. At 19, he’s got close to 40 fights. He’s matured. He loves the sport. He loves training. He’s very dedicated. He’s going to be special. His last fight was in Guadalajara and he was a different man than I remember. He was a different person. He hits harder. He is working on different things to really box, to move. He destroyed a guy (Luciano Cuello) that took Chavez Jr. the distance. He destroyed him. Like a no-brainer. He is really coming along great. I think within a couple of years, he is going to be a world champion. And not only a world champion, he is going to be one of those stars in boxing.”
De La Hoya lit up when asked about his thoughts about soon-to-be-released-from-prison junior middleweight contender James Kirkland.
“Kirkland, I can’t wait to see in the ring,” De La Hoya said. “I call him the ‘Mack truck.’ Whatever gets in his way, he is going to run over. Just like a Mack truck. We are excited to have him back. Bring him back a couple fights so he can get the rust out and he is back in the picture.”
I asked Oscar about the cut suffered by Diaz in the first Marquez fight and if he felt it affected him in the fight at all.
“I think it startled him a bit and took him by surprise,” Oscar answered. “[A cut] changes the whole game plan. It changes the whole scenario. It changes everything when you have a cut. And when you have a fighter in front of you like Juan Manuel Marquez who is going to capitalize and take advantage of the cut, there’s no hiding from it. It’s kind of like a matter of time and Juan Diaz knew that. I’m sure he had to make adjustments. As you can tell, he was putting his head down after a few rounds and that was when he was getting caught with the uppercuts. The cuts had a lot to do with the fight so hopefully he …won’t get cut” and gave his signature smile. “I think it is going to be a bloodbath. Juan Diaz can make adjustments and Juan Manuel Marquez is going to say, ‘Hey, I can knock him out again.’ It’s going to be a bloodbath. It’s going to be exciting.”
Stay tuned for Gabriel Montoya’s one-on-one gym report with Nacho Beristain, features on Daniel Jacobs, Dimitry Pirog, prospect Donyil Livingston, Andre Berto and more this week on Maxboxing.com.