Five minutes with Oscar De La Hoya
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing (Dec 27, 2011) Doghouse Boxing
Oscar De La Hoya
By John J. Raspanti, Doghouse Boxing: A few weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to attend the Abner Mares / Joseph Agbeko bantamweight championship fight at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. In total there were eight entertaining fights that night. The last bout featured Mares and Agbeko in a rematch of their controversial first fight.

The atmosphere was electric as Mares and Agbeko battled tooth and nail. Most of the crowd roared, but some, a small but enthusiastic group from Agbeko’s native country of Ghana, chanted throughout the fight. Between rounds, I found myself glancing over and watching these people, as they clapped, sang and hugged.

After the fights had concluded, I made my way to a runaway exit for a pre-arranged meeting with Oscar De La Hoya. I spotted lightweight contender Robert “The Ghost” Guerrero and his publicist ,Mario Serrano. Great guys these two. After speaking for a few minutes, Guerrero and Serrano headed towards the press conference.

A security guard stopped the contender to check his I.D. At that point I couldn’t resist calling out, “Hey you can't stop the ghost.” The security guy gave me a funny face. A minute or so later he wandered over to me and said, “Who was that guy anyway?”

"The Ghost," I said. "World ranked fighter."

"Means nothing to me,” he said, and went back over to join his security friends.

Some people!

I could see Don King holding court near the ring waving a couple of flags (only in America) and grinning. I found it interesting since his fighter, Agbeko, had lost.

But then, what do I know?

Oscar De La Hoya was on the opposite side of the ring surrounded by a crowd of boxing fans. Oscar graciously signed every book, glove or shirt placed in front of him. He patiently submitted to all requests for pictures. I had walked over to the runaway with my tape recorder ready as the former six-time champion walked towards me.

Of course, I knew him by sight, as did everyone in the Honda Center. His focus was thirty feet in front of him, where soon he would be hosting a news conference.

I caught up with him and said, “Hi Oscar. I’m John with doghouseboxing, I heard you made a real friend in Sy Sherman yesterday at the weigh-in.”

As soon as De La Hoya heard the name he slowed, glanced at me, and smiled.

"What an amazing kid he is," he said. "He was playing video games and having such a good time. He’s such a sweet kid."

Sy, who is eight years old, is suffering from a rare form of liver cancer. Last February his doctors told the his family he had eight months to live. Everyone that who comes in contact with Sy is touched by his sense of humor and kindness. The little boy is attached to the Make-A-Wish foundation as is De La Hoya's company.

We were still walking and I knew my time was short. When De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions, he mentioned wanting to clean up boxing and bring it back to it's former glory. I asked how he thought his company was doing.

He paused and said, "I’m very optimistic that the changes are coming. Obviously, when I first started promoting, I had no clue what the game was inside the ropes or outside. I really had no idea what goes on. But, I’m very optimistic boxing will flourish in the years to come. There is no doubt about it, that boxing will become a sport comparable to baseball, and the NFL in terms or popularity. It might take some time but I have no doubt it will happen."

The career of the boxer is short and not always sweet. I've often wondered how difficult it is to give up something that made you famous, defined you as a person, and gave you your greatest glory. Most boxers are in their 30's when they hang up the gloves. There have been rumors for months that De La Hoya, who retired from the sport two years ago, was coming back. I asked him how much he missed boxing and if he wanted a rematch with Felix Trinidad. He chuckled as he met my eyes.

"I do miss it, I do miss going up there and trading punches," he said. " When I feel that, I wake and go run and the following morning after that, I run and hit the heavy bag. But then, the following day, after I hit the heavy bag, I can’t get out of bed. So, that’s a reality check for me. There’s no more boxing."

“I think you could still whip a lot of guys,” I said with a smile.

De La Hoya's smile was bigger, as he replied “That will never happen.”

We were now standing off to the side of where the press conferece would commence. In a grand gesture, De La Hoya suggested that we continue the interview a few feet from the tables and microphones. Lots of people were milling about and I could feel them looking at me. De La Hoya was oblivious to all of it. He waited patiently for me to ask my next question.

"Are promoter Bob Arum's constant putdowns bothersome?"

“No, It’s not bothersome at all," he said. "At this point, I feel sorry for Bob. That’s all I can feel. There are obviously issues with him, he’s a promoter that’s been in this game for a long time. He should go out with honor, promote his fights, and sail off into the sunset but obviously, that’s not the case. It’s fine with us, let him do what he wants to do and we will do what we were going to do. Anyway, for the next forty five years of my life I’m going to be promoting."

I followed up asking De La Hoya why Arum was constantly critical of Golden Boy.

"Because he can’t lie to us, he can’t pull a fast one on us. We are smarter then him. I can see Bob Arum coming a mile away. I know when he’s fooling the public. He can’t fool us, that’s why he doesn’t work with us,” he said.

One of De La Hoya's assistants gave me the sign to end the interview. But I had one more question.

"Will the Saul Alvarez and Julio Cezar Chavez fight happen soon," I asked.

"I doubt it. But, I hope the following year that it can happen." he said, "that will be a big fight".

With that we shook hands. I thanked him for taking the time. "You're welcome," he said as he stepped away, turned, and was swallowed up by his staff and the media.
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