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Oscar De La Hoya is a Man on Mission
By Wayne Richardson (May 8, 2004) 
Oscar De La Hoya
Photo © J.P. Yim
“The love of fame is almost another name for the love of excellence; or it is the ambition to attain the highest excellence, sanctioned by the highest authority, that of time.”

William Hazlitt wrote this over one hundred years ago yet he could have been just as easily writing it today if asked for a reason why Oscar De La Hoya has decided to challenge Middleweight Champion Bernard Hopkins.

Since entering the ring at the age of ten, Oscar has been driven to reach greatness, to be the best at his sport. De La Hoya had an amateur record of 223-5, and during those fights he won a National Golden Gloves Title along with going on to win an Olympic Gold Medal during his outstanding amateur career. De La Hoya showed the determination to succeed that would be the cornerstone of his personal and professional life.

He turned pro late in 1992, continuing on the same successful path he had established in the amateurs. Oscar captured a title in only his twelfth fight when he stopped Jimmy Brehdal for the WBO 130lb title.
It was only the beginning of a great run that saw four more weight divisions conquered and many name fighters such as Pernell Whitaker, John John Molina, Rafael Ruelas, Hector Camacho and Mexican hero Julio Caesar Chavez falling to his boxing expertise. He was undefeated for thirty one consecutive contests before a very controversial loss to Felix Trinidad ended his streak. He lost again in the welterweight division to Sugar Shane Mosley, but rebounded in his next big fight to stop Fernando Vargas. To date, Oscar has compiled a professional record of 36 – 3 (29 KO’s) with two of these losses being controversial and five division titles.

Clearly with these achievements already attained Oscar has easily earned himself a spot in Canastota, yet even with having a ring career many boxer’s dream of he is still not content to rest on his laurels.

It leaves many wondering why he can not be satisfied and what drives him to continually push himself to the limits? When Oscar won the Olympic Medal he was determined by the vow he made to his dying mother. And while he did fulfill his promise, is it possible losing his mother at such a young age has affected him to always show her in some way that he is doing his best. Or is he still unconsciously looking for his father’s approval? Something that he searched for early in his career though Oscar claims to have resolved this after his match with Trinidad it could be still an issue.

It could have been from financial reasons when he was starting out, but that is now not even considered. Although he stands to make a minimum 30 million dollars in a two fight deal for his rise into the middleweight ranks, Oscar’s motivation doesn’t seem to be fiscally influenced. He has earned over 300 million in purses, endorsements and business transactions since beginning his professional career in 1992 and is still earning millions without ever having to enter the ring.

When Oscar was moving up he was shot down by many critics for taking easy fights and avoiding any real challenges. While many boxers say they have no effect on them, it must provide a source of irritation that leads to a desire to remove any doubt from their minds. Oscar may have been affected by these condemnations and driven to push himself beyond what could ever have been expected of him. He has a desire to be recognized by every one as an all time great in the sport of boxing. He fought Vargas to win back Mexican fans who had turned on him for what they considered the humiliation of Chavez and has silenced a lot of past critics by facing top talent. He is now the man everyone wants to fight and many follow him up in weight hoping to get a shot. Oscar is a top money earner outside of the heavyweight division and has a huge crossover appeal with people not generally considered fans of boxing.

The most probable reason for his drive is the same that pushes all great athletes and businessmen to exceed beyond expectations. They have strong will, intelligence and are not deterred from any goals they set. Oscar has this and was destined to become successful at whatever he chose to pursue.
His failures may have hit hard, but only serve to push him harder to reach his goals. He wanted to avenge his losses, but fell short against Mosley and seems to be unwilling to involve himself with Don King to get a shot at his other adversary Felix Trinidad. So the next best thing is to take on the only man to beat Trinidad, Bernard Hopkins.

The general opinion is that “The Golden Boy” has finally taken on more than he is capable of overcoming in cagey veteran Bernard Hopkins. The middleweight title holder hasn’t lost since facing Roy Jones, JR. in 1993 and at thirty-nine, he shows no apparent sign of deterioration in his skills. A rough, smart boxer he breaks opponents down throughout the entire fight, Hopkins is looking to make Oscar the nineteenth notch in his IBF belt. He knows more tricks legal and otherwise than any one Oscar has faced and is more than willing to use them. Judging from the way De La Hoya faded in the late rounds during his disputed loss to Shane Mosley most expect Hopkins to wear him down and catch him late.

However, Oscar has always been a shrewd businessman and rarely takes on a venture without weighing the risks. Has he noticed something about Hopkins that we have missed? He is confident he can win based on an observance of Bernard, possibly Oscar has seen a slip in the style of the 160lb champ that he feels he can exploit to claim a sixth championship. The fight is reminiscent of the 1987 middleweight clash between hugely admired Sugar Ray Leonard and former Middleweight King, Marvelous Marvin Hagler. Leonard, a huge underdog who jumped two weight classes was expected to crumble quickly under the pressure of a dominant natural middleweight who hadn’t lost in eleven years. Instead he pulled off a valiant win by outboxing, stealing rounds and avoiding Hagler’s power zone, although many feel he won the fight on popularity.

Can Oscar pull off the same kind of upset and will this become the crowning achievement that will finally leave him content with his accomplishments inside the ring or will he continue to push himself?

He has said that he is coming down to the final fights of his career and wants them to be great matches, that he will be remembered for. Hopefully, he realizes that his legacy as a great champion is already cemented in the history books before he follows in the footsteps of many champions who fought on past their primes, mere shells of their former selves

What motivates Oscar’s will always be the subject of many conversations between fans and experts alike. And while the factors may change with each endeavor the constant that will continue through Oscar’s life is the need to continually challenge the man known as the “The Golden Boy.”
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