de la Hoya, Oscar: 1973—: Boxer
Oscar De La Hoya: 1973—: Boxer
Oscar De La Hoya became the "Golden Boy" of boxing with his surprising win of a gold medal in the 1992 Olympic Games. Since then he has captured five boxing titles in five different weight classes, ranking him among boxing's elite. He has often been referred to as the best contemporary American boxer.
Oscar De La Hoya was born on February 4, 1973 in East Los Angeles, California. His parents had immigrated to the United States from Mexico. De La Hoya's family was poor when he was growing up. His father, Joel,Sr., worked as a warehouse clerk for a heating and cooling company and his mother, Cecilia, was a seamstress. De La Hoya had two siblings—an older brother named Joel Jr. and a younger sister, Ceci.
Boxing was a tradition in the De La Hoya family. De La Hoya's paternal grandfather, Vincente, was an amateur featherweight in Durango, Mexico, and his father had a brief professional boxing career in the United States with a 9-3-1 lightweight record. As De La Hoya told Interview magazine, "Boxing has been in my blood since I can remember. It comes naturally to me, and I've enjoyed it ever since I started, at the age of six." As a child De La Hoya would join his father and older brother at the Pico Rivera Sports Arena. The family had assumed that Joel, as the oldest son, would continue the family's boxing tradition. De La Hoya himself admitted that he was an unlikely candidate to become a boxer. "I was a little kid who used to fight a lot in the street—and get beat up," he told Sports Illustrated.
Started Boxing at an Early Age
De La Hoya's father put him in the ring for the first time when he was six years old and he won his first match against a neighborhood kid. By the time he was 11 years old he was winning competitions. Soon De La Hoya began to train at the Resurrection Boy's Club Gym with Al Stankie, who had trained another East Los Angeles boxer, Paul Gonzales, to an Olympic Gold medal. De La Hoya's career quickly began to soar. At the age of 15 he won the National Junior Boxing Championship at a weight of 119 pounds and a year later he won the National Golden Gloves title at a weight of 125 pounds.
In 1990 when De La Hoya was only 17 years old, he won the U.S. National Championship in the 125-pound division and he won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games. He was the youngest U.S. boxer to compete in that event. It was after the Goodwill Games that De La Hoya learned that his mother was dying of cancer. She had wanted to keep her illness a secret until after the Goodwill Games so that her son could focus on his competition. In October 1990 Cecilia died of breast cancer at the age of 38. She had always hoped that her son would win a gold medal at the Olympics and her untimely death gave De La Hoya a concrete goal for the next two years.
At a Glance . . .
Born Oscar De La Hoya on February 4, 1973, in East Los Angeles, CA; married Millie Corretjer; two children.
Career: Amateur boxer, 1984-92; professional boxer, 1992–; singer, 2000–; businessman, 2001–.
Awards: U.S. National Junior Champion, 1988; 125-pound champion, Golden Gloves competition, 1989; gold medalist, U.S. Olympic Cup, 1990; gold medalist, Goodwill Games, 1990; gold medalist, U.S. National Championships, 1990; gold medalist, USA vs. Olympic Festival, 1991; gold medalist, USA vs. Boxing National Champions, 1991; gold medalist, USA vs. Bulgaria, 1992; gold medalist, USA vs. Hungary, 1992; gold medalist, World Challenge, 1992; gold medalist, Olympic Games, 1992; Junior Lightweight Title and later Lightweight Title, World Boxing Organization, 1994; Lightweight Title, International Boxing Federation, 1995; Super Lightweight Title, World Boxing Council, 1996; Welterweight Title, World Boxing Council, 1997; Junior Middleweight Title, World Boxing Council, 2001; Grammy nomination for Oscar De La Hoya, 2001.
Addresses: Golden Boy Promotions, 2102 Business Center Drive, Suite 121, Irvine, CA 92612.
Won Olympic Gold
De La Hoya continued his success as an amateur boxer. In 1991 he won the U.S. Amateur Boxing National Championship in the 132-pound division and he was named Boxer of the Year by USA Boxing. During this time De La Hoya changed trainers because of Stankie's problems with alcohol. His next trainer was Robert Alcazar, an ex-boxer who had worked with Joel De La Hoya, Sr.
While he easily made the U.S. Olympic team, De La Hoya was not expected to make it past the first round of Olympic competition. His first opponent was Cuba's Julio Gonzalez, a 27-year-old four-time World Amateur Junior Lightweight champion. De La Hoya won the match in a 7-2 decision, which was considered the biggest boxing upset of the Olympics. His second round match against Korean champion Hong Sung Sik was close, with De La Hoya winning by only one point. De La Hoya also beat Adilson Silva, Dimitrov Tontchev, and finally defeated Marco Rudolph of Germany for the gold medal. De La Hoya was the sentimental favorite of the Games since the media had promoted his story about a son trying to fulfill his dying mother's wish. However, his victory took everyone by surprise. De La Hoya celebrated by carrying the American and Mexican flags around the ring. He told Los Angeles Magazine, "The American flag was for my country; the Mexican flag for my heritage." After this accomplishment De La Hoya was nicknamed the "Golden Boy" by the media and that name has stayed with him throughout his career.
Became Knock-Out King
The Olympics was the last event of De La Hoya's amateur career and he ended with an amateur record of 223 wins and 5 losses, with an impressive 153 knock-outs. After the Olympics De La Hoya decided to turn professional. As he told Sports Illustrated, "I won the gold for my mom. Now the championship will be for me." On September 4, 1992 De La Hoya signed the richest deal in boxing history for over $1 million with New York agents Robert Mittleman and Steve Nelson. The deal included money for a house for his family in Montebello, quite a step up from the barrio in which he grew up.
De La Hoya's first professional fight was on November 23, 1992 against Lamar Williams. He knocked Williams out in the first round. His next opponent, Cliff Hicks, suffered the same fate in December 1992. In 1993 De La Hoya won nine more fights, mostly with knock-outs. While young boxing professionals often fight less talented opponents in order to improve their record, De La Hoya fought some tough competitors early in his career, including Mexican champion Narcisco Valenzuela. Despite his professional and popular success, De La Hoya broke his contract with Mittleman and Nelson in December 1993 after only one year because he wanted more control over his career. Instead he chose to be advised by his father, his cousin Gerardo Salas, and Los Angeles advertising consultant Raynaldo Garza. At the same time De La Hoya signed a three-year deal with promoter Bob Arum, one of the biggest promoters in boxing.
In 1994 and 1995 De La Hoya continued his winning streak. On May 6, 1995 he captured the InternationalBoxing Federation lightweight title against Rafael Ruelas. However, an earlier fight against John John Molina made De La Hoya question his strategy. Even though he won the bout, De La Hoya was disarmed by Molina's style and he felt he needed a more experienced trainer to better prepare him for his matches. In February 1995 De La Hoya replaced family friend Robert Alcazar as his trainer with Jesus "The Professor" Rivero. Rivero's philosophy was to develop the boxer as a whole person, both in and out of the ring. He encouraged De La Hoya to develop his mind by reading literature and listening to classical music.
Capitalized on Golden Boy Image
De La Hoya built his career not only on his professional accomplishments, but also on his popularity with the media. His good looks, rags-to-riches life story, and charming personality made him one of the public's best known and most liked boxers. He was confident, ambitious, and successful. "I want to make history," he told Sport magazine, "I want to win seven world championships in seven different weight classes from 130 pounds to 168 pounds." He told Sports Illustrated for Kids that his secret for success was the "D formula." "My three D's are dedication, discipline, and desire." De La Hoya capitalized on the "Golden Boy" image in the ring through lucrative deals with HBO to televise his fights. He also cashed in on his success outside of the ring as a spokesperson for Champion athletic shoes, B.U.M. equipment clothing, Levi, John Henry Menswear, and McDonald's, among others.
However, De La Hoya's success has not made him popular with some members of the Hispanic community. In fact, one of his biggest professional successes actually decreased his popularity. In 1996 De La Hoya beat the famous Mexican boxer Julio Cesar Chavez, his boyhood boxing idol, in a bloody battle for the World Boxing Council super lightweight title. Some Hispanics were disenchanted by the Golden Boy's pummeling of a hero. In addition, De La Hoya has been labeled a "sellout" because of his financial success. He moved out of the barrio to a wealthy neighborhood and he spends his free time at country clubs or on the golf course. This has led some to accuse him of abandoning his Mexican-American roots. In 1996 an article in Esquire magazine described " the contradictions that define Oscar De La Hoya. He's the pretty boy of an ugly business; a child star spinning in a constellation of has-beens; Mexican by blood, American in his inclinations; barrio by birth, country club by preference." In addition, De La Hoya's personal life generated some negative press. He was engaged a few times, he fathered two children out of wedlock, and he faced a palimony suit by ex-fiancée and former Miss USA Shanna Moakler.
Experienced First Losses in the Ring
Despite controversy outside of the ring, De La Hoya continued to win matches throughout 1997 and 1998. He also added another title to his collection, beating Pernell Whitaker for the World Boxing Council welter-weight title on April 12, 1997. However, the Golden Boy's run came to an end in 1999. In a much anticipated match De La Hoya lost the WBC welter-weight title to Felix Trinidad on September 18, 1999. Rather than the usual bloodbath, De La Hoya danced around Trinidad in a way that did not impress the judges. "I've proved that I can stand in with anybody, but this time I wanted to put on a boxing show," he told Sports Illustrated, "I think I have the boxing lesson of my life." In reality De La Hoya gave up his title. Sports Illustrated went on to write, "It was not a fight that Trinidad won; it was a fight that De La Hoya perversely handed over."
De La Hoya recovered from his loss by beating Derrell Coley with a knockout in February of 2000. However, in June of the same year he suffered another loss at the hands of welterweight Shane Mosley. Disappointed by two major losses in less than a year, De La Hoya decided to take a break from boxing to pursue his other passion—singing.
Pursued Other Interests
De La Hoya's musical interests came from his mother who was a ranchera song stylist in Mexico. On October 10, 2000 De La Hoya released his self-titled debut album with EMI Latin. The bilingual collection of love ballads featured the single "Ven a Mi" ("Run to Me"), written by the Bee Gees. "In a way, this album is like me giving something back to my Mexican and Latin roots," De La Hoya told Billboard magazine. "But it also had to represent all of America—and not just because I was born here." The album was nominated for a Grammy.
In 2001, at the age of 28, De La Hoya returned to the ring in search of redemption. He won a match against Arturo Gatti and he won the World Boxing Council junior middleweight title from Javier Castillejo. With his victory against Castillejo, De La Hoya became the youngest boxer to win world titles in five weight classes and he joined the ranks of Sugar Ray Leonard and Thomas Hearns for this distinction. In May of 2002 De La Hoya was scheduled to fight Fernando Vargas for the super welterweight title.
De La Hoya's future in boxing is uncertain. Earlier in his career he stated that he could not imagine boxing past the age of 30. However, he would still like to avenge his losses to Trinidad and Mosley. His priorities may also have changed due to his personal life. In October of 2001 De La Hoya married Puerto Rican pop singer Millie Corretjer and moved to Puerto Rico. He also has several other interests outside of the ring. In 2001 De La Hoya established his own boxing promotional company called Golden Boy Promotions. He also founded the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation to sponsor Olympic hopefuls and he is renovating the Resurrection Gym where he trained as a child into the new Oscar De La Hoya Youth Boxing Center. He has also considered going to school to pursue architecture. As he told Interview magazine, "I really have a passion for designing." Whatever De La Hoya decides to undertake, if he does it with the passion he's used to box, he'll certainly be successful and exciting to watch.
Oscar De La Hoya (includes "Ven a Mi"), EMI Latin, 2000.
Billboard, January 8, 2000, p. 41; September 23, 2000, p. 21.
Chicago Tribune, June 24, 2001.
Daily News (New York), February 7, 2002.
Daily News Record, December 18, 1995, p. 3.
Entertainment Weekly, October 3, 2000, p. 80.
Esquire, November, 1996, p. 78.
Forbes, March 22, 1999, p. 220; March 20, 2000, p 240.
Houston Chronicle, December 21, 2001.
Interview, June, 1997, p. 84.
Jet, July 3, 2000, p. 51.
Los Angeles Magazine, March, 1994, p. 74.
Los Angeles Times, November 21, 2001; November 30, 2001; December 2, 2001; February 10, 2002.
Newsweek, September 4, 2000, p. 61; October 23, 2000, p. 78.
New York Times, February 8, 2002, p. D6.
People Weekly, January 20, 1997, p. 93; April 3, 2000, p. 168.
PR Newswire, January 28, 1999; September 2, 1999; July 10, 2000; July 12, 2000; September 12, 2000; September 15, 2000; December 21, 2000; October 8, 2001.
PR Week, January 28, 2002.
Scholastic Choices, January, 2001, p. 4.
Sport, February, 1999, p. 51.
Sports Illustrated, October 21, 1991, p. 66; December 7, 1992, p. 78; December 20, 1993, p. 13; September 22, 1997, p. 42; February 22, 1999, p. 54; March 1, 1999, p. 78; May 31, 1999, p. R27; September 27, 1999, p. 56; March 6, 2000, p. 74; March 13, 2000, p. 52; June 19, 2000, p. 80; June 26, 2000, p. 54; April 2, 2001, p. R2; July 2, 2001, p. R2.
Sports Illustrated for Kids, January, 1997, p. 32. USA Today, February 14, 2002, p. 4C.
Latino Sports Legends, www.latinosportslegends.com/Delahoya_Oscar_htm
—Janet P. Stamatel
De La Hoya, Oscar
Called the "Golden Boy" since he became the only American boxer to win a gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Oscar De La Hoya has always had a simple plan in the ring: "You should hit but not get hit," as he once explained it to a Sports Illustrated reporter. The plan seems to be working. By the time of the Olympics, De La Hoya's amateur record stood at 223 wins and 5 losses, with 153 knockouts. His professional record has been equally successful, at 27-0, with 22 knockouts. He has captured three titles and many observers think that, pound-for-pound, De La Hoya is the best boxer out there. At the same time, his good looks have made him a media favorite, unusually so for anyone outside the heavyweight division. They have also propelled him to the top ranks of earners, ranking third in Forbes magazine's list of the world's highest paid athletes. Just as importantly, De La Hoya is often seen as an exemplar for Hispanic Americans, a kid from the barrio who made it, with fortitude and very much on his own terms. The strain of being a role model has sometimes taken its toll.
Oscar De La Hoya was born on February 4, 1973, in East Los Angeles, California, to Joel and Cecilia De La Hoya, both immigrants to the United States from Mexico. The family, including an older brother, Joel Jr., and a sister, Ceci, did not always have money for food, and to this day De La Hoya carries a food stamp in his wallet to remember where he came from. The neighborhood was tough, with street gangs and drug dealers an everyday menace. Like most kids, Oscar got into fights, and sometimes got beat up, so his father decided to get him some boxing lessons. Actually, boxing was in the De La Hoya blood. His grandfather had fought as an amateur in the 1940s and his father had boxed professionally in the 1960s. Oscar's uncles and cousins as well as his brother had also taken up the sport.
De La Hoya recalled those early years to Los Angeles Magazine reporter Bill Davidson. "My first boxing match came when I was six. On Sundays Dad would take me to the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, where there was a kind of boys' club.… One day there was a boxing tournament for kids in the arena, and Dad entered me in it. They put me in the ring with another kid, and I won. The referee stopped it. It was pretty one-sided."
By the age of ten, Oscar was working out at the Resurrection Boy's Club Gym, a former church. Soon he was going religiously, and by the time he got to junior high, he was entering amateur boxing tournaments. By the time he graduated from high school, he had amassed 225 wins and only five losses. He had also become a national Junior Olympic champion. Immediately he began training for the Olympics, with Al Stankie. Before long, he had earned a place on the Olympic team by defeating Patrice Brooks for the 132-pound gold medal at the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival. He had already won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games.
But it had not all been smooth sailing for De La Hoya. Al Stankie had a serious drinking problem, and when he was arrested for drunk driving, De La Hoya had to fire him. He hired his father's friend Robert Alcazar, as a replacement. Then a much harder blow fell. In October 1990, his mother and "biggest fan" passed away from breast cancer. Often, it had been his mother who made him go to the gym when he would rather be home or with his friends. "You'll be a champion," she told him. Before she died, she asked her son to win a gold medal at the Olympics. It was a terrible time for De La Hoya, but it gave him incredible motivation.
|1973||Born February 4, in East Los Angeles, California|
|1979||First boxing match|
|1990||Mother dies, from breast cancer, in October|
|1992||Fires longtime trainer Al Stankie|
|1992||Wins gold medal at Barcelona Olympics|
|1992||Makes his professional debut, beating Lamar Williams, November|
|1994||Wins WBO junior lightweight championship, with technical knockout of Jimmi Bredahl, March|
|1994||Wins WBO lightweight title by knocking out Jorge Paez, July|
|1995||Becomes IBF junior lightweight champion, defeating John Molina, February|
|1995||Fires trainer Robert Alcazar, hires Jesus "the Professor" Rivero|
|1995||Wins IBF lightweight championship, knocking out Rafael Ruelas, May|
|1996||Becomes WBC super lightweight champion by defeating legendary Julio Cesar Chavez, June|
|1997||Wins WBC welterweight title, defeating Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whittaker, April|
|2000||Loses WBC welterweight title, to Shane Mosley, June|
|2001||Fires Alcazar, hires Floyd Mayweather|
|2001||Wins WBC superwelterweight title, defeating Javier Castillejo, June|
At the 1992 Summer Olympics, in Barcelona, Spain, De La Hoya was widely expected to do well, but he never got overconfident. In the first bout, he went up against Cuban Julio Gonzalez, a four-time World Amateur Junior Lightweight champion. De La Hoya, the underdog, dispatched him in a 7-2 decision. The next victory, against the Korean champion, was closer: 11-10. The last match, against Marco Rudolph of Germany, actually turned out to be surprisingly easy, and with a 7-2 decision, De La Hoya had become a gold medallist, the only American boxer to win gold at Barcelona. At the medals ceremony, De La Hoya carried two flags. "The American flag was for my country; the Mexican flag was for my heritage," he told Davidson. The newly christened "Golden Boy" returned to a hero's welcome in East Los Angeles, where he paid tribute to his mother by laying the medal on her grave.
Shortly thereafter he turned pro, hiring the management team of Robert Mittleman and Steve Nelson. On November 23, 1992, his first professional match against Lamar Williams ended in a first round knockout. In December of that year, he repeated the same feat against Cliff Hicks. Over the next few months, he fought Paris Alexander, Curtis Strong, Jeff Mayweather, and Mike Grable. Only Grable proved able to go the distance against De La Hoya, who nonetheless knocked him down seven times in their eight-round match. He finished out the year with knockouts against Frank Avelar, Troy Dorsey, Renaldo Carter, Angelo Nunez, and Narcisco Alenzuela. And in December of that year, he became his own manager, dismissing Mittelman and Nelson.
De La Hoya had certainly been racking up the victories, but he had yet to win a title. He yearned for a title, saying, "I won the gold for my mother. Now the championship will be for me." In March 1994, he finally got one when he defeated Danish fighter Jimmi Bredahl to win the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Junior Lightweight championship. That July, he took the WBO Lightweight title from Jorge Paez, knocking him out in the second round. On February 18, 1995, De La Hoya took on the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Junior Lightweight Champion, John Molina. It was a grueling struggle, and led to a realization. As Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Hoffer noted, "De La Hoya won the decision but was appalled when he looked for instructions in the tough middle rounds and got none. Alcazar later explained to his fighter that he had felt nervous. That was not a confidence builder."
After the fight, De La Hoya told his manager, Mike Hernandez, and his promoter, Bob Arum, that he needed better training if he was to reach his potential. After scouting around for a while, they settled on a Mexican, Jesus Rivero, nicknamed "the Professor," who had helped Mexican flyweight Miguel Angel Canto to a record 14 title defenses. (To keep some semblance of continuity, and to keep peace with De La Hoya's father, they retained Alcazar as a cornerman, giving him a five-year contract.) The Professor believed in a more holistic approach, training the mind as well as the body. In addition to teaching some new moves, he introduced De La Hoya to Shakespeare and classical music, and encouraged him in his architectural interests. Some in the De La Hoya camp were nervous about this new direction, but their doubts were stilled when De La Hoya knocked out his next opponent, Rafael Ruelas, in less than five minutes. With that victory, on May 6, 1995, De La Hoya added the IBF belt to his growing collection. He followed this up with victories over Genaro Hernandez, "Jesse" James Leija, and Darryl Tyson.
At this point, De La Hoya stood undefeated, with 21 victories and four titles. But many fans, particularly Hispanic fans, felt he hadn't really been tested. In June 1996, he changed that by facing the legendary Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez. The crowd at Caesar's Palace that night were behind Chavez, but De La Hoya had all the energy, as he repeatedly laid stinging blows on the old warrior. In the fourth round, the referee stepped in to end the fight, giving the World Boxing Council (WBC) super lightweight title to De La Hoya. He followed this up by taking on Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whittaker in April 1997. Whittaker was a former gold medallist and a champion in four weight classes, and this time De La Hoya had difficulty laying a glove on his opponent. And in the ninth round, De La Hoya found himself on the mat, though briefly. He got back up and performed just well enough to win a unanimous decision, but it had been a near miss. This time he took home the WBC Welterweight title.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1988||Won National Junior Olympic 119-pound championship|
|1989||Won National Junior Olympic 125-pound championship|
|1990||Gold medal, Goodwill Games|
|1991||Won National Golden Gloves 125-pount title|
|1991||First place, U.S. Amateur Boxing 132-pound tournament|
|1991||Gold medal, Olympic Festival 132-pound tournament|
|1991||Named Boxer of the Year by USA Boxing|
|1992||Gold medal, Barcelona Olympics, lightweight boxing|
|1994||WBO junior lightweight, then lightweight champion|
|1994||IBF junior lightweight champion|
|1995||IBF lightweight champion|
|1996||WBC super lightweight champion|
|1996||WBC welterweight champion|
|2001||WBC super welterweight champion|
In September 1999, De La Hoya suffered his first loss, to fellow welterweight Felix Trinidad . After starting strong in the first few rounds, but having decided the fight was "in the bank" as he admitted to Sports Illustrated "he simply circled without jabbing or doing anything else risky." The judges gave the match to Trinidad, a decision disputed by a number of observers. Then, in June of 2000, he lost his WBC Welterweight title to Shane Mosley in a hard-fought 12-round match. A disappointed De La Hoya announced his retirement, saying, "It's tough to live with what goes on around boxing."
Instead of retiring, De La Hoya decided to make a few personnel changes that year. He replaced his longtime trainer, Robert Alvarez, with Floyd Mayweather, Sr., oddly enough the father of a boxer De La Hoya had defeated a few years earlier. Prior to coming to De La Hoya, Mayweather had worked for and been fired by his own son. That same year, he ended his relationship with Bob Arum, who had been promoting him almost from the beginning. That split actually proved temporary. Uncharacteristically, he also began badmouthing former trainers to the press, blaming them for his losses to Trinidad and Mosley. He also put his boxing career on hold temporarily, to focus on a new interest, music. He even released a CD, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy.
Still the Champion
De La Hoya has continued his highly successful boxing career. In June 2001, he got his fifth title when he defeated Javier Castillejo in a 12-round unanimous decision to win the WBC Super Welterweight crown. De La Hoya had bulked up to 154 pounds for the match—unfamiliar territory for him—and even he admitted, "I have a lot of room for improvement" after the match. The win did put him in exclusive company, making him one of only three boxers to win five championships in five weight classes.
Oscar De La Hoya has sometimes been accused of forgetting his roots, of turning his back on his community. He has moved out of Los Angeles, to a house he designed himself in the mountain resort of Montebello, California. He also has a mansion in Bel Air. And with $110 million in earnings, he certainly leads a different lifestyle from the one he grew up in. But he continues to take a keen interest in his old community. Through the Oscar De La Hoya Foundation he sponsors Olympic hopefuls and provides educational sponsorships. And in 1997, he bought the Resurrection Gym where he used to train for $500,000. Renamed the Oscar De La Hoya Youth Boxing Center, it provides a place for students to go after school and, of course, a boxing program.
That is why it stung him when rival boxer Fernando Vargas accused De La Hoya of selling out, of turning his back on his barrio beginnings and of going soft. In September 2002 the two boxers met, and De La Hoya found his 11th round technical knockout of Vargas deeply satisfying. "He got under my skin, but I let my fists do the talking," said De La Hoya after the match.
De La Hoya's long-term goal is to win titles in seven weight classes, and he is well on his way. And many have noticed his skill. In May 2002 Sports Illustrated asked George Foreman who he thought was the best fighter in the world. "Oscar De La Hoya," he replied. "And we haven't seen the best of him yet."
A Little Bit of Tarnish on the Gold
Oscar De La Hoya's looks, charm, and "good guy" reputation have garnered him lucrative endorsement contracts and favorable press attention. But in the area of personnel, this has been tempered with harsh criticism of his ruthlessness. De La Hoya has gone through a string of managers and trainers, starting with the well-respected Shelly Finkel, who had also managed Evander Holyfield. Brought in to help usher De La Hoya into pro boxing, Finkel had invested a great deal of money into the youth, even paying for his mother's chemotherapy and later her funeral. "But after Oscar kept the promise he'd made to his mother and won the 1992 gold medal, becoming the most marketable face boxing had seen in more than a decade, he signed with little-known managers Robert Mittelman and Steve Nelson. Finkel still hasn't gotten over it," wrote Sports Illustrated reporter S.L. Price.
Mittelman and Nelson didn't fare much better. In December of 1993, he broke with them "in an abrupt and muddled bid to seize 'full control' of his career," wrote another Sports Illustrated reporter. That same year, De La Hoya brought on Mike Hernandez as his business manager. In 1999, De La Hoya fired him, and accused him of skimming. Hernandez in turn has sued Oscar for breach of contract and defamation.
In 2001, De La Hoya himself turned to the courts to end his longtime association with promoter Bob Arum, claiming that he had been badly promoted. He also began telling reporters that he had been badly trained by such well-respected names as Gil Clancy and Emanuel Steward. Few would dispute De La Hoya's natural talent, but there are some who wish he would remember the help he has received along the way.
Address: Oscar De La Hoya Enterprises, 2401 South Atlantic Blvd., Monterey Park, CA 91754-6807.
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Sketch by Robert Winters