Oscar de la Hoya
As his ‘Golden Boy’ sobriquet suggests, Oscar de la Hoya is the darling of American boxing. Of Mexican extraction but born in Los Angeles, de la Hoya has represented his country at amateur and professional level and his success has been truly extraordinary.
Moreover, he is also one of boxing’s great businessmen. A showstopper as a fighter in his own right, with buy rates most can only dream of, his out of the ring dealings as a promoter have proved just as successful, with his Golden Boy Promotions representing some of the cream of world boxing and the organisation promoting some of the biggest fights in recent history.
Such factors testify to de la Hoya’s remarkable status as a celebrity who transcends mere sport and has entered the American consciousness more than any other boxer since Muhammad Ali.
By anyone’s standards, de la Hoya’s amateur career was startling. Over a mammoth stretch, encompassing 223 wins and just 5 losses, with 163 coming by way of knockout, de la Hoya established himself as one of the premier talents in the business.
The climax of this illustrious career was the 1992 Summer Olympics. With the rest of the United States’ team floundering, de la Hoya proved the last remaining beacon of hope for supporters, finally picking up the gold medal after defeating Marco Rudolph of Germany in the lightweight category. As if he needed to do more to win over the American public, he poignantly dedicated the win to his deceased mother.
Stepping up to the big leagues
After such a remarkable outcome in the Olympics in Barcelona, de la Hoya’s move to the professional ranks was a given. He duly made his debut on November 23rd of that year, picking up two knockout victories in quick succession against Lamar Williams and Clifford Hicks respectively.
As the fights came, so the opponents improved gradually and, within a year, de la Hoya was besting former world champion Jeff Mayweather. This was followed by a victory against another former champ, Troy Dorsey, and laid the foundations for de la Hoya’s first assault on the championship. This came with victory over Jimmi Bredah in 1994, which established de la Hoya as the WBO Super Featherweight champion.
Proving it pound-for-pound
Never one to stand still though, de la Hoya made the decision to move through the weights and prove his standing against the best, regardless of the scales. As such, he took on Jorge Paez on 29th July 1994 and took him apart for a 2nd round knockout, bringing de la Hoya the vacant WBO Lightweight title. Never one to back down from a challenge, de la Hoya then embarked on a series of defences of that title, all of which were successful, before moving up to light welterweight in 1996.
His first major opponent was the Mexican legend Julio Cesar Chavez. After Chavez picked up a deep cut in the first minute of the first round, the fight was effectively over. Serious bleeding resulted and the referee was forced to intervene in de la Hoya’s favour in the fourth round, bringing de la Hoya the WBC Light Welterweight title.
Another move came the following year up to welterweight, but his stay in this division would be far longer. Taking on Pernell Whitaker on 12th April 1997 put on a classy performance to win by unanimous decision after 12 rounds, picking up the WBC Welterweight title. Thereafter followed a number of defences, including a demolition job on Julio Cesar Chavez in the rematch (the corner retiring Chavez in the 8th round) and a controversial split decision victory over Ike Quartey in 1999.
However, de la Hoya was stopped in his tracks by Felix Trinidad when the two faced off on 18th September 1999. Having picked up the controversial decision against Quartey, it proved to be de la Hoya’s turn to feel the pain of falling just short, as Trinidad picked up a contentious majority decision.
From that point on, de la Hoya’s career fluctuated dramatically. Getting back on track with victory over Derrell Coley in February 2000, he then took on Shane Mosley four months later for the WBC Welterweight championship and again fell short. However, the agony of defeat was somewhat mitigated by participating in what proved to be a truly remarkable spectacle, as both men went toe-to-toe, with Mosley only picking up the victory after a blistering final round display.
Indeed, this performance testified as much to de la Hoya’s continuing status as one of the sport’s brightest lights and was further reflected in his blistering victory over Arturo Gatti the following year. This was followed by the acquisition of another title, as de la Hoya moved up to super welterweight and duly took the WBC Super Welterweight title after defeating Javier Castillejo just three months after dispatching Gatti.
Successful defences against Fernando Vargas and Luis Ramon Campas were the appetizers for the main course of Shane Mosley again on 13th September 2003. With de la Hoya’s belts on the line and Mosley himself moving up a weight, the result was the same, although not without controversy, as Mosley picked up a majority decision.
Defeat against Mosley did not set de la Hoya back too badly, and he returned just a year later to face Felix Sturm for the WBO Middleweight title. Although the performance was by no means his most convincing, de la Hoya picked up the win again and proved his worth in yet another weight division.
The next challenge was to establish himself as the premier figure in that decision and, as a result, Bernard Hopkins was in his sights. The two squared off on 18th September 2004, but this bout was far more decisive. Remarkably, although de la Hoya was in a good position by the 9th round, Hopkins exploded into life and delivered the first knock-out punch on de la Hoya in the latter’s career.
A near-two year hiatus followed as de la Hoya focused his attentions on the nascent Golden Boy Promotions, including dealings with Hopkins and Mosley. However, eventually de la Hoya got back in the ring himself to face Ricardo Mayorga. The bout had been heated up by comments from Mayorga and the response from de la Hoya was decisive, taking apart his opponent before a knockout victory was awarded in the sixth round. In one of the finest performances of his career, de la Hoya had showed the world he was back.
Sitting back on top, it wasn’t long before a new challenger made himself known. This time it was Floyd Mayweather Jr, the recognised pound-for-pound champion, who himself had travelled through the weights before challenging de la Hoya. In this superfight, which generated over $120 million in revenue and recorded $2.15 million in buys, de la Hoya again came up short, losing to Mayweather Jr on a split decision in controversial circumstances.
Since his defeat, de la Hoya has again focused his attention on Golden Boy Promotions. However, although now approaching his mid-thirties, there has been movement on the subject of de la Hoya squaring up against Manchester’s Ricky Hatton in the near future. With that in mind, writing off the Golden Boy as washed up could not be more inaccurate.
De la Hoya’s celebrity in and outside America is simply staggering. In the television world, de la Hoya produces a boxing show on HBO entitled Boxeo de Oro (Spanish language) and starred in a boxing reality show in 2004 called The Next Great Champ. Meanwhile, in the music world, de la Hoya even released a music CD in 2000, which was nominated for a Grammy, simply entitled ‘Oscar de la Hoya’.
Never able to escape the world of boxing, de la Hoya’s attention is also divided by virtue of his Golden Boy Promotions, which represents some of the finest talent in world boxing and promotes some of its top fights. His sporting interests do not end there either, as there has been interest shown in buying the MLS side Houston Dynamo.
De la Hoya was married to singer Millie Corretjer in 2001 and the couple had their first child in December 2005. De la Hoya had been previously married to former Miss USA Shanna Moakler, with whom he had a daughter, Atiana Cecelia.
- 1992 Olympic Games – Gold Medal (Lightweight)
- WBO Champion – March 5th 1994
- WBO Champion – July 29th 1994
- IBF Champion – May 6th 1995
- WBC Champion – June 7th 1996
- WBC Champion – April 12th 1997
- WBC Champion (1st) – September 14th 2002
- WBA Champion – September 14th 2002
- WBC Champion (2nd) – May 6th 2006
- WBO Champion – June 5th 2004