Oscar’s sad demise takes no shine off a Golden fighter
Plus, Azim living the dream and Foster shows “records are for DJs”
In 2004, I travelled to Las Vegas to witness Oscar De La Hoya’s audacious attempt to wrestle the WBC, WBA and IBF middleweight titles from Bernard Hopkins. De La Hoya and Hopkins are now friends and company associates. Back then, Oscar’s audacious leap of faith and weight was strictly business.
I’ve always been a massive Oscar De La Hoya fan. During a 16-year career his enthusiasm to constantly fight the best, win or lose, stood out like a sore thumb in boxing’s repetitive dance of duckers and divers.
For a man who started off his title career at super-featherweight, De La Hoya had no place competing up at 160. The “Golden Boy'' had been lucky to squeeze past WBO champion Felix Sturm when he first tested the water some three months prior to the Hopkins bout. At the end of 12 close rounds HBO had Sturm winning. He outlanded the title challenger consistently, making De La Hoya look heavy and sluggish.
Photo credit: Top Rank/Sportsnet
On any other night Sturm would have deservedly retained his belt. However, having already seen Hopkins win earlier in the evening against Robert Allen, with such a profitable future event riding on Oscar getting the win over Sturm, it was with an inevitable roll of the eyes that De La Hoya took the title by three identical scores of 115-113.
Sturm headed back to Germany with no belt but great credit in the bank for his performance. Oscar scraped through by the fibre of his bootlaces and Hopkins also breathed a sigh of relief. The officials had guaranteed Bernard the big pay day that a fight with Oscar De La Hoya always generated.
When they eventually met, “The Executioner” stopped De La Hoya with a body shot in the ninth round. Despite some flashes of hand speed that excited a pro-Oscar crowd, he was too small for B-Hop and the veteran’s size and quality won through.
Tucked away in the nosebleed section, I was so far back that I could barely see the final punch landing. A fellow reveller, sensibly armed with a pair of binoculars, later suggested that the loser had thrown the fight. I didn’t buy that then and I don’t buy it now. For all of his faults, quitting wasn’t Oscar’s style.
While I still don’t believe a man of Oscar’s ring pedigree would attempt to explicitly throw fights, he has been involved in some dubious out-of-the-ring incidents, increasing as the years go by. Stories of current and past infringements concerning De La Hoya have taken the glean off his golden persona. Once a highly skilled ring technician, modern day fans snigger at the Botox-ridden caricature who repeatedly puts his foot in it at best and dodges malicious allegations at worst.
Oscar’s struggles with substances are well documented. The darker side of his interactions with women occasionally flare up. Fresh accusations and tales from yesteryear float in and out of the public realm. The infamous photographs of his personal proclivities are used by boxing rivals as a cruel beating stick.
Presently, De La Hoya enjoys a sizable personal fortune and operates under a lucrative contract with TV sports outlet DAZN. However, the dates appear to be subtly drying up and public relationships with some of his prize assets draw constant scrutiny.
Ryan Garcia regularly haggles for improved terms and sometimes works in spite of his promoter rather than in tune with him. Oscar’s most lucrative source of prizefighting income, Canelo Alvarez, battered and bruised his way out of a contract to go solo.
How much personal control does De La Hoya have of his business, of his fighters, or of himself? Are the likes of Eric Gomez and ex-foe Bernard Hopkins keeping things running smoothly? Was the much-maligned Richard Schaefer truly a major brain behind the organisation?
YouTube comment by nang2942, an Asylum listener no less
While his post-career exploits dominate the headlines, De La Hoya the boxer should be remembered as a separate entity. In the ring there was never any doubt over his intentions or questions over his ability to compete. From the grinning amateur standout in Barcelona 1992, right up to the skeletal competitor trying to conjure up the old magic against Manny Pacquiao in 2008, Oscar was a Golden Boy in every sense.
ADAM AZIM LEADS SKY’S BOXING REVOLUTION
Since ditching Eddie Hearn and throwing their eggs in to the Ben Shalom-Boxxer basket, Sky Sports have been eager to crown a new star. Adam Azim could be that man. Entering the Wembley ring with seven wins and six KOs, Azim was noted as a banger, bringing excitement and highlight reel finishes.
Not everyone falls as quickly and what last weekend’s Nicaraguan opponent Santos Reyes lacked in skills he made up for in toughness. Dropping Reyes in round two, Azim was happy to see out the distance and never really troubled his foe again. Hurting his hand early on, Azim will be all the better for going the distance.
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Deeper down the undercard, Zak Chelli had too many ring smarts for Anthony Sims Jr. The American clearly has physical gifts and always seems on the verge of stringing together consecutively positive rounds and yet fails to pull the trigger.
Chelli used his strong left stick to good effect, jabbing and grabbing when necessary. Sims tried to mount attacks but through a combination of Chelli’s resilience and his own inconsistency the Indiana man was out hustled over 10 rounds.
FOSTER TOO SLICK FOR VAPID VARGAS
There’s a new name on the boxing block and it’ll be rolling off the tongue of fight fans pretty soon. O’Shaquie Foster: try pronouncing that after a few shandies. Having suffered two early career losses, Foster has regrouped, reinvented his style and forged a path to world title relevance. Foster, 29, picked up the vacant WBC super-featherweight title with a slick display of counter punching against unbeaten Rey Vargas in San Antonio.
Awkwardly effective, Vargas has hung around at top level since defeating Gavin McDonnell in 2017. On this occasion he was unable to get his jab going and deal with the speed and timing of Foster, who now has two mandatories lining up, demanding attention. Providing he gets past both (and there’s nothing to suggest he won’t) the Texan shock merchant could find himself as a key player in the desolate 130-pound picture.
Josh Taylor’s cursed rematch with Jack Catterall looks like it will never happen. Catterall was effectively robbed of his big moment last year when the judges somehow contrived to name Taylor as an undeserved winner.
As harsh as it seems on a fighter who missed out on undisputed riches, Catterall needs to move on and so does Taylor. A fight with Teofimo Lopez is reportedly in the works, if Lopez fails to nail down a fight with either Arnold Barboza or Regis Prograis.
About Steve: Experienced boxing writer, author of 8 books and podcaster of over 400 eps. 15+ years in the sport. Covered hundreds of shows for newspapers and Boxing News magazine. Chief script writer for Motivedia channel.