De La Hoya and his legacy
06.05.07 - By Chris Acosta: It’s one day after Oscar De La Hoya’s unsuccessful defense of his 154 lb. title against Floyd Mayweather Jr. and a surf through various website threads seems to suggest a bias that confounds me. Many fans have proclaimed Mayweather as having dominated the “Golden Boy” just as he has most of his previous 37 opponents. HBO analyst Max Kellerman had Floyd up nine rounds to three and seemed perturbed as to how Oscar could have won any more than that. As I watched the fight I was shocked (though I shouldn’t have been given his inconsistency) that Harold Lederman could give the challenger and pound- for- pound fighter rounds that De La Hoya seemed to have won..
Article posted on 07.05.2007
(Oscar De La Hoya, recoiling from a right hand from Floyd Mayweather Jr.)
Now before you skip this entire piece to post a reply to my apparent delusion, understand that I also had Mayweather as the winner by a 7-4-1 margin. I had no argument with the decision and see no need for as rematch. This fight, as is often the case when contested at such a high level of skill wasn’t a matter of who did more.
This bout was a battle of focus and the winner would be the fighter who could make the least mistakes. In fact, I saw only one round- the 10th- that was definitive in favor of Mayweather. The rest of the rounds were difficult to score.
The rationale that Floyd was much more accurate was reflected in the punch stat numbers with his superior percentage. But statistics don’t always tell the entire truth and we should know that by now. De La Hoya flurried in spots and many of those punches were body punches. Most of those blows weren’t clean however but they didn’t seem to hurt his cause. Floyd was often short with his jab in the first half of the fight, his hook was blocked almost to the point of being ineffective and his right hand leads were scarce. Meanwhile, Oscar forced the fight and when he remembered to jab, landed the punch with enough authority to move the smaller man backwards.
And something interesting was seeing how heavily Mayweather was breathing between rounds. For a man to show such an uncharacteristic display of fatigue speaks volumes about what was happening to him. But it also revealed how intelligent and adaptable the new champion is. As he predicted, Floyd gradually saw the man in front of him slow down. Oscars hands began to drop and his punch output dwindled. As soon as this happened you could almost feel Floyds relaxation return to form and his
punches remained sharp. To his credit, De La Hoya landed the occasional bomb but he appeared very tired and unable to corner an opponent who caught a second wind he rarely ever needs to call upon.
So why the apparent disdain for Oscar’s performance? That’s easy to answer. He’s popular. It’s a gift most of us cannot relate to whether it be at the high school level much less a world stage. Does his popularity afford him the luxury of gift decisions? Sure it does if you’re on the side of Pernell Whitaker or Ike Quartey. But it works that way for every fan favorite. This
perk however, is a double- edged sword. Oscar was outright robbed against Felix Trinidad and many thought he won the rematch with Shane Mosley. Do judges hold their own grudges towards glamour? I shouldn’t have to even answer that one.
It’s human to envy what we perceive as privilege. Oscar won a gold medal, fought for a title fight wage in his pro debut and was afforded the kind of exposure that bordered on overkill. In essence, he was the song that gets played way too much on the radio until we stop listening, that is, until the song crosses over to a car commercial. But that’s the Golden side of it.
What we didn’t see was the upbringing in East Los Angeles (a nice place to visit after dark and yes I am kidding) and the discipline to avoid the kind of trouble that ruins many a young person’s life. We didn’t see the countless hours of work he put into the sport and sacrifice to achieve the pinnacle of amateur boxing. Just like every other fighter who dreamt of riches and glory, Oscar put in his time.
And in a career consisting of forty-three bouts, half of which took place against former or current world champions, and close to half of that comprised of fighters who were at the time pound-for- pound candidates, his accomplishments are amazing. And isn’t it remarkable that in the face of so many world-class boxers that Oscar was only stopped once and this because of an ill-advised jump up to middleweight against a man who would eventually win the light-heavy weight crown?
Do I think Oscar De La Hoya is a great fighter? No. As much as I would love to say that he is, I know that proclaiming him as such would be giving in to everything else that he represents: the charm, the reluctance to bad-mouth opponents and his charity work. But in terms of his ring resume let’s be fair.
The “Golden Boy” is a guy who always comes into the ring in top shape, fearlessly seeks out challenges and fights his privileged ass off. He’s beaten some of the best, lost only to the very best and most certainly deserves entrance into the Hall of Fame once he is eligible. And as far as his popularity goes, I sure as heck felt proud that our sport was finally back in the headlines at a time when it is imminently spiraling towards fringe sport status. This would not have been possible without him. If he could have stopped Quartey in that final round, fought less stubbornly against Mosley in their first fight and just continued boxing against Trinidad in those final three rounds, his greatness would be secure. But I won’t hold any of that against him.
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