Oscar De La Hoya: Signature Fights Pro & Con

04.06.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - Oscar De La Hoya is a fighter that most boxing fans have a strong opinion on. Either they love him or hate him, or say he's overrated or underrated. Some find him condescending, some say he's been spoon fed, and others insist he's a media creation. Regardless of what your opinion is of Oscar De La Hoya, you certainly can't ignore him or question his stature in boxing today.

The fighter he is most often compared too, just so happens to be the fighter that he also measures himself against, Sugar Ray Leonard. Leonard and De La Hoya share many similarities in and out of the ring. They both flashed Pepsodent smiles and both won Olympic Gold Medals. One dedicated his performance to the remembrance of his mother who passed away right before the games, and the other dedicated his performance to his future wife whose picture he had taped to his left boxing shoe.

When Leonard and De La Hoya turned pro, they were both perceived as being pretty boys and some even questioned their toughness. Another thing Leonard and De La Hoya shared was that their careers were orchestrated like a Fortune 500 company. On top of that they were loved and treated very favorably by the media and press, and sometimes it was perceived that they were the benefactor in the eyes of the judges scoring their fights. Lastly, they both followed two of boxing's most famous and controversial Heavyweight Champions. Leonard turned pro during the last year of Muhammad Ali's title reign, and De La Hoya turned pro a couple years after Mike Tyson lost his undisputed Heavyweight title to Buster Douglas.

I could go on and name more common bonds between Ray and Oscar. However, the one I find the most compelling is the fact that they could both fight. Make no mistake about that, they both fought everybody and were true Warriors in the Sporting sense. That being said, there is one big difference between them as far as I'm concerned. That is the fact that Sugar Ray Leonard has three or four signature victories in his career, Benitez, Duran II, Hearns I, and Hagler. In those fights Leonard made his claim to greatness. Yes, the Hagler fight was close, but Leonard showed at the worst he was Hagler's equal on that night, despite fighting once in five years.

As far as De La Hoya is concerned, I'm not sure what fight is his signature win. I also feel that his titles at 130 and 135 were manufactured. In those fights he was fighting the WBO title holder who was not the best fighter in the division, and those fights were won on the scales. In other words De La Hoya was afforded the luxury of weighing in anywhere from two to three days before the fight. By the time he was in the ring his weight was back up and he was not weak or dehydrated. In those fights below 140, he was at the weight for about thirty seconds. Not many other fighters have been afforded such an advantage on the way up, but not many fighters are Oscar De La Hoya. When you're the draw, the boxing commissions will definitely accommodate you.

At 140 he beat an eroding Julio Caesar Chavez, who he also had a distinct size advantage over. Shortly after beating Chavez, he challenged reigning WBC Welterweight Champ Pernell Whitaker. In this fight De La Hoya won a lopsided decision. However, the scoring was very controversial with De La Hoya winning by six points on two cards and four points on the other. I had the fight 6-5 Whitaker going into the last round, but scored the 12th for De La Hoya due to Whitaker not fighting at all and just moving around the ring trying to mock De La Hoya. The point is this fight was very close and certainly wasn't a clean win for De La Hoya, assuming you thought that he did win.

In his next high profile fight against a top opponent he met 34-0-1 Ike Quartey. This turned out to be another disputed win for De La Hoya. Against Quartey, De La Hoya was awarded a close and controversial split decision. The Quartey fight is one that many felt Oscar lost. For the record I had it 6-5 Quartey going into the 12th round, but scored the 12th 10-8 De La Hoya based on his knockdown and dominance, thus having it 6-6 in rounds and a one point De La Hoya victory. However, I have no problem with anyone who saw it in favor of Quartey. Again, De La Hoya got the win, but didn't really prove he was the better fighter.

Seven months after fighting Quartey, De La Hoya met IBF Welterweight Champ Felix Trinidad in the second most anticipated Welterweight title fight in history. Only the first Leonard-Hearns fight nicknamed "The Showdown" was bigger and more widely anticipated. In the Trinidad fight, De La Hoya found himself in the exact same situation as Whitaker and Quartey. Oscar lost a split decision to Felix in a fight that many felt he actually won. For the record, I had the fight 7-5 De La Hoya and have no doubt that he won it. Again, Oscar can claim victory to a majority of boxing fans, but he didn't sway any Trinidad fans. Although I definitely believe De La Hoya beat Trinidad in the ring, he didn't convince me that he was the better fighter. It's almost a pattern in De La Hoya's career. He fights a great/outstanding fighter, and when it's over a case can be made that either fighter had a legitimate claim to victory.

Nine months after losing to Trinidad, De La Hoya fought former Lightweight Champ Shane Mosley for the vacant WBC Welterweight title. Mosley goes on to legitimately beat Oscar winning by split decision. I had this fight 3-3 after six rounds, but scored four of the last six rounds for Mosley, thus giving him the fight 7-5. In my opinion, this is the only fight were De La Hoya was definitely defeated in the ring. A year after losing to Mosley, De La Hoya decisions Javier Castillejo to win the WBC Junior Middleweight title. Although Oscar's win over Castillejo is a clear cut victory, it cannot be considered a signature win.

In his next fight De La Hoya stops rival Fernando Vargas in the 11th round to capture his WBA Junior Middleweight title. In this fight Oscar absorbed some bombs from a determined Vargas and rallied back to stop him. This is probably De La Hoya's most impressive win versus an upper tier/outstanding fighter. If De La Hoya does have a signature win, it's Vargas.

Almost a year to the day later, De La Hoya defends his WBC/WBA/IBA Junior Middleweight titles against former Nemesis Shane Mosley. Mosley wins a Unanimous decision over De La Hoya capturing all three titles. Like with all of De La Hoya's fights against the best fighters of his era, the fight ends with a disputed decision. Those who saw it ringside had a completely different take on the fight than those who watched it on HBO. I had this fight 7-5 De La Hoya and felt he deserved the decision. However, just as many felt that it was a well deserved Mosley win, especially since Mosley finished stronger down the stretch.

The point is when it comes to Oscar De La Hoya, he really does not have a big time signature win over a fighter who would be considered outstanding other than against Fernando Vargas. Although nobody has really kicked Oscar's butt or stopped him, the same can be said about him, what great fighter did he beat convincingly that solidify his greatness?

In De La Hoya's defense, he is one of the few fighters of today who has met the best of the best throughout a majority of his career. It's just that he really hasn't defeated any of them with out controversy. A critic can say he lost to Mosley twice, Whitaker, Trinidad, Quartey, and only beat Vargas in his fights versus the best he's fought. That's not counting the fighters he beat on the scale, or who he had a significant size advantage over like Chavez and Gatti.

This is the difference between Sugar Ray Leonard and Oscar De La Hoya. In the Big-Spot versus the best of the best, excluding Hagler, Leonard separated himself from the other great fighters he fought by beating them in a fashion in which there was no doubt as to who really won. The Pro about Oscar De La Hoya is, he's fought everybody and hasn't been stopped or beaten decisively. The Con about him is that against the best of the best he has faced, he hasn't really proved to be the superior fighter, excluding his victory over Vargas.

Article posted on 04.06.2004

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