Oscar De La Hoya: The Gift Decision

08.06.04 - By Jose Sanchez: In a fight which most viewers expected to be a one-sided affair, Felix Sturm gave the performance of his life to defeat his idol, Oscar De la Hoya. In fact out of all his (DLH’s) recorded loses, none were as clear-cut as this one. Even the first Mosely fight, his most recognizable loss previous to June 5, was a tactical affair in which De la Hoya lost on the cards, but was not really ‘beat up’. Well June 5, Felix Sturm actually beat up Oscar De la Hoya. You didn’t need to be some sort of expert boxing judge, or hardcore aficionado to see who won this affair. Hint for those whom had trouble scoring the fight…the guy who’s head you saw being snapped back continually and bleeding constantly was not the winner.

From the first round it was apparent it would be a tough night for DLH as Sturm bloodied his nose with a stiff left jab and kept it coming all night long. At one point DLH’s corner would shout to him ‘don’t get discouraged’ and he himself said ‘I can’t move’…. likely because of the effect that stiff jab was having on his lower back. As I watched, there were times where I thought DLH would stay in his corner and not even come out for the next round. Nothing he did appeared to work on Sturm. His punches and combinations were caught on the gloves (although they had a big influence on the crowd, and apparently the judges), while at the same time Sturm’s punches seemed to be guided from Above to land on the mark and visibly snap DLH’s head back. Once the fight was over, it was clear who the winner was from their appearance as both fighters awaited the decision. DLH looked like he was heading to a funeral, while Sturm anxiously awaited the call of the judges. Finally it came; DLH was crowned the new champion. The crowd would boo and jeer at the decision, but it was final and DLH had gotten the nod. The skeptical Bernard Hopkins breathed a sigh of relief as his super fight in September had come within an inch of disappearing in a puff of smoke. Immediately after the fight, and at the post fight press conference, Bernard would uncharacteristically praise and defend DLH’s performance in an attempt to sell their upcoming ‘unification fight’ (otherwise known as his retirement fund).

Is Sturm really that good, or was it just an off night for DLH? Well DLH came in possibly in the worst shape ‘visually’ that I have ever seen him in. He didn’t look like some well-conditioned athlete, but rather like some guy in the crowd who stripped off his clothes and got into boxing trunks. It’s clear to me that 160lbs is too much weight for DLH’s body to handle comfortably. It’s not just his body either, his face looks noticeably rounder at this weight, he just looks like he doesn’t belong here. I rate Sturm as a solid 160lb fighter; I think he and Howard Eastman or William Joppy would be a pick’em fight. He definitely deserves to be a top ten-ranked middleweight, however I don’t see him ever becoming ‘the champ’ at middleweight. Bernard will eventually retire as one of the all time great middleweight champions, and newcomer Jermain Taylor will take over as ‘the big guy’ in the division. That is the most likely scenario I see unfolding at middleweight.

So yes, add my vote to that of Larry Merchant, Jim Lampley, Roy Jones Jr. and Harold Lederman. Felix, at least 5 people had you as the winner on June 5th. Incidentally, at the post fight press conference Hopkins mentioned that he would have no problem going to Germany after the DLH fight to give Sturm a much-deserved shot at the title.

One final note for me, I’ll never personally complain about European judges giving American fighters the short end of the stick when fighting overseas…after June 5th I’m calling a truce, so you can pass the peace pipe this way. In the end it probably all worked out reasonably well. Sturm’s stock definitely went up, and he’ll likely get a shot at the ‘real champ’ based on his performance. For fans of Oscar, they’ll get great underdog odds on him against Hopkins, and until then they are free to debate amongst themselves whether his six titles in six weight divisions are legit or not. . For the rest of us, we’ll still get to see an execution in September.

Article posted on 08.06.2004

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