Oscar De La Hoya - I Overrate Him Before, And Underrate Him After

16.09.04 - By Frank Lotierzo - - Today, the word "Great" is thrown around too easily in my opinion. I think once an athlete or team is considered "Great", it can't be taken from them. So I tend to wait longer than most before I declare any Team/Fighter/Athlete an all-time great.

Oscar De La Hoya is a fighter who I haven't yet referred to as an all-time great. However, I don't take issue with those who do. He's had a Hall-Of-Fame career and beat some Outstanding/Great fighters. When evaluating Oscar's career body of work, it is easy to see why he is so popular and considered one of the best fighters of his era. There are only two things regarding De La Hoya the fighter I have an issue with.

One, I think he won his major fights at 130 & 135 on the scales. In De La Hoya's fights prior to him fighting at Welterweight, he was the bigger fighter in everyone of them. Beating the likes of Bredahl, Paez, Dorsey, Tyson, and Ruelas, in no way makes me view him as today's Armstrong, Duran, or even Hearns. In just about all of his major bouts from 130-140, the weigh-in was two or three days before the fights. Denying that is simply ignoring the facts surrounding those bouts.

Two, In De La Hoya's fights against the biggest and best opponents of his career, he only beat one in which he set himself apart as the better fighter, Fernando Vargas. It can just as easily be said that he lost to Whitaker, Quartey, and Sturm, as it is to say he beat them. And he did lose to Trinidad and Mosley twice. The problem is that even if you think he won all of those fights, including Trinidad and the second Mosley fight, he really didn't distinguish himself as the better fighter.

The positives about De La Hoya are numerous. He is a very skilled and versatile fighter/boxer with good hand and foot speed. His chin and toughness as far as I'm concerned are beyond reproach, and he doesn't lack in the Heart department either. One of the things I like most and respect about De La Hoya, is that he is willing to fight the best available of his era. The fact is he fought Quartey, Trinidad, Mosley, and Vargas in their prime.

Below are my thoughts before and after what I consider Oscar De La Hoya's major fights. It is at Welterweight and above where he fought the best fighters of his career, and wasn't always the bigger fighter. Although I don't yet consider him a definite all-time great, I must think he's pretty good.

Pernell Whitaker W-UD 12 WBC Welterweight Title

Prior to this fight I thought De La Hoya would be too long and strong for the 1997 version of Whitaker. I saw De La Hoya out working Whitaker and winning a lopsided decision. De La Hoya won a lopsided decision, but the scoring was a joke. I had the fight 6-5 Whitaker going into the 12th round. In the final round, Whitaker did nothing but move away and mock Oscar. De La Hoya had to get the round because he was throwing hard shots and making the fight, although he didn't land anything big, Whitaker did nothing. I don't care how the judges scored it. That fight was only a point either way or a draw. [I thought De La Hoya would win comfortably, but scored it a draw 6-6].

Ike Quartey W-SD 12 WBC Welterweight Title

I was never a big Quartey fan. Just like Razor Ruddock, I viewed Quartey as a one-armed bandit. He had a terrific jab, but lacked a finishing hook or right hand behind it. Yes, he dropped Oscar with a beautiful hook, but that was the only memorable hook he threw in his career. De La Hoya was forced to box versus Quartey. Ike actually won the close rounds 10-9 more cleanly than De La Hoya won his. After 11 rounds, I had Oscar down a point. In the 12th round De La Hoya showed his tremendous heart and dominated Quartey putting him down winning the round convincingly. I gave De La Hoya a two point round, which gave him the fight by a point, although I had it 6-6 in rounds. [The Quartey fight went pretty much as I thought, although I didn't think De La Hoya would be trailing after 11 rounds and need one of the biggest rounds in his career in the 12th to pull it out].

Felix Trinidad L-MD 12 WBC-IBF Welterweight Title

Against Felix Trinidad, I saw De La Hoya winning a clear cut decision, with a chance to possibly stop him late. I was pretty confident that Oscar would be able to out move and out box Tito. In this fight I totally disagree with the decision. I thought De La Hoya clearly out thought and fought Trinidad. No, I don't think he ran either. De La Hoya used the ring and his faster hands and feet, just as he should've versus a swarming puncher like Trinidad. After 9 rounds, I had it 7-2. The 10th round was very close and could've been even. Trinidad clearly won the 11th & 12th rounds. Everyone talks about De La Hoya running and not fighting in the last two rounds. What did Trinidad do in them other than stalk De La Hoya? It's not like Trinidad was the effective aggressor and hurt De La Hoya, because he didn't. I scored the fight 7-5 or 115-113 De La Hoya. Too me there is no question that De La Hoya out boxed Trinidad and won the fight. That being said, De La Hoya only proved to me that he was the sharper fighter that night. Had they signed for a rematch, I wasn't sold De La Hoya would be the winner. [I picked De La Hoya to decision or possibly stop Trinidad late. Where I was wrong is that he was never able to hurt him once, something I thought based on Tito's past that he could do].

Shane Mosley I L-SD 12 WBC-IBA Welterweight Title

This is a fight I was completely off on. I thought De La Hoya was going to be too strong for Mosley. I figured De La Hoya would be out for blood after the Trinidad fight. My thought was De La Hoya would be on a mission and take his frustration out on Mosley. However, Shane totally out boxed an overly aggressive De La Hoya. I had this fight 3-3 after 6 rounds. But Mosley clearly won the second half of the fight winning at least 4 of the last 6 rounds. Mosley fought a tactically perfect fight, in which he out boxed and out slugged De La Hoya during it. The shocker in this fight besides being wrong, was that judge Marty Sammon scored it 115-113 De La Hoya. This was a clear Mosley win. [Prior to the fight, I thought Oscar would overwhelm Shane using his size. However, Shane fought a complete fight and used Oscar's bully tactics against him].

Fernando Vargas TKO-11 WBA, WBC, IBA Light Middleweight Title

The De La Hoya-Vargas fight went exactly the way I thought it would. Going in I thought Vargas underrated De La Hoya's toughness, and thought he could bully and intimidate him. I felt Vargas probably left a little of his best in the ring with Trinidad. It came down to, did I think Vargas could stop De La Hoya? Since I didn't think that he could, I figured he'd be desperate in the second half of the fight and take chances. De La Hoya had to weather some big shots from Vargas. But once he survived them, it was just a matter of time before his better skill took over and set Vargas up for some big shots. [This was an easy De La Hoya fight to handicap. Had the pre-Trinidad Vargas fought De La Hoya, it would've been a little tougher. But it was never a question in my mind that De La Hoya was the better fighter].

Shane Mosley II L-UD 12 WBA, WBC, IBA Light Middleweight Title

Heading into his rematch with Shane Mosley, I felt De La Hoya would fight a totally different fight from their first one. Oscar figured out that it would be better for him to let Mosley come to him. Instead of trying to fight the "catch an kill" style he did the first time they met. De La Hoya moved away and used the ring picking his spots and out-scored Mosley in my eyes. No, De La Hoya wasn't landing big shots, but Mosley wasn't getting off with hardly anything, especially in the early going. De La Hoya fought the fight I thought he had to in order for him to win. And I think he did 7-5 or 115-113. The problem I had with Mosley, was either he didn't know how to cut De La Hoya off and make him fight. Or, De La Hoya was too good for Shane and wouldn't let him. I do know when Mosley started to open up letting his hands go, he got to Oscar and hurt him. So I'm tempted to think it was more a case of Mosley waiting a little too long to get off. After the fight I felt that if they fought again, De La Hoya couldn't fight any better or different. On the other hand I think that Mosley could fight better and not let De La Hoya control the pace and distance like he did in the rematch. [Before the fight I thought De La Hoya would out-box Mosley and win a clean decision].

Felix Sturm W-UD 12 WBO Middleweight Title

I saw De La Hoya's fight with Felix Sturm playing out like his fight with Javier Castillejo. Sturm looked like the perfect fighter for De La Hoya to test the Middleweight waters against, just as Castillejo was at Jr. Middleweight. Sturm hadn't fought any fighters close to De La Hoya's level. Plus, he wasn't a big puncher. It was easy to envision Oscar just moving and Boxing and winning a boring decision. Only De La Hoya showed up as an advertisement for the Kirk Johnson conditioning program. De La Hoya was slow and lethargic, and had no punch what so ever that bothered Sturm. I scored this bout 6-5-1 De La Hoya. My problem was Felix, like Mosley, waited too long to raise the rent and just ran out of rounds. I have no problem with anyone who scored the fight for Sturm, it was very close. [Prior to the fight, I thought De La Hoya would win a one sided decision like he did versus Javier Castillejo].

In looking back at De La Hoya's fights versus the biggest and best fighters he's been in the ring with, I've picked him to win every time. Can it be that I overrated De La Hoya before his fights, and underrate him after seeing them. The fact is, I came away from six of the seven biggest fights of his career thinking he's not quite as good as I thought.

In his fights with Whitaker, Quartey, Trinidad, Mosley twice, Vargas, and Sturm he is officially 4-3. On my card he is 5-1-1 them, but only looked impressive versus Vargas. I'm sure there are fans of De La Hoya who have him going 7-0 in those fights. On the other hand, there are probably fans who think he's 0-7 in them.

In four days De La Hoya will face the biggest and toughest fighter of his career, Middleweight Champ Bernard Hopkins. At one time it was thought by many that De La Hoya wanted no part of Hopkins. That certainly isn't the case today. As the fight draws closer, I hear and read more writers and fans giving De La Hoya a great chance to upset Hopkins. In fact many are actually picking him to win.

What is it about Oscar De La Hoya that many perceive him to be unbeatable and can't lose? Because he has been far from brilliant against the best of the best, and has certainly shown that he's beat able.

Article posted on 16.09.2004

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