Oscar De La Hoya: From the Eyes of a Cynic

Oscar De La HoyaBy Michael Herron: In the wake of Oscar De La Hoya’s retirement perhaps it is time for another look at his career, but this look will be from the eyes of a cynic. Oscar De La Hoya, the Golden Boy, multi-division champion and founder of Golden Boy Promotions, yes his name and contributions are synonymous with boxing but is it possible that he may be significantly overrated as a fighter? The argument in support of De La Hoya's "greatness" is generally his resume; supporters and fans often say "look who he has fought" pay attention to the phrase however, "look who he has fought" not “look who he has beat.” In the sport of boxing greatness has historically been based on who a fighter has beaten not who has beaten him! It is important to note that fighters like Emmanuel Augustus has fought and loss to many great fighters as well, so has Jerry Quarry, Fernando Vargas, Ricardo Mayorga, Rocky Juarez, Ray Mercer, Ben Tackie, DeMarcus Corley etc...but no one is calling them future hall of famers..

Question #1

Do you think De La Hoya's impressive resume would read the way it does if there was a penalty for losing? De La Hoya is the only fighter who seemingly suffers no lasting penalties for losing fights. It must feel great to know that you can challenge Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, Jr., Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Manny Pacquiao, Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, etc...with the confidence of knowing that a loss won’t be held against you. Best of all, De La Hoya, even if he were to be completely dominated, can still get another Pay Per View six months later by simply contacting the proper authorities. A popular date for De La Hoya has been May 5th; it has a nice ring to it eh? Simply select a well known opponent regardless of weight class or rankings, build up the fight via HBO’s excellent promotion machine, vow that “I’m in the best shape of my life” and voila, 30-40 million, pay me.

Question #2

Do you think other fighters do not want to challenge themselves? What "great" fighter enters this sport without the desire or drive to be the best? What "great" fighter doesn't want to become a champion and make history? It is often said that recent pound for pound stars like Floyd Mayweather, Jr. and Roy Jones before him duck challenges or avoid fighting the best. Perhaps the difference is that Roy and Floyd are not free to lose fights as Oscar is. Simply put, they have more to lose; in fact, every fighter has more to lose than De La Hoya. Most fighters have to consider risk vs. reward; De La Hoya only needs to consider the reward. If Mayweather where to lose a fight, the repercussions would be extreme. De La Hoya does not have a “must win” burden that consumes him; he likely would not know what that kind of pressure felt like.

Question #3

So what has afforded De La Hoya this luxury? Winning the gold in the 92 Olympics, great timing, excellent promotion and marketing, a loyal Mexican-American fan base? All these things are fantastic; it is “gravy” actually. There is no crime in having a loyal base of die hard and casual fans, fans that will support their guy win or lose. It is indeed a beautiful thing; but it can be argued that De La Hoya has taken advantage of that support, to the point where winning the fight seem’s to be an afterthought and Pay Per View sales is numero uno. A hard-line description would read “money first, performance second, winning or losing unimportant.”

Final Analysis:

De La Hoya’s boxing career, though very good at the lighter weights, ultimately became a side show with apparently no shape or meaning other than to make tons of money. For instance, what great fighter switches trainers as much as De La Hoya? Oscar inconceivably has a new trainer for each fight, zero consistency. Did he actually think that hiring Nacho Beristein was going to have him fighting like Juan Manuel Marquez for one night only; or that Floyd Mayweather Sr. will have him defending like Floyd Jr. or that Freddie Roach would have him snapping and reeling off combos like Pacquiao? For those who cherish the fighter-trainer, student-teacher relationship, De La Hoya has made a mockery of it. Also it can be argued that De La Hoya has shown minimal growth as a fighter. His first loss against Felix Trinidad was over 10 years ago, though it was a controversial decision, Oscar did not respond by coming back better than ever, but by losing to lightweight champion Shane Mosley in his next big fight. There was no rematch with Trinidad, therefore no vengeance, as a matter of fact, De La Hoya has never successfully avenged any of his losses. A great fighter, in many boxing enthusiasts opinion gets even; Jones vs. Griffin II, Williams vs. Quintana II, Vasquez vs. Marquez II III, Leonard vs. Duran II, Ali vs. Frazier II III etc…

From the eyes of a cynic, De La Hoya’s serious career, or better yet, his time as a serious competitor ended the night he loss to Trinidad. Even his most loyal fans should find it difficult to argue that he has improved as a fighter since then. In fact it is generally accepted that he technically became worse. There is no excuse considering he was still in his prime and should have been capable of true victory not moral victories. The Trinidad fight could have been the crowning moment of his career but now it simply marks his transition from full time fighter to full time capitalist.

Though De La Hoya’s resume is impressive it must be pointed out that money and power, not merit or rankings, afforded De La Hoya the opportunity to fight all these great fighters post Trinidad. The problem is that his performance in many of those fights was often lackluster and ended in defeat. With no penalty for losing, Oscar is free to just move on and create for himself another mega-fight whether he deserves it or not. Hopefully in the future of boxing, the popular guy will not be allowed to engage in fights of this magnitude, against great fighters, with years in between a significant victory. In fact, the boxing world should actually be somewhat ashamed for putting image over talent, personality over performance, and money over merit.

So as De La Hoya sails off into the sunset, let the great debate begin, was he truly a great fighter or was his greatness simply a well constructed perception?

Article posted on 20.04.2009

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