“It doesn’t get any bigger than this,” said Oscar De La Hoya. “It’s History,” boasted the fight poster.
It was 15 years ago today inside a sold-out MGM Grand in Las Vegas that De La Hoya made the quite audacious challenge of reigning middleweight king Bernard Hopkins. A large crowd, consisting of De La Hoya fanatics as well as curious and intrigued fight fans who wondered if “The Golden Boy” could pull it off, sat back, or sat forward, and watched with great interest. But would it be a great fight?
In truth, no, not really. The world middleweight title fight that was actually fought at an agreed catch-weight of 158 pounds (Hopkins coming in lower than that, perhaps in an effort at proving the point that he needed no weight advantage to win the fight) was a cagey affair, with some fine thinking and no room for any mistakes, but the action was far from spectacular.
Hopkins, as patient as ever, was putting rounds in the bank yet De La Hoya, the younger man by almost a decade at age 30, was holding his own; even winning the fight on the card of one judge. Oscar was certainly in far better shape, mentally and physically, than he had been in his middleweight debut – a less than convincing, controversial and laboured decision over Felix Sturm; a win that saw De La Hoya take the WBO strap and keep the already agreed Hopkins fight alive.
B-Hop was his usual immaculately conditioned self. Not even breathing hard, Hopkins really was making fans and experts think he was the most marvelous “old” fighter in boxing. Then came the finishing touches to Hopkins’ big and important win. Having begun applying more pressure in the previous two rounds, the Philly legend ended matters with a shot to De La Hoya’s liver in the 9th.
Oscar hit the mat, was counted out, and then began hitting the canvas in frustration. It was this act – one not often witnessed by a fighter who has been caved in, paralysed even, by a liver shot – that drew the suspicion of some. Did De La Hoya, who knew he was being slowly but surely worn down and overwhelmed by the toughest man he had ever shared a ring with, say ‘the heck with it,’ and not try his fullest to get up? Or worse still, was the shot not the killer blow the vanquished challenger made it out to be, and did De La Hoya quit by taking a dive?
It might be an offensive question, or questions, yet a good deal of people did wonder, and maybe they still do. Interestingly, Hopkins never scored a further KO or stoppage throughout the remainder of his illustrious career. Soon after the loss, De La Hoya made Hopkins his partner in Golden Boy Promotions.
So was the fight, or it’s ending, on the level, or did De La Hoya do something he had never previously done in the ring, and that’s take the easy way out? What do you guys think all these years later?