There is absolutely no denying the fact that Oscar De La Hoya – who today celebrates his 48th birthday and is harboring serious ideas of fighting again – achieved a whole lot during his boxing career: an Olympic gold medal, world titles at an astonishing six weights, a whole number of massive pay-per-view records set.
And De La Hoya was a star of immense magnitude, with his magnetism, his movie-star looks, and his exciting fighting style seeing him become a global sensation.
There are, however, critics who say De La Hoya lost each of his big, big fights – his defining fights. Felix Trinidad, “Sugar” Shane Mosley, and Bernard Hopkins all defeated De La Hoya (even if, like so many people, you feel Oscar was robbed in the Trinidad fight). Then, at the end of his career, De La Hoya was beaten by Floyd Mayweather (in a close affair) and Manny Pacquiao (in a sad to watch beatdown).
So do those six losses (Mosley beating De La Hoya twice) overshadow the big wins the “Golden Boy” from East L.A earned? De La Hoya defeated fine fighters such as – Rafael Ruelas, Genaro Hernandez, Hector Camacho, Julio Cesar Chavez, (twice, the Mexican icon past his best at the time of both fights), Ike Quartey, Pernell Whitaker (another debatable decision, this one going in Oscar’s favor), Arturo Gatti, Fernando Vargas, and Ricardo Mayorga.
You can also throw in Oscar’s win over Felix Sturm; this yet another controversial decision, this one seeing De La Hoya win a slice of the world middleweight title, the WBO belt being his sixth world title.
Now, whichever way you cut it, that’s some resume.
De La Hoya finished(?) at 39-6(30), and like so many world champions before him, he never knew when to quit, with Oscar pushing his body far too hard in taking that welterweight fight with Pacquiao. We won’t hold that, just the second stoppage loss of De La Hoya’s career, against him. But again, how much do those losses to Mosley, Trinidad and Hopkins take from Oscar’s legacy?
So to try and answer the question posed in the headline. De La Hoya was huge, he was exciting, and he always fought the very best; De La Hoya dared to be great, of that there is no debate. For all of that, De La Hoya deserves nothing but enormous credit. But is he an all-time great or merely a great? For what it’s worth, I’d say the latter is the appropriate distinction.
Unless he can come back and do something that genuinely shocks the world.