It’s one of the worst beatings a great fighter ever took. It was one of the saddest ways for a great fighter to exit the sport. Rewind to December of 2008, and Oscar De La Hoya, aged 34 and having accomplished so much, met a still-emerging Manny Pacquiao. The critics went into overdrive, calling the fight a gross mismatch. They were right, but not in the manner they felt they were.
Pacquiao, who had moved up from lightweight, where he had had just one fight, was deemed way too small for De La Hoya, who had won a belt up at middleweight. Pacquiao, who began his pro career at a lowly 105 pounds (this poundage achieved due to Manny having weights in his pockets, his real weight around 98 pounds), shouldn’t be fighting De La Hoya, the critics said. Again, they were right, just not in the way they felt they were.
It was indeed a gross mismatch, a one-sided affair that was tough to watch. But it was De La Hoya who was on the receiving end. Coming in at a weakened and very much weight drained 145 pounds (to Pac Man’s 142), Oscar had almost nothing inside him that would assist him in fighting. De La Hoya showed heart as he took the horrible beating, but he never won a round and he was pulled out after eight rounds. You have to go back to Muhammad Ali’s sickening hammering at the hands of Larry Holmes to find a more painful ending (painful in every sense of the word) to a great fighter’s career (although, disturbingly, Ali actually had one more fight after being battered by Holmes; Ali losing to Trevor Berbick a year later).
This week, the new HBO documentary “The Golden Boy” received its premiere, and in the two-parter, De La Hoya makes many sensational revelations. And, speaking with Entertainment Tonight prior to the premiere, De La Hoya spoke about the disastrous training camp he had when getting ready for the Pacquiao fight.
For the only time in his life, De La Hoya began drinking alcohol during a training camp. Oscar says he knew it was “over,” that he wouldn’t win the fight the experts, so many of them anyway, had predicted he would win big.
“It starts in training camp. I’m training for Manny, and keep in mind [it’s] three months before the fight, OK?” De La Hoya said. “I was getting beat up by my sparring partners. At one point, during training camp – maybe midway – I decided it’s over for me. I can’t take this. I’m getting beat up so much. My body doesn’t feel right. I start drinking during camp. I start drinking and drinking and not caring anymore. My whole career, I’m always focused. Always determined, 100 percent. But this time I just felt [like it was] over.”
In light of how he was knocking back the booze when he should have been training and living like a monk, it’s even more of a veritable miracle that De La Hoya did not suffer a serious and permanent injury in the Pacquiao fight. For De La Hoya to have been drinking – what we don’t know, beer, whisky, something else – prior to any fight is indeed crazy. Ahead of a fight with the super-fast and dangerous southpaw whirlwind that was the peak Manny Pacquiao, it is even more so.
Again, let’s all be thankful De La Hoya made it out of the ring in one piece that night in Las Vegas.
What other revelations might there be in “The Golden Boy?”