Thomas Hauser observes the Golden Boy boss the morning after a ‘sore throat’ prevented him from attending the most important press conference of the recent Canelo-golovkin ght week
Esteemed boxing writer Thomas Hauser on the enigma that is Oscar De La Hoya
IT’S 11am on the morning of Thursday, September 13. In two days, Gennady Golovkin and Saul “Canelo” Alvarez will meet in the ring at T-mobile Arena in Las Vegas to do battle for the middleweight championship of the world.
Oscar De La Hoya is sitting on a bronzecoloured, metal-framed, cushioned chair in the holding lobby of the KA Theatre at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. The hotel is hosting most of the fight week media activities. Golden Boy (De La Hoya’s promotional company) is co-promoting the bout.
Oscar is seated opposite a single TV camera. A Canelogolovkin 2 backdrop has been erected behind him. A sign taped to the outside of a door leading to the holding area says, “Do Not Enter.” Inside the room, a plaque affixed to the wall declares “Authorized Personnel Only.”
During the next hour, De La Hoya will be interviewed by eight television networks in an exercise known as “the satellite tour.” Alvarez and Golovkin will be similarly engaged later in the day. The interviews are designed to remind viewers that a can’tmiss fight is scheduled for Saturday night and encourage pay-per-view buys.
Oscar earned a reservoir of respect during his Hall of Fame ring career. He was an icon in the Hispanic-american community and a genuine crossover star. One can check off the boxes… Olympic gold medal… Movie star handsome… Bilingual…
And he could fight. De La Hoya won his first world championship at 130 pounds at age 21. Ten years later, he surrendered his final belt in a middleweight title-unification bout. His only losses were to Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley (twice), Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquiao. All five of these men were in their prime when De la Hoya fought them. The loss to Trinidad and second loss to Mosley are widely regarded as bad decisions. Along the way, Oscar defeated Julio Cesar Chavez (twice), Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, and Fernando Vargas. He was always willing to go in tough.
It has been said that no fighter gets out of boxing unscathed. No fighter goes into boxing unscathed either. For much of his time as an active fighter, De La Hoya battled demons outside the ring as well as in it. His subsequent problems with substance abuse and other issues have been well-chronicled. There were worries when he missed the final pre-fight press conference for Canelogolovkin 2 on Wednesday because of what was said to be a sore throat.
But Oscar is still boxing royalty. He still stops a room when he enters. De La Hoya is wearing faded blue jeans, black loafers without socks, and a light-blue short-sleeved shirt that’s hanging out below his waist. He looks heavy. His face is puffy and his eyes are hooded, evoking the image of a fighter in the closing rounds of a hard fight. His voice is less expressive this morning than it usually is. Normally, his smile lights up a room and flows out over the airwaves. Today it seems forced. His delivery is less smooth than usual. There are a lot of “umm”s and “ah”s.
Ed Keenan – an experienced publicist – is overseeing the satellite tour. A handful of technicians monitor the proceedings. It’s not easy to coordinate one interview after another. There are times when a station’s turn comes up and it’s on a commercial break. Keenan handles the job well.
Oscar waits patiently between interviews. He transitions seamlessly from English to Spanish and back again. Three days earlier, he’d told TMZ that he was “seriously considering” a run for president of the United States. Most of the questions today are about the fight. But more often than not, at some point in each interview, he’s asked about the possibility of a presidential campaign.
“America was built on dreams,” he answers. “If Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump can do it, why can’t I? I want to be a voice for the people. The way I fought
‘IF RONALD REAGAN AND DONALD TRUMP CAN BE PRESIDENT, WHY CAN’T I?’
in the ring, I want to fight for the people… I’m seriously discussing it with my team. I don’t have a definitive answer yet… This is America. I can be anything I want to be… I won a gold medal at the Olympics for the United States. This would be another way to serve my country.”
The lobby holding area is stuffy and uncomfortably hot with no air conditioning and no windows. The temperature outside has risen past ninety degrees. During the short breaks between interviews, a door is opened for fresh air.
“Can someone get a Red Bull for Oscar?” an aide asks. A production assistant leaves and returns with three bottles of water.
Oscar stays on message with regard to the upcoming fight, although his comments sometimes move toward hyperbole.
“Fans will be on the edge of their seats, begging for more. It will be a thrilling night for boxing… I’ve never seen Canelo act this way. He really dislikes Triple-g. He says he wants to knock out GGG. And to me, that’s music to my ears… It can be a trilogy. Or maybe even four, five, six fights between them like Sugar Ray Robinson and Jake Lamotta.”
When asked about Canelo having tested positive for clenbuterol earlier in the year, De La Hoya answers, “People trust Canelo. People love Canelo. People believe in Canelo.”
Five minutes after noon, Canelo Alvarez enters the room. His satellite tour is scheduled next. The old champion rises from his chair, embraces his successor, and departs from the holding lobby, leaving the stage to the new king.
STILL GOLDEN: But life as a promoter has not been all plain sailing for De La Hoya