‘GOLDEN BOY’

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

Boxing News - - Contents -

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.

Pho­tos: STACEY VER­BEEK & AC­TION IM­AGES/REUTERS/STEVE MAR­CUS

STILL GOLDEN: But life as a pro­moter has not been all plain sail­ing for De La Hoya

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