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15 NOVEMBER 2018

Where am I? Home Columns Paul Upham

De La Hoya's pause is boxing's gain

Oscar De La Hoya crunches Arturo Gatti
Oscar De La Hoya crunches Arturo Gatti

Comment by Paul Upham: Ultimately, Oscar De La Hoya's decision not to fight again in 2006 was an easy one. His decision not to retire just yet a smart one. Lennox Lewis set the new precedent for elite boxers retiring on top. Bernard Hopkins planned his exit and executed it to perfection as the light heavyweight world champion. Now the Golden Boy is searching for his 'Oscar night' finale.

De La Hoya's win over Ricardo Mayorga in May after eighteen months away from the sport was part one of his plan. Beating Floyd Mayweather Jr, the best boxer in the world pound for pound and retiring on top is part two. The Golden Boy just wasn't ready right now to put the wheels in motion. As the deadline to commit to a September 16 showdown approached, De La Hoya walked up to the starter's line and didn't like what he saw, so he calmly deferred and will look to accomplish his mission in May 2007.

"Obviously decision time was coming up," he explained. "Yet I feel retirement is a final decision. Too many times we see fighters retiring just to come back after a few years, mostly for financial reasons and the need for the limelight and the cheers of the people. I always wanted to do the right thing. I didn't want to fall into the trap so many fighters do, that they retire and feel the urge to come back after several months or even several years."

And why shouldn't one of boxing's brightest stars since his first professional fight in November 1992 and a world title holder in six weight classes, wait until May 5, 2007?

It's not that De La Hoya will be that old. 33 or 34 years of age is not over the hill for a boxer. De La Hoya's promotional partner Bernard Hopkins proved that with his recent dismantling of Antonio Tarver at the age of 41.

It is simply the new era of the boxer taking control. No manager or promoter is going to run the career and life of Oscar De La Hoya. He has never been afraid to change his mind. Trainers, promoters, publicists and managers have been jettisoned over the years as he sought the perfect mix. No one is going to dictate to the Golden Boy and that is good news for boxing and boxing fans. You can be sure that De La Hoya's decision saw head of HBO Pay-Per-View Mark Taffet breathing a sigh of relief. He means so much to the sport, not just in revenue generated, but for the positive role model he is and the media attention he draws to boxing.

At a time when so many other sports are taking up valuable mainstream media exposure, boxing needs its stars to cut through the grime and shine. Casting the newspaper and television spotlight not only them and the sport itself, but other boxers and classic fights.

For the sport to survive, boxing needs its stars more than ever. Not just in the USA either, but in every country where there is still a boxing fan base.

Maybe De La Hoya was not feeling physically 100% for a September 16 battle with Mayweather. He denied it, but you can imagine his torn left rotator cuff in his shoulder, a damaged left hand that requires pain killers and a suspected broken knuckle in his right hand, all lingering in his mind and suggesting to him that everything was not perfect for a farewell fight.

Whatever the reason, while his fans will be disappointed they won't see him in action in September, there are many others who will just be happy to have him around as a boxer a little while longer.

The fact is Oscar De La Hoya the fighter is great for boxing.

The sport is going to miss him when he is gone.

Paul Upham
Contributing Editor

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