By John Lumpkin: There have been several articles floating around criticizing Oscar De La Hoya
’s recent escapades; describing him as an “Event Fighter” in reference to his rather sporadic schedule. It is an accurate criticism, but somewhat unfair because boxing today is an event sport.
The difference between De La Hoya and other fighters is that his events are spectacular shows that distinguish themselves by the amount of the purse and caliber of celebrity that attends.
De La Hoya is the epitome of what every modern fighter strives to be – whether they know it or not. Think about it. Who wouldn’t want to have the ability to attract any opponent, determine when they fight, and have the upper hand in any negotiation? It’s a position that is possible in only a few sports and what makes it possible is the nature of the boxing business. Boxing does not have regular tournaments, seasons of scheduled contests, or any means to support itself as an entity. Boxing is a collection of independent and interrelated entities that periodically and intermittently work together to put on a show…an event if you will.
Whether you like it or not, consider good or bad for the sport, what De La Hoya did was simply to maximize his economic potential relative to the nature of the business as it is. It seems rather petty of us to criticize him for his choices when it was the very nature of the sport that provided him the incentive to take the actions he did. It is not like any one of us would chose to get paid half as much for twice the labor. If there is anyone that we should be disgusted with, it ourselves as we created the situation and it was we who elected to speak loudly in favor of these events with our dollars. We didn’t have to buy that pay per view.
Looking into the future, there are two basic choices. We can either accept that periodically there will be one fighter whose popularity will supersede all established protocols enabling that fighter to effectively name his price for whatever contest we desire. This fighter will have the ability to circumvent the rules others must live by and his choices will likely create problems for one or more divisions as fighters willing jump out of place of a chance to engage him.
The second choice is to refuse to support a fighter who does not play by the rules. This is not an easy thing to do because fighters who go on to hold the lofty position De La Hoya commanded are not created overnight. They earn it with years of hard work and excellent performances that capture our attention. And when they have done enough to capture our imagination, we demand to see them and this is where the problem starts.
In order to avoid the scenario where the event is the rule and not the exception, we have to be willing to adhere to the principles of the sport that demand that every fighter be bound to the same rules. This is especially difficult these days as there are multiple organizations which have their own sets of rules and the relative ease in which fighters can move between divisions. Yet, despite these challenges, it is within our collective power to determine what happens within the sport.