Saturday, April 18, 2009

De La Hoya's Retirement?

Boxing Fans,

Apparently Oscar de la Hoya has retired. Maybe it’s real, maybe not. So many boxers retire, only to come back sooner than later and make a fool of themselves. If, however, de la Hoya has truly retired for good, there are many reasons why one should honor what he has done for the sport. De la Hoya’s career is filled with awesome achievements that will leave a lasting legacy in the sport and his retirement, if it sticks, will give him an opportunity to continue to brighten the sport. De la Hoya’s achievements span the whole of his life from his first fight as an amateur to his long successful pro career to his emergence as a promoter. His legacy is grounded firmly in history because of the big fights he had, his sportsmanlike conduct, and his humility as a boxer and as a man. His retirement from the ring and his financial and physical health are an example for all boxers and will allow him to better the sport and, if he chooses, to lobby for a national organization.


Oscar de la Hoya is the most popular and successful boxer of all time. His amateur career, beginning as a child of six years old included hundreds of wins and titles including the Goodwill Games, National Champion, Golden Gloves champion, Junior Olympics, and of course, gold medalist at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. He fought the best amateur competition in the world for twelve years before he even stepped in to the ring as a professional. His pro career includes titles in six different weight classes against the best opponents in each division for more than 17 years. Exciting wins against opponents like Rafael Ruelas, Fernando Vargas, JC Chavez, and Ike Quartey balance the exciting disappointments of his losses against Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, Trinidad, and Pacquiao. Those wins and losses are something that no one can ever take away from history. Now he can bring that excitement to his role as a promoter, although judging from some of his previous cards, he’s still learning.


De la Hoya’s legacy is firmly grounded in history and is a great example for all young boxers to aspire. De la Hoya fought the best in his seventeen years as a professional. The combined record of his opponents at the time he fought them was 1547 wins, 124 losses and 44 draws – that is, de la Hoya’s opponents had won more than 90 percent of their fights when they met him. Later in his career, de la Hoya did not just have fights, he had classic matchups against the best in his division. Fans will always remember the spectacular knockout of Vargas, the quick destruction of Ruelas, the bloody, emotional battle with Chavez, the blinding speed and power of Mosley and de la Hoya’s close match, the gallant effort against the bigger Hopkins, and the horrible later-rounds fight plan against Trinidad. His uncharacteristic loss against Pacquiao should do nothing to diminish his career but serve as an example that a boxer should leave the sport before that happens. De la Hoya’s humility and sportsman-like conduct was a breath of fresh air for a sport that was degenerating into WWE and UFC type nonsense, bragging, and idiotic remarks and actions from boxers such as Tyson, Mayorga, Vargas and Prince Hamed. His usual response to nonsense was that he did his talking in the ring, which he always did. And unlike Tyson and Roy Jones, he thankfully avoided referring to himself in the third person. The only qualm I have is that he, at one time, thought that his skills as a boxer would transfer over to his singing career! Well, I never said he was perfect.


Will de la Hoya remain retired and what will he do if he does? De la Hoya has apparently retired with a boatload of money, his health, and a career as a big-time promoter. With his money, prestige, and seeming intelligence he can do much to bring positive attention to the sport. No doubt that boxing has suffered and many claim that it is at death’s door, but they have been saying this for decades. A person like de la Hoya and his clout can create matches and events to rival the great fights of the 1950’s (think Ike Williams v. Beau Jack, Kid Gavilan v. Carmen Basilio, Sugar Ray Robinson v. Gene Fullmer), mid 70’s (Ali v. Frazier, Foreman v. anyone, Monzon v. Griffith) and early 80’s (Leonard, Duran, Hearns, Hagler, Curry, Arguello, Pryor, etc.). He can also lobby and use his influence to create one national organization like the NBA or MLB so that there is only one champion per weight class, more transparency, and better protection for fighters after they retire. That, however, maybe asking for too much. Adios de la Hoya and thank you for all you’ve done.

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