Dougie’s Friday Mailbag
OSCAR DE LA HOYA
I have been reading you for a long time, never emailed; but want to pass along that I look forward to reading your mailbags each week. Following boxing is sort of a lonely endeavor these days, as it’s often hard to get more than 2-3 guys to get excited for fights. And since few of my buddies follow boxing at all, it makes reading your column all the more enjoyable.
Nonetheless, I wanted to chime in on Oscar. Honestly, never was a big fan, although I always enjoyed his fights. In a lot of ways, I often rooted for his opponents, who never got the notoriety he did (despite many of whom were deserving). Despite that, when looking back at his career, it’s sort of amazing. I mean, the guy only clearly lost two times, and on both occasions, Oscar should never have been in that ring (Hopkins, Manny). His losses to Shane and Felix are highly disputable (I thought Mayweather beat him, but not decisively). Is that not amazing given how many champions and excellent fighters he was in with. Statistically, in his last 35 fights, his opponents totaled 70 losses going in; which indicates that even the “average” fighters on his resume were either very high level contenders or champs. Guys like Hernandez, Ruelas, Gonzales, and Quartey. For anyone else, those wins are career defining, for Oscar, its par for the course.
I know people focus on his losses in “big fights,” but he won a large number of “big fights” against strong opposition (and that he doesn’t get credit for because some of these excellent boxers were not stars). I don’t know, but I wonder if we’re underestimating Oscar’s career a bit. Thanks Doug. — Chris in Fort Worth, Texas
Thanks for finally writing in, Chris. Please do so more often. You seem know what you’re talking about. You obviously do your homework, which I respect.
I definitely think De La Hoya’s career accomplishments are underrated. I think he’s fought more fighters who were ranked in the pound-for-pound top 10 than any other fighter in the past two decades. Whitaker, Quartey, Trinidad, Mosley, Hopkins, Mayweather and Pacquiao were all in the top 10 when De La Hoya fought them. Whitaker, Hopkins, Mayweather and Pacquiao were all considered the No. 1 P4P boxer in the world when they fought De La Hoya. All seven elite fighters were also all on top of their game, except for maybe Whitaker. But Sweet Pea was still pretty damn good. He was 40-1-1 but should have been 42-0 when he fought De La Hoya. Regardless, Whitaker was the reigning welterweight champ who had defended his WBC title eight times. I haven’t watched that fight since 1997 but I thought De La Hoya did enough to edge the hall of famer (who I consider an all-time great).
Here’s how accomplished De La Hoya is: When fans and media talk about his biggest fights and his best wins they never even mention his body of work below 147 pounds. I thought he looked like a potentially great fighter at 135 and 140 pounds. The Jesus Rivero-trained junior welterweight version of De La Hoya that chopped up Julio Cesar Chavez in their first fight and outclassed Miguel Angel Gonzalez was close to unbeatable in my not-so-humble opinion.
Nice column on Oscar. I'm glad someone focused on Bad Blood as that was one of the best boxing atmospheres I've ever been in in person. Although the crowd reaction during the ring walks was fairly even, by the tko at the end of the fight, Oscar had won over the crowd pretty much in its entirety. Not that Oscar was ever my favorite fighter, but I liked him a lot and usually rooted for him, and Bad Blood was a big part of why I liked him and was willing to keep watching him in the later part of this decade.
Also, I felt he got jobbed against Trinidad but that was maybe karma from the Whitaker fight, where I thought Sweet Pea deserved the decision and probably didn't get it because he took the judges for granted, like Oscar did against Tito.
Anyway, in honor of Bad Blood and Oscar's retirement, here's my top 10 ranking for the best atmospheres and crowds for major fights that I have attended in person:
3) Pac-Morales III
5) Marquez-Vasquez III
6) Barrera-Morales II
7) Klitschko-Lewis (by the end of the fight)
8) Oscar-Mosley II
9) V. Klitschko-Sanders
I would be curious to see your list, particularly to get your take on how these atmospheres stack up to a Trinidad fight at the Garden or to a live Tyson fight like Tyson-Spinks (you were there live at ringside for HOB right, or had the internet not been invented yet???).
I will be in Vegas for Hatton-Pac and I hope to add it to the list. Hopefully, we can meet up for a drink or 3. Take care. — Joe
I’m definitely down for a drink or four or five in Vegas, Joe. But we put in long hours here at RingTV.com, so you gotta be willing to start around 1 a.m. Hey, you’re not supposed to get a lot of sleep in Vegas anyway, right?
Anyway, the only folks who knew about the internet in 1988 (when Tyson fought Spinks) was Al Gore and those computer-science geeks that I used to piss off in college by hogging the one cable TV set on campus to watch ‘Tuesday Night Fights’ on the USA Network when they wanted to watch Star Trek: The Next Generation.
I didn’t cover a Tyson bout until after the infamous ‘Bite Fight’ with Holyfield. I think Tyson-Botha in ’98 was my first. And yes that was for HouseofBoxing.com. Tyson had become a sideshow at that point of his career, but he still attracted a fascinating ghetto-fab crowd to his fights. Still, none of his fights make my top 10 atmospheres. Here’s my ten off the top of my head:
1. Trinidad-Joppy (the Puerto Rican love for Tito bordered on freakin’ idol worship in the packed MSG arena and it was so loud and intense that I turned around to look at Bert Sugar and Budd Schulberg, who’s probably been to more fights than any other living being, and they both looked back at me as if to say: “Yeah kid, this is some freaky s__t”)
2. Hamed-Barrera (It was like like a f__kin’ world cup soccer match — at least until Marco started taking the Prince’s ass to school)
3. Morales-Pacquiao II (I’d seen grown men cry when their idol lost, like when Tito was stopped by Hopkins, but I’d never seen them weep when their hero won a fight)
4. De La Hoya-Vargas (the energy and momentum of that fight gradually built from the heated kick-off press conference in L.A. to the final seconds in the 10th round of their showdown at the Mandalay Bay in Vegas when De La Hoya wobbled Vargas with, what else?, a hookÔÇª everyone in the arena stood up between the 10th and the 11th because we knew Oscar was going to close the show in dramatic fashionÔÇª and to his credit, he delivered)
5. Trinidad-Vargas (everyone in the packed Mandalay Bay Events Center was on the edge of their seat from the first of the two knockdowns Vargas suffered in the first round until the brutal third knockdown in the 12th roundÔÇª we witnessed Trinidad solidify his legend with the Puerto Rican people and the premature end to a young talent that I believed could develop into a great middleweight)
6. Morales-Pacquiao III (it felt like the Thomas & Mack Center exploded in the third round)
7. Castillo-Corrales I (there were only 5,000 fans in the Mandalay Bay’s Event Center, but they were all hardcore fans and boxing industry folk and we witnessed one for all timeÔÇª everybody in press row jumped up and screamed in unison when the late Chico did what he did in the 10th round)
8. Vazquez-Marquez III (all 8,000 in attendance — from Jack Nicholson to Julio Cesar Chavez — knew they had witnessed something special with that fightÔÇª I sat and stared at my laptop screen for 5 minutes before I started writingÔÇª I was in awe and I felt honored to be there)
9. Barrera-Morales I (there were only 6,000 in the Events Center for that classic confrontation of future greats but it was like being in an 18,000-seat bull ring coliseum Mexico — which is something I’ve experienced — and my God that fight was the most heated form competition I had ever experienced to that pointÔÇª back and forth and back and forthÔÇª it was beautifulÔÇª)
10. Morales-Barrera III (members of press row got up from their seats and started applauding in the final seconds of the 12th round)
STOP DE LA HATIN'
There you go again hating' on THE GOLDEN BOY…..Cmon' he made a ton of money for himself and others, brought attention to the sport when it wasn't getting much, and won his share of big fights while signing to face more top guys than anyone in his time. He may not have been one of the ten best fighters, pound for pound, of the years in which he fought, SO WHAT! De la hoya, has already entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame. He's made HISTORY in boxing and ended his boxing career a very WEALTHY man! (CAN'T SAY THE SAME ABOUT MANY retired BOXERS ESPECIALLY JULIO CEASAR CHAVEZ). And sorry to burst your bubble but he will continue to make millions in the empire that he is building as a promoter and a businessman, and journalists will continue to write articles about him and whether you’re a fan of his or not you will be interested to read about him.
It is what it is… — Veronica
And it ain’t what it ain’t, sweetheart. My column was not meant to disrespect De La Hoya. I was a fan of Oscar’s and I still admire and respect the man. I just stopped caring about his fights six years ago. I think a lot of fans felt the same way.
Once upon a time the big pay-per-view event was an evenly matched bout that delivered compelling action and dramaÔÇª after his fight with Vargas, De La Hoya stopped delivering real entertainment in the ring. He still delivered big numbers, but those fans weren’t treated to anything special once the bell rang and that was not good for the sport. I think that was turning off fans.
I’m glad he’s finally retired. I think it will be good for the sport in the long run. Everyone in the industry can lose their hard-on for Golden Boy Promotions because they don’t have the Golden Goose anymore and the big events from now on can be matchups that deliver a lot of action. I think Hatton-Pacquiao will be fun while it lasts. The winner vs. JM Marquez or Shane Mosley or the Cotto-Clottey winner or Edwin Valero will make for another fun fight — and so on and so onÔÇª this is what we need to help the sport growÔÇª in the mean time, now that De La Hoya is finally on the sidelines, we can see if someone else can evolve into a bona fide starÔÇª I think Victor Ortiz has a damn good shot.
THE GOLDEN BEEF
I don't know why I feel this way but I think I'm left bitter by the retirement of Oscar. For some reason I never really liked him. I know he fought the best when he was in his prime. I know he carried boxing (my #1 favorite sport), but I just never rooted for him and I can't seem to figure out why. As I type this I keep focusing on the decisions he got that I disagreed with, like the Pernell Whitaker fight, rather then the exciting bouts he was in. Maybe I'm jealous, maybe I'm a hater, but I can say that every fighter that beat him became one of my favorites, and every fighter he beat I then hated (except for Pernell he won that fight). Maybe my passionate hate is my personal tribute to him. Please help! — Tyrone
All the really popular boxers in recent decades — the guys who transcended the sport like Ali, Leonard, and Tyson — had legions of fans and legions of haters. De La Hoya is in that group. I think it’s hard not to resent or at the very least get sick of sports figures who are also bona fide celebrities, especially when some of them are not the best athletes in their particular sport. And even when they are, it’s hard not to get sick of them. I don’t even follow golf, but I can’t stand Tiger Woods. I don’t even know anything about the guy, but I’m just sick of hearing about him, reading about him and looking at his face. Go figure. I think De La Hoya suffers from the same sort of “hater” phenomenon.
Don’t feel too bad about the hate. I don’t think he takes it personally. But realize that a lot of hardcore fight fans, myself included, think De La Hoya legitimately won the Whitaker and Trinidad fights. And one more thing (for whatever it’s worth); I don’t know if you’ve ever met Oscar, but from what I’ve witnessed over the past 10 years and from my personal experience, I can tell you that he’s a pretty nice guy.
WHO IS NEXT?
I enjoyed your article discussing who may fill Oscar De La Hoya’s shoes now that the Golden Boy has moved on to be the Golden Businessman. I mostly agree with the experts that guys like Victor Ortiz, Chris Arreola, and Paul Williams are in the best position today to someday ascend to the top of the sport (although it is unlikely any will even come close to Oscar’s popularity).
However, I really think James Kirkland needs to be mentioned in that group. Where De La Hoya fit the Leonard/Ali mold (gold medal, huge charisma, attractive boxers), Kirkland reminds me somewhat of a junior middleweight Tyson (hardscrabble upbringing, menacing, tenacious style, interesting trainer/mentor storyline, he even rocks the black shorts/black shoes/no socks look). Although Kirkland does not seem to possess Tyson’s one-punch KO power (of course, few ever have), he also seems a little less susceptible to Tyson’s weaknesses (stamina, mental fortitude). HBO has been steadily featuring Kirkland over the past year or so, and his impressive 6th round TKO of Joel Julio earned him both a spot on the Hatton-Pacquiao undercard and a title shot later this year against Sergiy Dzinziruk on HBO.
With Kirkland, Williams, Pavlik, Abraham, and Perro Angulo all fighting between 154 and 160 lbs right now, there are plenty of fascinating matchups among those fighters (3 of whom are American) that could significantly raise their profile. I see that core as having the greatest potential to lift the sport in this country at the moment; I’d love to hear what you think.
Keep up the great work on the Ring Web site, I’m a really big fan of what guys are doing there. Also great job on the Lightweight Lightning telecast, I hope we get to see you again soon. I thought it was a great booth. Peace. — Scott
Thanks Scott. I think Kirkland can become a very popular fighter because of his all-action style, his willingness to fight anyone and his incredible conditioning, but I didn’t mention him as a potential super star because I don’t think he has the necessary personality to crossover to the mainstream. I could be wrong. I hope I am. Tyson had a unique personality to go with his ferocity in the ring. And along with his one-punch KO power, he had very underrated technique and head movement, which is something I think Kirkland lacks. But I enjoy watching Kirkland fight and I hope he eventually fights the likes of Pavlik, Williams, and/or Angulo. I definitely think those fights can capture the public’s imagination (if promoted right). He has to beat Dzinziruk first, however, before he can get to those potential fights.
If Chris Arreola can beat a Klitschko (or both of them) — which is a very BIG if, but not out of the realm of possibility in my opinion — and he can hold on to the title (or titles) I think he can come close to De La Hoya’s popularity and impact on the sport.
Dougie can be reached at [email protected]