Like him or not, you have to respect Oscar De La Hoya. The Golden Boy earned everything he achieved inside the ring, and he’s doing it outside the ring as a promoter now, too.
In fact, in locking down a relationship with premier television partner Showtime, as well as extending a far-reaching multi-year agreement with Fox, De La Hoya just might be becoming as great (or even better) a promoter as he was a fighter.
And that’s pretty great.
De La Hoya burst onto the scene back in 1992 as a bright-eyed Olympic Gold medalist destined for superstardom. He made good on it quickly, winning his first professional tussle (if you can even call it that) in just 102 seconds, while nabbing an astonishing $200,000 for the effort.
De La Hoya was a tremendous fighter. He began his career undefeated at 31-0, defeating the likes of Julio Cesar Chavez, Pernell Whitaker and Hector Camacho along the way. He became boxing’s money-man in his heyday, earning more money in his boxing career than any fighter before him.
And unlike many of today’s stars, De La Hoya did not take the path of least resistance. He sought the most competitive fights he could find during the majority of his time as boxing’s preeminent star, battling contemporary greats Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley in his prime as well as next generation stars Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao as he closed out his time in the ring.
De La Hoya, who began his career at lightweight, even had the audacity to move all the way up to middleweight to try and dethrone Bernard Hopkins during the latter’s historic 22-fight title defense streak.
Contrast that with applauding Floyd Mayweather for agreeing to fight junior middleweight Canelo Alvarez at a catchweight.
In 2009, De La Hoya, at age 36, retired from throwing punches, destined for induction into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. In fact, he’ll likely be enshrined in 2014, the very first year he’s eligible.
He might go in as a promoter some day, too.
Despite the ever-present cold war with Top Rank, and despite lacking credentials in anything other than boxing (e.g., Bob Arum was a lawyer before entering pugilism), De La Hoya is proving to be one of boxing’s most successful promoters.
The Los Angeles-based promotional company was launched back in 2002, well before De La Hoya’s sun had set as a world-class fighter. It’s no different than many elite stars have done (or have tried to do) in the past.
But De La Hoya has gone beyond the standard dabbling. He’s a full-blown promoter now, rivaling Bob Arum as the preeminent showman in the sport of boxing.
Success was almost immediate. By 2005, even the New York Times was taking note of De La Hoya’s ability.
"Perhaps De La Hoya picked the right time to use his reputation to make his move by using his charisma and reputation to challenge the old guard,” wrote Richard Sandomir.
De La Hoya has remained nimble and innovative in his quest to become a top-flight promoter. He’s partnered with other well-known fighters when it’s made sense to do so (even former rivals like Hopkins and Mosley), and he’s helped bring more boxing than ever to premier cable outlet air by cutting deals with Showtime to broadcast undercard bouts on Showtime Extreme.
Moreover, De La Hoya has already promoted some of the biggest pay-per-view blockbusters in boxing history, including the king of all box offices smashes, his 2007 loss to Floyd Mayweather.
And that won’t stop anytime soon. With a bevy of young and talented stars, led by 22-year-old sensation Canelo Alvarez, Golden Boy Promotions will continue to do well for years to come.
Of course, De La Hoya hasn’t been perfect.
His inability to bury the hatchet with Bob Arum (who promoted De La Hoya for the majority his career) has kept some of the biggest fights in the sport over the last few years from being made, and no one on press row considers Golden Boy on par with Arum and company. Not yet.
But, just as he did as a fighter, expect De La Hoya to get better.
So much better, in fact, that maybe by the time it’s all said and done, young wide-eyed fighters like De La Hoya once was all those years ago, won’t think of him as a six-division champion. Rather, De La Hoya will be the old guard himself, the premiere promoter in the sport.
And boxing just might be better off for it.