Oscar De La Hoya
Oscar De La Hoya was born on February 4, 1973, in East Los Angeles, California, to Joel and Cecilia De La Hoya, both immigrants to the United States from Mexico. The family, including an older brother, Joel Jr., and a sister, Ceci, did not always have money for food, and to this day De La Hoya carries a food stamp in his wallet to remember where he came from. The neighborhood was tough, with street gangs and drug dealers an everyday menace. Like most kids, Oscar got into fights, and sometimes got beat up, so his father decided to get him some boxing lessons. Actually, boxing was in the De La Hoya blood. His grandfather had fought as an amateur in the 1940s and his father had boxed professionally in the 1960s. Oscar's uncles and cousins as well as his brother had also taken up the sport.
De La Hoya recalled those early years to Los Angeles Magazine reporter Bill Davidson. "My first boxing match came when I was six. On Sundays Dad would take me to the Pico Rivera Sports Arena, where there was a kind of boys' club.… One day there was a boxing tournament for kids in the arena, and Dad entered me in it. They put me in the ring with another kid, and I won. The referee stopped it. It was pretty one-sided."
By the age of ten, Oscar was working out at the Resurrection Boy's Club Gym, a former church. Soon he was going religiously, and by the time he got to junior high, he was entering amateur boxing tournaments. By the time he graduated from high school, he had amassed 225 wins and only five losses. He had also become a national Junior Olympic champion. Immediately he began training for the Olympics, with Al Stankie. Before long, he had earned a place on the Olympic team by defeating Patrice Brooks for the 132-pound gold medal at the 1991 U.S. Olympic Festival. He had already won a gold medal at the Goodwill Games.
But it had not all been smooth sailing for De La Hoya. Al Stankie had a serious drinking problem, and when he was arrested for drunk driving, De La Hoya had to fire him. He hired his father's friend Robert Alcazar, as a replacement. Then a much harder blow fell. In October 1990, his mother and "biggest fan" passed away from breast cancer. Often, it had been his mother who made him go to the gym when he would rather be home or with his friends. "You'll be a champion," she told him. Before she died, she asked her son to win a gold medal at the Olympics. It was a terrible time for De La Hoya, but it gave him incredible motivation.