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Oscar De La Hoya

Champion

De La Hoya had certainly been racking up the victories, but he had yet to win a title. He yearned for a title, saying, "I won the gold for my mother. Now the championship will be for me." In March 1994, he finally got one when he defeated Danish fighter Jimmi Bredahl to win the World Boxing Organization (WBO) Junior Lightweight championship. That July, he took the WBO Lightweight title from Jorge Paez, knocking him out in the second round. On February 18, 1995, De La Hoya took on the International Boxing Federation (IBF) Junior Lightweight Champion, John Molina. It was a grueling struggle, and led to a realization. As Sports Illustrated reporter Richard Hoffer noted, "De La Hoya won the decision but was appalled when he looked for instructions in the tough middle rounds and got none. Alcazar later explained to his fighter that he had felt nervous. That was not a confidence builder."

After the fight, De La Hoya told his manager, Mike Hernandez, and his promoter, Bob Arum, that he needed better training if he was to reach his potential. After scouting around for a while, they settled on a Mexican, Jesus Rivero, nicknamed "the Professor," who had helped Mexican flyweight Miguel Angel Canto to a record 14 title defenses. (To keep some semblance of continuity, and to keep peace with De La Hoya's father, they retained Alcazar as a cornerman, giving him a five-year contract.) The Professor believed in a more holistic approach, training the mind as well as the body. In addition to teaching some new moves, he introduced De La Hoya to Shakespeare and classical music, and encouraged him in his architectural interests. Some in the De La Hoya camp were nervous about this new direction, but their doubts were stilled when De La Hoya knocked out his next opponent, Rafael Ruelas, in less than five minutes. With that victory, on May 6, 1995, De La Hoya added the IBF belt to his growing collection. He followed this up with victories over Genaro Hernandez, "Jesse" James Leija, and Darryl Tyson.

At this point, De La Hoya stood undefeated, with 21 victories and four titles. But many fans, particularly Hispanic fans, felt he hadn't really been tested. In June 1996, he changed that by facing the legendary Mexican fighter Julio Cesar Chavez. The crowd at Caesar's Palace that night were behind Chavez, but De La Hoya had all the energy, as he repeatedly laid stinging blows on the old warrior. In the fourth round, the referee stepped in to end the fight, giving the World Boxing Council (WBC) super lightweight title to De La Hoya. He followed this up by taking on Pernell "Sweet Pea" Whittaker in April 1997. Whittaker was a former gold medallist and a champion in four weight classes, and this time De La Hoya had difficulty laying a glove on his opponent. And in the ninth round, De La Hoya found himself on the mat, though briefly. He got back up and performed just well enough to win a unanimous decision, but it had been a near miss. This time he took home the WBC Welterweight title.

Awards and Accomplishments

1988 Won National Junior Olympic 119-pound championship
1989 Won National Junior Olympic 125-pound championship
1990 Gold medal, Goodwill Games
1991 Won National Golden Gloves 125-pount title
1991 First place, U.S. Amateur Boxing 132-pound tournament
1991 Gold medal, Olympic Festival 132-pound tournament
1991 Named Boxer of the Year by USA Boxing
1992 Gold medal, Barcelona Olympics, lightweight boxing
1994 WBO junior lightweight, then lightweight champion
1994 IBF junior lightweight champion
1995 IBF lightweight champion
1996 WBC super lightweight champion
1996 WBC welterweight champion
2001 WBC super welterweight champion

In September 1999, De La Hoya suffered his first loss, to fellow welterweight Felix Trinidad. After starting strong in the first few rounds, but having decided the fight was "in the bank" as he admitted to Sports Illustrated "he simply circled without jabbing or doing anything else risky." The judges gave the match to Trinidad, a decision disputed by a number of observers. Then, in June of 2000, he lost his WBC Welterweight title to Shane Mosley in a hard-fought 12-round match. A disappointed De La Hoya announced his retirement, saying, "It's tough to live with what goes on around boxing."

Instead of retiring, De La Hoya decided to make a few personnel changes that year. He replaced his longtime trainer, Robert Alvarez, with Floyd Mayweather, Sr., oddly enough the father of a boxer De La Hoya had defeated a few years earlier. Prior to coming to De La Hoya, Mayweather had worked for and been fired by his own son. That same year, he ended his relationship with Bob Arum, who had been promoting him almost from the beginning. That split actually proved temporary. Uncharacteristically, he also began badmouthing former trainers to the press, blaming them for his losses to Trinidad and Mosley. He also put his boxing career on hold temporarily, to focus on a new interest, music. He even released a CD, which was nominated for a Latin Grammy.

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