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De La Hoya helping Canelo stir San Antonio

4/17/2013

Security cleared a pathway for him, but Oscar De La Hoya darted away from it, toward the crowd, famous grin at the ready as he shook hands and signed autographs for the fans who screamed his name.

Bob Arum doesn't get welcomes like that. But then, he doesn't plunge into throngs of fans the way De La Hoya does, either. That was always part of the secret to De La Hoya's success: Yes, he could fight. Yes, he was good-looking and articulate. But he knew how to work it, and work it he did. In his heyday, nary a hand would go unshaken or a soundbyte undelivered until everyone had had their fill.

Rarely did he attract bigger crowds than when he fought in Texas -- be it in El Paso against (ugh!) Patrick Charpentier or here in San Antonio against David Kamau -- and the tales of 36,000 seats being sold for Saturday's contretemps between Canelo Alvarez and Austin Trout, as well as the hundreds who skipped school and work to watch the fighters work out and cheer their promoter's name, are testament to the fact that Alamo City remains a boxing outpost.

"It just goes to show that San Antonio is a fight town," De La Hoya said. "There's no doubt about it. If you build it, they will come. We just feel that, starting with this fight, we will bring big-time boxing back to San Antonio. This is a perfect example that, if you put two good fighters in that squared circle together, you're going to get a good turnout."

That turnout has been helped by recruiting local legend and fellow world champion boxer-turned-promoter Jesse James Leija, who is co-promoting Saturday's show, to the cause.

"Oh, absolutely," De La Hoya agreed. "Leija has been extremely vital to the success of this event. Leija working here locally with everyone has been crucial. And that's going to be a key part in bringing regular boxing back here to San Antonio."

It also doesn't hurt, of course, to have a marketable main eventer, and De La Hoya has that in Alvarez. How does the sport's last matinee idol explain the burgeoning fan base of its newest one?

"You explain it by -- well, just taking a look at him," he said. "He's a redhead, he has freckles, he's a good-looking kid. And he can fight. People just love him. He has a presence about himself that really is captivating. His abilities in the ring solidify what he's all about. And what he's all about is will, strength, power, charisma -- all wrapped into one."

It says a lot about Alvarez, also, that he demanded the fight with Trout, despite the reticence of some at Golden Boy Promotions, who believed it was a match made in hell that could derail a possible future clash with Floyd Mayweather Jr.

"I wish every fighter out there was like this," De La Hoya said. "He wanted it, and now he's got it."