Tuesday, March 1, 2011
De La Hoya dismisses comeback rumors
By Dan Rafael
There are always rumors about this fighter or that fighter coming out of retirement. Shoot, I still hear crazy stories that Mike Tyson plans to fight again. (He doesn't.)
But over the past few days there have been heavy rumors about an Oscar De La Hoya comeback -- much more than the usual noise. I have heard from a variety of respected people in the business who say it is imminent. So hot was the talk that I even heard about a specific date and venue: June 18 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on HBO PPV.
Maybe there was something to it, I thought, because since the day De La Hoya announced his retirement in April 2009, I had always felt he would eventually fight at least once more -- despite his insistence that he was done following the frightful beating he took from Manny Pacquiao in December 2008.
The rumors weren't that far-fetched either. His Golden Boy Promotions partner, Richard Schaefer, is in New York this week, so if a De La Hoya comeback fight was part of his agenda in meetings with HBO it wouldn't have been a shock.
Further, Golden Boy is trying to re-sign lightweight champion Juan Manuel Marquez, whose contract expired Feb. 28. Golden Boy has a 30-day exclusive negotiating window and then, according to De La Hoya and Schaefer, the right to match any offer for a year.
Marquez, of course, desperately wants a third fight with Pacquiao, which Top Rank -- Golden Boy's bitter rival -- has dangled at him as a possibility if Pacquiao beats Shane Mosley on May 7 and a fall fight with Floyd Mayweather Jr. still can't be made.
Golden Boy may have the right to match any offer for Marquez's service, but what possible fight could it offer Marquez that could come close to the riches Top Rank's Bob Arum can offer him for a fight with Pacquiao?
De La Hoya, obviously.
The Golden Boy himself coming out of retirement to fight Marquez at welterweight would not be a stretch. And it certainly would create public interest, generate a massive promotion and, I believe, sell well on pay-per-view.
So when I spoke to De La Hoya on Tuesday, mainly about the HBO fight he is promoting on Saturday between Saul "Canelo" Alvarez and Matthew Hatton, we also discussed other topics. One thing I asked him about was the Marquez situation and what fight he could offer Marquez that could beat an offer for Pacquiao.
"I can always make 147," De La Hoya said, laughing.
The next topic I planned to ask him about was the rumor of his unretirement, so he had set me up on a tee.
"Funny you should say that, Oscar," is how I began.
But De La Hoya quickly said he was only kidding and then I asked him, several times in different ways, what was up with the rumors and whether he was coming back.
"No, no, no. I'm not coming back whatsoever," he said, quite seriously. "Not at all. My back is in pain and I am barely walking up to my house."
At that point, I could hear the door open and his pet dogs started to bark, but he continued.
"When you're two years into your retirement, speculation always crops up," he said. "But you are hearing it from the horse's mouth, and the answer is no. I would never [come back]. For me, it's not worth it. For me personally, it's not worth it."
I asked him where the rumors came from and mentioned the June 18 date.
"I have no idea. June 18? No. I don't know," he said. "It's just not worth it. I have no interest whatsoever. None whatsoever. There's none. The door, it's locked. There is no way."
I asked De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs) if the topic has come up or if he is being pressured by anyone to make a return to the ring, where he won 10 titles in six weight divisions and set pay-per-view records with 14.1 million buys and $696.4 million in gross revenue for his 19 PPV fights during his glorious 1992 to 2008 pro career.
"I get it all the time," he said. "People say all the time, 'Let me talk you into it, there's a lot of money,' whatever. Fans say I should fight again. They say, 'You can't go out the way you did.' I guess I will hear it forever. But I have decided, and nothing is changing. I loved the training. I loved being in the gym, but I'm decided: There is no way I am even thinking about it. Throw that out the window. There's no reason to come back. I don't feel any reason to come back and fight competitively."
I asked him if part of the reason for not entertaining the idea of a comeback was because of his wife, Millie, who made no secret of her desire for him to retire during the last couple of years of his career.
"At this point, she wouldn't [be against it]," De La Hoya said. "She would say, 'Do what makes you happy.' But I am staying away because of me. Any offer is not worth it to me."
I told De La Hoya I would be writing about our conversation and his quotes, and gave him another chance to perhaps amend his comments. He laughed and said he was quite sure about them and that, no, we would not be hearing an unretirement announcement -- ever.
I'll take him at his word and just remind him of what he said on the day he retired during a nationally televised news conference, held two years ago next month:
"I thought it was only fair to myself and my fans that I make this decision because it hurts me that I cannot compete at the highest level anymore," he said. "When I step in the ring now, it's not me, it's not the fighter people grew up watching. Therefore, that was one of the reasons I decided to retire, along with many more. I am firm on this decision. I am convinced I will never, ever come back. It's a bittersweet moment for me, but I truly feel I have made the right decision."
Let's hope it stays that way.