De La Hoya honored to be in HOF
Much of Oscar De La Hoya's time recently has been consumed by the internal strife at his company, Golden Boy Promotions, which saw chief executive Richard Schaefer resign this week after a protracted battle with De La Hoya over various issues related to the business.
But De La Hoya will, for at least a little while, put all of the chaos with his business out of his mind and enjoy himself.
And why not? De La Hoya, a 1992 Olympic gold medalist, who won 10 professional world titles in a then-record six weight divisions, will receive the ultimate honor on Sunday when he is enshrined in the International Boxing Hall of Fame in Canastota, New York, at the 25th annual inductions ceremonies.
I think the title that means the most to me is being the people's champion. That's the title I most cherish. People gave me respect because I took the risk against everyone. I loved pleasing the fans.” -- Oscar De La Hoya
"This is a moment I will soak in. I took a deep breath when they opened those doors [at the airport] when I got home from Barcelona with the Olympic gold medal. I was in awe of everything. It was life-changing," De La Hoya told ESPN.com this week. "Now, at Canastota, I can take that deep breath and say, 'I did it.'"
The 41-year-old De La Hoya is part of a star-studded class of fighters elected in the modern category. He is going in with two other first-ballot inductees: ring rival (and now friend) Felix Trinidad (42-3, 35 KOs), the Puerto Rican superstar who won world titles at welterweight, junior middleweight and middleweight (and outpointed De La Hoya in a welterweight unification bout in one of boxing most controversial decisions of the 1990s) and Joe Calzaghe (46-0, 32 KOs) of Wales, who retired undefeated after defending his super middleweight title 21 times and unifying belts before also winning the lineal light heavyweight championship.
Just the mere mention of the impending inductions had De La Hoya putting the business shakeup to the side for the time being.
"I'm sitting with a smile ear to ear," De La Hoya said. "Never -- it never crossed my mind that I'd be in the Hall of Fame. I always dreamed of one day being considered, but I just never would think I would make it. As I was trudging the road to success inside the ring and outside the ring, it never crossed my mind. So when I got the call, it was like, 'Wow!' It's like being validated for all the accomplishments through my career, including the amateurs.
De La Hoya looks back on career
Oscar De La Hoya talks about being inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame. Dan Rafael »
"It was worth starting at the age of 5. It was worth it waking up at 4:30 in the morning when I was 12 years old and running six miles."
Even as De La Hoya was powering his way to all of those world titles and becoming the face of boxing -- not to mention the most bankable pay-per-view star of his time -- he claimed he wasn't sure if the Hall would call.
"I would always want to believe maybe they'll consider me," De La Hoya said. "One thing I'm most proud of is the respect I have from a lot of my peers and a lot of fans because I was able fight the very best. Nobody can take that away from me. I was in every fight, too. I was never blown out, except by [Bernard] Hopkins and Manny Pacquiao (in his final bout, an eight-round knockout loss in 2008). I was always in the fights."
De La Hoya was savaged by Pacquiao, but he more than held his own in a competitive unification fight with Hopkins for the undisputed middleweight championship in 2004 before being stopped by a body shot in the ninth round.
While De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KOs), of East Los Angeles, didn't win all of his big fights, he did face virtually every top opponent of his time and went 24-5 in 29 world-title bouts during his 1992 to 2008 career.
The résumé reads like a who's who: Pacquiao, Floyd Mayweather Jr. (in the best-selling pay-per-view fight of all time), Hopkins, Shane Mosley (twice), Trinidad, Julio Cesar Chavez Sr. (twice), Fernando Vargas, Pernell Whitaker, Arturo Gatti, Ricardo Mayorga, Felix Sturm, Javier Castillejo, Ike Quartey, Hector Camacho Sr., Miguel Angel Gonzalez, Genaro Hernandez, James Leija and Rafael Ruelas.
For all of the wins, titles and money, De La Hoya said that as he looks back on his career he is most proud to have faced virtually everyone the fans wanted to see him fight. He never ducked anyone.
"I think the title that means the most to me is being the people's champion. That's the title I most cherish," he said. "People gave me respect because I took the risk against everyone. I loved pleasing the fans. When I would go out there, I would worry about how I'm going to please the fans. I took pride in that -- that and the gold medal, which started everything for me.
"But what I am most proud of, what I will most remember, is that, when I go to sleep at night, I know that I fought the very best."
De La Hoya said the two biggest accomplishments were winning the Olympic gold medal and his Hall of Fame election, even bigger than winning titles in six divisions (a record later broken by Pacquiao, who has won titles in eight weight classes).
"I'm not saying anyone can win a world title, but it's not as prestigious as it was before when Muhammad Ali was heavyweight champion of the world or Joe Louis was champion of the world," De La Hoya said. "Winning the gold medal and the validation of the Hall of Fame is huge. You have to earn that. Everything in between is what got me there, but what matters most to me is winning the gold and being inducted into the Hall of Fame."
And he is pleased to be going in with Trinidad and Calzaghe, who Golden Boy Promotions even promoted for a time.
"It's a good group, and it's really a huge honor to be on stage with a fellow competitor, a colleague of mine," he said. "I'll be taken back through memory lane. It's only going to be happy thoughts. Joe retired undefeated. Trinidad had a great career. It's going to be one of those moments where we can all be proud and look back at our careers and give ourselves a pat on the back because it's not often we do that.
"Boxing is a sport that's a dangerous sport. It's a sport where there's a few that really suffer and are damaged because of the wars and the passion they have inside the ring. I got into some wars. I really feel blessed for coming out OK. I got my brain rattled a few times, but I came out OK."
When he is inducted, De La Hoya said he will think of his mother, Cecilia, whom he promised to win a gold medal for before she died in 1990. He also said he would choke up when he talks about his father, Joel De La Hoya Sr., who rode his son hard to succeed and will be in Canastota. De La Hoya said his wife, Millie, some of his children and brother and sister will also be present.
"The one person that when I thank I will choke up on is when I talk about my father," De La Hoya said. "It's gonna be a moment where I'm gonna thank him and get that validation from him. That was always important to me. Seeing him there, that's just the icing on the cake, the cherry on top. It doesn't get any better than that.
"It's the All-American story: I won the gold, I was on top of the world, won titles, made money, had personal issues, got off the canvas and now I am raising my hand to victory, and it's all topped off by the Hall of fame. It's a validation for my career. I feel as if I did accomplish something, as if I am winning the fight."
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