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Articles of 2004

Golden Boy Oscar De La Hoya Has Lost Some Shine

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Transfixed, I sat there in splendor. If I hadn't been keeping score I might have lost track of the rounds. I was mesmerized, sitting a couple dozen feet from the ring as Oscar De La Hoya looked about as perfect as a young prizefighter could.

By January 1997 De La Hoya already had become boxing's matinee idol. He was the Golden Boy, handsome, articulate, charismatic. He tugged at America's heartstrings when he lost his mother to cancer before the Barcelona Olympics yet forged onward to hear the Star Spangled Banner played in his honor. It was no wonder ladies flocked to his fights.

Yet hype played no part in my admiration of this young stalwart. On this night it didn't have to.

De La Hoya looked like a machine against Miguel Angel Gonzalez at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas, and I didn't want the fight to end. When Michael Buffer announced the 12th round I recall feeling the same as I did at the end of a Bruce Springsteen concert, the Kentucky Derby or my first viewing of a Monty Python film: exhilarated, but to a certain degree depressed the show couldn't last longer.

De La Hoya's destruction of a former champion — granted a slightly faded former champion — left quite an impression, one that would resurface whenever I was asked to predict the outcome a future De La Hoya bout. Pernell Whitaker, Ike Quartey, Felix Trinidad, Fernando Vargas, both Shane Mosley fights … Each time I went with De La Hoya based on the impeccable skills and ring generalship I had witnessed not only against Gonzalez, but so many other times from ringside.

Clearly, I have long respected De La Hoya.

I also used to think Delta Burke was the most attractive woman I had ever seen. But, like De La Hoya, the heavier she got, the less glamorous she became.

That's why, for the first time since I originally saw him live a decade ago against Carl Griffith, I'm picking De La Hoya to lose. He doesn't stand a donut's chance in Ms. Burke's dressing room of beating Bernard Hopkins on Saturday night in the MGM Grand Garden.

As much as I have admired De La Hoya I have been as skeptical of Hopkins. This misguided soul has gone against the Executioner a few times in the past, not because I didn't recognize his awesome skill, but because logic insisted age eventually would catch up to him as he fought increasingly better opposition. I figured Trinidad would defeat him, and I thought there was quality betting value to be had with William Joppy.

Hopkins will turn 40 in January, but De La Hoya, who will be only 32 in February, has aged faster in recent years.

De La Hoya's lopsided victory over Gonzalez nearly eight years ago was the last time the Golden Boy appeared flawless, a legend in the making without a blemish on his beaming face or his sterling ring reputation.

Three months later his next fight produced his first controversial verdict. He abandoned his 140-pound title to fight Whitaker for the 147-pound belt in Las Vegas. The judges awarded De La Hoya a unanimous decision, but the reaction across the country was mixed. Many reporters thought Whitaker was the victim of a “hometown” decision.

De La Hoya needed a split decision to get past Quartey in February 1999, and the champ's rakish good looks were getting more and more raked over.

Five years ago Trinidad finally tagged De La Hoya for a loss, which was every bit as controversial as Whitaker and Quartey combined. Trinidad won via majority decision, and it was justifiable. De La Hoya was the better fighter that night, but he gave away the victory by running in the final rounds.

In the 21st century the De La Hoya mystique has been knocked around like a shuttlecock. He continued to move up in weight but forgot to bring his power with him. Mosley, a fighter who has proven to be less than spectacular at times, beat De La Hoya twice.

Yet the worst indictment of De La Hoya's declining skills was his woefully sluggish performance against designated fall guy Felix Sturm three months ago. The bout was De La Hoya's 160-pound debut and, coupled with Hopkins' defeat of Robert Allen, was supposed to be an infomercial for Saturday night's pay-per-view.

De La Hoya was a 7-to-1 favorite yet looked incredibly ordinary against the lightly regarded, feather-fisted WBO middleweight champ. Sturm used a fabulous jab to control much of the fight. De La Hoya's head snapped back, his nose bled and his chest heaved.

He looked past his prime. He hardly resembled that sculpted warrior. He merely was a bloated Latino balladeer wearing a pair of boxing gloves.

Sturm's lack of power was obvious, but the German did land more punches that De La Hoya and threw fewer. If De La Hoya hadn't won the 12th round on all three scorecards the fight would have been a draw. Instead, he won by a unanimous 115-113 count.

Hopkins is far better than Sturm. Hopkins is one of the best middleweights in history. He has more power, more experience, more hunger. But the ex-con's biggest weapon has always been his guile. There's no doubt he will come into the ring totally prepared for anything De La Hoya can offer.

Part of Hopkins' training included studying films from De La Hoya's distant past as opposed to more recent fights such as Sturm, Mosley or Vargas. Hopkins plopped in tapes of an amateur De La Hoya facing Ivan Robinson and of a 135-pound De La Hoya taking on Jorge Paez and Rafael Ruelas.

“This was De La Hoya when he didn't have $200 million,” Hopkins explained. “This was De La Hoya as he was stating his claim to the boxing world to be the future.

“To me, you can't get no better blueprint of a guy that's hungry, a guy that's not trying to make any mistakes, a guy that's not talking about rolling shoulders because he doesn't want to burn out in the later rounds because he don't want to use his legs, a guy that's gotta put his heart and soul into it.

“I look at those fights and look at the progress. I look at the decrease of early stages all the way up to the Felix Sturm fight. That gives me a blueprint how he has changed from being a guy that rarely [gets hit] to getting hit with everything but the kitchen sink now.”

As Hopkins administers a beat down Saturday night, I'll be coming to grips with the fact I'll never again be mesmerized by watching De La Hoya — not unless I locate some of those old tapes, too.

Articles of 2004

2004 Boxing Pound for Pound List

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The final boxing pound-for-pound list of the year for 2004.

1. Bernard Hopkins: The top guy from beginning to end, Hopkins took care of Oscar De La Hoya with a body shot in the biggest fight of 2004. Now, he'll wait for Jermain Taylor to progress a little further, or he'll go the rematch route with Felix Trinidad. Either way, Hopkins stands to earn a lot of money in 2005 and extend that all-time middleweight reign.

2. Floyd Mayweather: How long has it been since we've seen Mayweather in a meaningful fight? Certainly not in 2004, when he outpointed the difficult DeMarcus Corley. He's slated for a January outing against a no-name. Enough stalling, already, “Pretty Boy”. Fight someone we care about (preferably Kostya Tszyu), or you'll lose your #2 position sometime in 2005.

3. Felix Trinidad: “Tito” stormed back with a magnificent knockout of Ricardo Mayorga in 2004, and now hopes to capitalize on it with big money fights. He'd like nothing more than a rematch with his only conqueror, Hopkins, but he may also opt for old nemesis Oscar De La Hoya. Either way, Trinidad is sure to fight a big fight sometime in the coming year.

4. Kostya Tszyu: What a difference one fight makes. As recently as late October, the boxing world was wondering whether Tszyu was even serious about the sport anymore. We found out with a second round demolition of Sharmba Mitchell. And that made the junior welterweight division very attractive. Tszyu has several options now, including Arturo Gatti and Mayweather or even a hop up to welterweight to challenge Cory Spinks. Let's hope one of them happens in 2005.

5. Manny Pacquiao: Pacquiao fought twice in 2004, and what a fight the first one was. His thrilling war with Juan Manuel Marquez was the best brawl of the year, and there is a chance that the two rivals will go at it again in 2005. If not, Pacquiao has a list full of options: Marco Antonio Barrera, Erik Morales, etc. Pacquiao will fight one of them in the next year.

6. Marco Antonio Barrera: Another guy thought to be washed up when the year started, Barrera resurrected his career for the second time with a masterful victory over Paulie Ayala and a close decision over rival Erik Morales in another great fight. Barrera is obviously shooting for a return with Pacquiao, who decimated him in November 2003. Barrera says it was an off-night. Hopefully, we'll find out if that was the case.

7. Winky Wright: Winky entered the “superstar” realm in 2004 with a pair of decision victories over Shane Mosley. The first was very impressive, as Wright practically shut Mosley out. The second was closer, but proved once again that Winky was the superior fighter. He'd like a shot at Trinidad or Oscar De La Hoya, but neither will happen. He'd probably be best off shooting for a name like Fernando Vargas or Ricardo Mayorga.

8. Juan Manuel Marquez: After several years on the outside looking in, Marquez is finally in a position to make some money after his courageous performance against Pacquiao. He rose from three first-round knockdowns to wage the fight of his life in a fight that was ruled a draw. It would also be interesting to see Marquez against countrymen Barrera and Erik Morales.

9. Erik Morales: “El Terrible” fought another great fight against Barrera, but, again, it was in a losing cause. He has now lost two of three to his fierce rival, and probably wants nothing to do with him anymore. But, eventually, talk of Barrera-Morales 4 will come up again. In the meantime, Morales could shoot for Pacquiao or Marquez.

10. Glencoffe Johnson: The newest entry, Johnson pumped some life into boxing in 2004 with a pair of upsets of Roy Jones Jr. and Antonio Tarver. Now, he's set to make some really big money in rematches with either, or a shot at old conqueror Hopkins. Either way, Johnson is better than anyone imagined.

11. Jose Luis Castillo: Castillo made some comeback noise of his own in 2004, beating Juan Lazcano for his old vacant title and decisioning Joel Casamayor for another big win. He says he wants Kostya Tszyu next, and if that materializes, boxing fans will be in for a treat. If not, Castillo vs. Diego Corrales is a great fight.

12. Oscar De La Hoya: Hard to erase that picture of De La Hoya grimacing in agony courtesy of a Hopkins shot to the ribs, but the “Golden Boy” had no business fighting at 160 pounds. He should drop down to junior middle or even welterweight again if he has any hope of regaining his past form. But 2005 could be the final year for one of boxing's all-time great attractions.

On the brink: Antonio Tarver, Diego Corrales, James Toney

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Articles of 2004

Heavyweight Joe Mesi Bringing Lawsuit

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As reported by the Buffalo News, Joe Mesi is suing the New York State Athletic Commission and the MRI center that conducted tests on the heavyweight boxer after his bout with Vassiliy Jirov. Mesi reportedly suffered brain injuries in the Jirov bout, which has left his boxing status uncertain.

The lawsuit alleges Mesi's medical records were improperly released to the NYSAC. The records, the lawsuit goes on to allege, were then released to the media, prejudicing Mesi's right to have his status reviewed by the appropriate boxing authorities.

The lawsuit does not seek specific monetary damages, as the extent of damages will be affected by whether Mesi is able to resume his career as a leading heavyweight contender.

Mesi hopes to have his status reviewed by the Nevada State Athletic Commission within the coming month. The ruling of the NSAC promises to be key in whether Mesi will be able to resume his boxing career.

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Articles of 2004

The Best in Chicago Boxing Returns

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Dominic Pesoli's 8 Count Productions and Bob Arum's Top Rank Incorporated along with Miller Lite presents SOLO BOXEO DE MILLER, THE ARAGON RUMBLE, another installment of The Best in Chicago Boxing on Friday, January 14th, broadcast live internationally as part of Telefutura's Friday night professional boxing series.

The newly remodeled Aragon Ballroom is located at 1106 W. Lawrence Ave. near the corner of Lawrence and Broadway in Chicago's Uptown neighborhood and is easily accessible, just 4 blocks west of Lake Shore Drive and just 4 miles east of the Kennedy expressway. There are three large parking lots located within a 1/2 block of the Aragon Ballroom. Additionally, the Howard Street Blue Line stops just across the street. Doors will open at 6pm with the first bell at 7pm.

Headlining the action packed card is the American debut of super-bantamweight Ricardo “PIOLO” Castillo, 12-2 (6KO's) of Mexicali, Mexico as he squares off in a scheduled ten rounder against WBO Latino Champion, Edel Ruiz, 24-12-3 (13KO's) of Los Mochis, SI, Mexico. Castillo will be accompanied to the ring by his brother, World Lightweight Champion Jose Luis Castillo.

In the co-main event of the evening, one of Chicago's most popular fighters, middleweight “MACHO” Miguel Hernandez, 14-1 (9KO's), battles hard swinging local veteran “MARVELOUS” Shay Mobley, 7-4-1 (2KO's), of One In a Million Inc.in a scheduled eight rounder.

The huge undercard bouts include;

Carlos Molina vs TBA, six rounds, junior middleweights
Frankie Tafoya vs TBA, four rounds, featherweights
Ottu Holified vs. Allen Medina, four rounds, middleweights
Francisco Rodriguez vs. LaShaun Blair, four rounds, bantamweights
Rita Figueroa vs. Sarina Hayden, four rounds, junior welterweights

Said Dominic Pesoli, President of 8 Count Productions, “it was a terrific evening last month and our fans were thrilled to be at the Aragon to watch David, Speedy and Luciano. David Diaz's fight against Jaime Rangel was a fight people will talk about for a long time. Our commitment to our fans is to make every event of ours better than the last one. This main event is terrific, both guys are very tough Mexicans who won't take a step back.

The fans love Miguel and Mobley figures to be a very tough opponent. Him and David Estrada had a six round war last June at our show. And the undercard showcases a lot of new, younger talent that is coming out of Chicago right now. Tafoya and Holifield have both had very successful beginnings to their careers and Francisco Rodriguez comes with fantastic amateur credentials and David Diaz says he has all the talent to be a great pro.”

“We've got big plans for 2005 and this show should take up right where last months show left off. The huge crowd loved the action last time and I'm sure they'll say the same thing this time.”

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