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Oscar De La Hoya: As a Fighter and as a Promoter, He’s Been a Boon for Boxing

Rick Assad

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La Hoya

Oscar De La Hoya is an anomaly and one of the most successful and unique figures in the history of boxing.

De La Hoya rose from the mean streets of East Los Angeles to capture the Gold Medal at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Spain, and then carved out a wildly productive career inside the ring where he became a 10-time world champion in six different weight divisions.

Sure, De La Hoya isn’t the first to take this road and likely won’t be the last to navigate this route to fame and fortune. But what separated De La Hoya from so many others who came before is that while still boxing, six years before his final fight, he became a fight promoter. And not just any fight promoter, but one of the most prominent and important, alongside Bob Arum, CEO of Top Rank, which promoted many of De La Hoya’s fights.

After countless big fights and huge sums of money earned on both sides, De La Hoya sued Arum, claiming that millions of dollars never found its way into his bank account. De La Hoya wanted out of his contract and the matter was settled in 2001 with De La Hoya prevailing.

De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions in 2002. Keenly aware that a boxer, even the best, can fall victim to his own fame and outside influences, De La Hoya wanted to change the template. He knew the pitfalls first hand, having been at the very top and bottom of the mountain.

Like many boxers before him, De La Hoya has battled drugs and alcohol, a combination more powerful than Bernard Hopkins, Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Manny Pacquiao, three great champions that he lost to in the ring. Still, De La Hoya, like most everything that he’s done in his life, has come out smelling like a rose.

Take the recent rematch between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin for the middleweight championship at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. De La Hoya, who co-promoted the mega-fight claimed by Alvarez via majority decision, was proud to have had a hand in both money-making bouts.

Beside Alvarez, Golden Boy Promotions has under its umbrella such up-and-coming stars as Angel Acosta, the World Boxing Organization light flyweight champion, Jaime Munguia, the undefeated WBO junior middleweight title holder who was on the Alvarez-Golovkin II undercard, unblemished Rey Vargas, the World Boxing Council super bantamweight king and undefeated Alberto Machado, the World Boxing Association super featherweight belt holder.

Knowing just how tough it is to reach the top, De La Hoya recognizes that a boxer’s time in the ring is limited and that the right promoter is crucial if he is to reach the top rung of the ladder.

De La Hoya said that boxing helped him to know what makes him tick. “Talk about never giving up, that’s exactly what boxing taught me,” he said. “Look, you’re going to get knocked down in a round or two. Just get back up and imagine winning the fight after you get knocked down several times. It’s that much more gratifying.”

De La Hoya, who lost to Shane Mosley twice, said he wants to make the best matches for the fans because without their support at the venue or buying pay-per-view telecasts, his job as a promoter would be that much tougher.

“That’s what it’s about, working with everyone,” he said. “Working with the best promoters in the world so that the fans can see the best fights. In today’s boxing landscape…it’s not that they are afraid, but they are not taking risks to make the best fights for the public, because they may lose their fighter. It’s not our case. If our fighter is ready for a championship fight or to fight with the best in the world, we do it….that’s how we are, we think of the fans first.”

Nicknamed the “Golden Boy” by the media en route to the Olympic Gold Medal, De La Hoya soon after became the face of boxing. Blessed with movie star good looks, an outgoing personality, a powerful jab and a knockout punch, he became one of the most popular fighters ever.  He was 31-0 before losing a majority decision to Felix Trinidad at the Mandalay Bay in September 1999 and finished his professional career with a record of 39 wins, six losses and 30 knockouts.

By any measure, these assets helped De La Hoya transition into his second career as a promoter. “It was a tough road, but not an impossible one,” he said of being a promoter. “I love this hands on. I love this day-to-day. I love the decision making. I love creating and putting together what ultimately is going to be, I believe, my legacy.”

Of course, De La Hoya, who defeated Fernando Vargas, Ricardo Mayorga and Arturo Gatti and has already been inducted into the International Boxing Hall of Fame, seems to want something more than being recognized as one of the all-time ring greats.

How about a second ceremony as a fight promoter?  “I actually do have a goal as a promoter, and that’s to be the very first fighter to be inducted into the Hall of Fame again, the second time around, as a promoter. I don’t think it’s ever been done,” he said.

Still the road hasn’t always been easy for De La Hoya, who has had some of his demons exposed.

Glenn Cooper, who worked in ESPN’s advertising department, has known De La Hoya for many years. “Oscar’s had some problems,” he said recently. “He’s battled them and come out better for it. I’ve had my own problems and I told Oscar that if he ever needed someone to call, I’d be there. He called me a few times and I tried to be there for him.”

Cooper added, “Oscar’s such a really nice guy. But when you lead that type of lifestyle where everybody knows who you are, it’s not easy staying out of trouble.”

Then there was the breakup with longtime business partner Richard Schaefer, a well-connected Swiss banker who joined De La Hoya and helped build what has become a business empire.

Initially Schaefer, who was the CEO of Golden Boy Promotions before leaving in 2014 in order to form his own company, Ringstar Sports, handled only the business end, often working with fighters and managing their careers. Schaefer then switched gears and began lining up deals for several major boxing matches.

When De La Hoya was in rehabilitation, Schaefer began taking over more responsibility. Critical was that Schaefer allowed many of the promotional contracts under Golden Boy with adviser/promoter Al Haymon to expire, which obviously left the company vulnerable.

In June 2014, De La Hoya sued Schaefer for $50 million and the case was settled by an arbitrator in De La Hoya’s favor.

De La Hoya recently expanded Golden Boy Promotions to include MMA. The company’s first venture will be a third meeting between former UFC superstars Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, set for Nov. 24 at the Inglewood Forum.

“I’m really looking forward to getting involved with MMA and building a new business,” he said recently. “If any fighter who is an MMA fighter wants to explore a different avenue, come knock on our door, give us a call. I’m really excited about starting Golden Boy MMA. When we do things, we do them the right way, just like we’ve done in boxing.”

Don Chargin, who just passed away at age 90, joined Golden Boy Promotions as a senior adviser late in his legendary career.

With more than six decades of experience under his belt as a matchmaker and promoter, Chargin, dubbed “War A Week” by sportscaster Jim Healy after making so many fan-friendly fights at the Olympic Auditorium in Los Angeles, was a valuable asset for De La Hoya.

Chargin was perhaps even more of an asset for Eric Gomez, president of Golden Boy, who said he owes Chargin a huge debt of gratitude for teaching him how to be a matchmaker.

No, De La Hoya isn’t perfect, but he has operated Golden Boy Promotions at an extremely high level and has been a boon for boxing.

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Did Jennings’ Loss Mark Arum’s Last Hope to Again Taste Heavyweight Glory?

Bernard Fernandez

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For someone who promotes two fighters who are widely considered to be the world’s pound-for-pound best, what took place Friday night at the Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, N.Y., had to be a somewhat bitter pill for Top Rank founder and CEO Bob Arum to swallow.

The good news for the 87-year-old Arum is that his fast-rising featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (10-0, 6 KOs), a silver medalist at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics, took another long stride toward possible superstardom with an impressive fourth-round stoppage of Filipino veteran Jessie Cris Rosales (22-2-1, 10 KOs) in the co-featured bout televised via ESPN+.

But while Stevenson could become a world champion in the 126-pound weight class as early as 2020, the reality is that the highly skilled little lefthander is not and never will be a heavyweight. Neither will lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko or welterweight champion Terence Crawford, the current headliners of the Top Rank stable who already have outgrown a couple of lower-weight divisions but can never be heavyweights except in terms of their prodigious talent. Many knowledgable observers consider Lomachenko and Crawford, in whichever order, to be first and second among all fighters regardless of poundage, and certainly no worse than somewhere in the top three or four.

All of which means that the 12th-round technical knockout of Bryant “By-By” Jennings (24-3, 14 KOs) by underdog Oscar Rivas (26-0, 18 KOs) in the main event could eliminate any chance, however slim it might have been, of Arum having another heavyweight champion before he retires. Jennings, a relatively recent addition (in the summer of 2017) to the Top Rank stable who went in ranked No. 2 by the WBO, No. 7 by the WBA and No. 8 by the IBF, likely will fall out of the top 10 of all three sanctioning bodies. That might have been the case even had Jennings not fallen victim to Rivas’ final-round surge. Although it appeared to the ESPN+ broadcast crew that the Philadelphian should have been comfortably ahead on points, he was on the wrong end of two of the three judges’ scorecards and would have lost anyway if he somehow made it to the final bell.

Although Jennings  gave a credible account of himself in his only shot at a world title, losing a unanimous decision to IBF/WBA/WBO champion Wladimir Klitschko on April 25, 2015, his age is only one factor working against him now. There are simply too many hungry contenders standing between him and another shot at boxing’s biggest prize.

Prior to Jennings’ most recent bout before his meeting with Rivas, a ninth-round TKO of Russia’s Alexander Dimitrenko last Aug. 18 in Atlantic City, N.J., his trainer, John David Jackson, offered his opinion as to why the Top Rank honcho would ride the “By-By” train as far as it would go before it derailed.

“I think Bob wants one more heavyweight champion,” Jackson offered. “Yeah, he has a lot of great fighters, but if you have the heavyweight king, you rule boxing. It’s still the most prestigious and marketable division in the sport. That’s just how it works. And Bryant represents the last, best opportunity for Bob to get there before he retires.”

Arum, a former member of U.S. Attorney General Bobby Kennedy’s Justice Department in the early 1960s, has been promoting boxing matches – more than 2,000, and counting — for 52 years, and while some of his greatest successes have come with fighters from featherweight to middleweight, his promotional debut involved a heavyweight who was the biggest of them all. Introduced to Muhammad Ali by football great Jim Brown, Arum started at the very top, staging Ali’s winning title defense against rugged Canadian George Chuvalo on March 29, 1966, at Toronto’s Maple Leafs Garden. He would go on to promote 26 Ali fights, his most with any heavyweight.

“I didn’t know boxing,” Arum once said of his almost-accidental introduction to what would become his life’s work. “I didn’t even really know about divisions other than heavyweight. I only knew there were heavyweights. Then people started contacting me about promoting fighters in other divisions and believe me, it was a good four or five years after I started with Ali.”

After Arum’s long and fruitful association with Ali ended, he continued to build his company by showcasing such celebrated non-heavyweights as Carlos Monzon, Roberto Duran, Sugar Ray Leonard, Thomas Hearns, Marvelous Marvin Hagler, Julio Cesar Chavez, James Toney, Oscar De La Hoya, Floyd Mayweather Jr., Miguel Cotto and, of course, Lomachenko and Crawford. But Arum pined for another thrill ride with a heavyweight attraction as compelling as had been his heyday with Ali, or as close an approximation to that as possible.

He found it in the unlikely person of George Foreman, who had been retired for 10 years. Arum took a flier on the old and plump Foreman as his improbable comeback gathered momentum, although initially doubting that he and the presumably cheerier version of Big George would click.

“I was not enthusiastic, realizing what a horrid person he had been,” Arum said of his expectation that Foreman’s personality makeover was false and contrived. “After spending an hour with him I said, `This is the greatest con man in history,’ because he was so different from what he had been before. But it wasn’t a con. He had really changed.”

It was one of Arum’s, and Top Rank’s, grandest moments when the 45-year-old Foreman, far behind on points, regained the heavyweight title he had relinquished to Ali so many years earlier with a one-punch, bolt-from-the-blue 10th-round knockout of Michael Moorer on Nov. 11, 1994. But Foreman took a pounding in getting a gift nod over Axel Schulz in his next outing, and he retired again after losing a controversial majority decision to Shannon Briggs on Nov. 22, 1997. Arum’s dips into the heavyweight pool since then have been infrequent and generally less than satisfying. He has tried his hand to generate some of that old big-man magic with former champs Hasim Rahman and Ray Mercer, to no avail.

Top Rank’s relatively low-risk co-promotional signings of Jennings and then-WBO heavyweight champion Joseph Parker, who promptly lost his unification matchup with Anthony Joshua, again have failed to produce the desired results. Last month Arum worked out a co-promotional deal with the management of Bulgarian veteran Kubrat Pulev. More recently he inked a new heavyweight hope in Sonny Conto, a 22-year-old from South Philadelphia who was the silver medalist at the 2018 National Golden Gloves. The 6-foot-4 Conto, who turns pro against the ever-popular opponent to be named on Feb. 8, is being called “a superstar in the making” by his manager, David McWater, and maybe he might turn out to be just that. But it takes time for a newly minted pro to work his way up to champion or even contender status, and by the time Conto gets there – if he gets there at all – it is hardly a given that an already octogenarian Arum will be around to savor the moment.

Until then, we’ll all have to imagine what it might be like if there was a machine that could enlarge Lomachenko and Crawford by six or seven inches in height and a hundred pounds of heft.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank

Bernard Fernandez is the retired boxing writer for the Philadelphia Daily News. He is a five-term former president of the Boxing Writers Association of America, an inductee into the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame and the recipient of the Nat Fleischer Award for Excellence in Boxing Journalism and the Barney Nagler Award for Long and Meritorious Service to Boxing.

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Ringside at Turning Stone: Rivas TKOs Jennings; Stevenson Wins Impressively

Matt Andrzejewski

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Rivas

VERONA, NY — In the main event at Turning Stone Resort & Casino, Oscar Rivas (26-0, 18 KO’s) scored a mild upset in stopping Bryant Jennings (24-3, 14 KO’s) in the twelfth and final round of their heavyweight bout.

The fight was largely a tactical contest. Rivas was the aggressor pressing forward with Jennings circling and fighting off his back foot. Neither was throwing a high volume of punches.

In the first five rounds, Rivas’ aggression seemed to be getting to Jennings. Rivas landed some solid eye catching combinations retreating Jennings, while Jennings was largely holding back on his own offense.

But in round six, Jennings started moving his hands more and began to seize control of the contest. He seemed to control the next few rounds by simply moving his hands, landing the left jab at will and following that up with combinations.

Rivas stemmed Jennings momentum in the eleventh by upping his aggression and letting go with more combinations. He seemed to realize the fight could be close and something dramatic could be needed on his end.

And that something dramatic came in round twelve. Rivas came out throwing and landed a thudding left hook on Jennings’ chin that sent Jennings reeling backwards. Rivas quickly followed up on his advantage and after landing several power shots put Jennings down on the canvas. Jennings made it to his feet but was met quickly with a fusillade of punches from Rivas. With Jennings unable to protect himself, referee Gary Rosato waived the fight off.

Interestingly, Rivas was ahead on two cards by scores of 105-104 and 106-103 entering the twelfth round. The other card was in favor of Jennings by a margin of 106-103.

In the co-feature, featherweight prospect Shakur Stevenson (10-0, 6 KO’s) displayed all the skills that make him one of boxing’s best prospects in dispatching of Jessie Cris Rosales (22-2-1, 10 KO’s) in round four of their scheduled ten round fight.

Rosales was considered to be a significant step up in class for Stevenson, but from the opening bell it was apparent that Rosales had no answer for Stevenson’s speed. Stevenson, a 2016 Olympic silver medalist, came out pumping an effective sharp right jab from his southpaw stance. He then worked some blistering combinations behind that jab.

As the fight progressed into round three, Stevenson mixed in some flashy short quick uppercuts on the inside along with some thudding body shots that seemed to be wearing down the tough Rosales.

Early in round four, Rosales connected with a looping right that made Stevenson flash a quick grin. Shortly after, Stevenson let his hands go, landing some eye-popping combination that put Rosales in trouble along the ropes. A quick short left hand then planted Rosales on the canvas and though he beat the count referee Charlie Fitch wisely waived a halt to the contest.

Afterwards, Stevenson called out IBF featherweight champion Josh Warrington.

2016 Olympic gold medalist Robson Conceicao (11-0, 5 KO’s) coasted to an easy unanimous eight round decision win against Hector Ambriz (12-9-2, 6 KO’s) in a 130-pound contest. This marked the third straight eight round decision win for Conceicao.

Veteran 130-pound contender Jason Sosa (22-3-4, 15 KO’s) survived a second round knockdown and scored a ten round unanimous decision win against Moises Delgadillo (17-19-2, 9 KO’s). After some early struggles, Sosa rallied to control the second half of the fight including scoring a knockdown of his own in round seven to secure the hard fought victory.

Two-time Olympian Vikas Krishan (1-0, 1 KO) made a successful debut stopping Steven Andrade in the second round (3-4, 2 KO’s) of their 154-pound contest. Krishan, from India, scored a knockdown with a left to the body in round two and then battered Andrade forcing referee Benjy Esteves to stop the bout.

Fazliddin Gaibnazarov (7-0, 4 KO’s), a 2016 Olympic gold medalist, scored a TKO win against Ricardo Garcia (14-5-1, 9 KO’s) when Garcia failed to answer the bell to start round five. Gaibnazarov, who competes in the 140-pound division, dominated the bout from the opening bell including scoring a knockdown in round three before the contest was called to an end.

In the opening bout of the night, Carlos Adames (16-0, 13 KO’s) stopped Juan Ruiz (21-4, 13 KO’S) with a right hook to the body in the third round of their junior middleweight contest.

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Fast Results From New York City: Andrade TKOs Akavov; Cano Shocks Linares

Arne K. Lang

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DAZN

Eddie Hearn, the head of the boxing division of the U.K. sports conglomerate founded by his father, continued his invasion of the United States tonight with a nine-bout show in the Hulu Theater of Madison Square Garden. The featured bouts were live-streamed across the globe on DAZN and shown on SKY Sports Arena in the United Kingdom. Topping the bill was the WBO world middleweight title match between Demetrius Andrade and challenger Artur Akavov.

Andrade-Akavov

Andrade, a 2008 Olympian from Providence, R.I., successfully defended his title and advanced his record to 27-0 (17) with a 12th round stoppage of his game but outclassed Russian opponent. Akavov  (19-3) was on his feet when the referee ordered a halt with 24 seconds remaining in the bout. Akavov, who ate a steady helping of jabs, wasn’t badly hurt but was hopelessly behind on the cards.

Cano-Linares

The co-feature, a junior welterweight attraction, produced a shocking upset when Mexico’s Pablo Cesar Cano (38-7-1) walked right through former three-division title-holder Jorge Linares (45-5), taking the globetrotting Venezuelan out in the very first round. Linares, who was considered a borderline Hall of Famer going in, was knocked to the canvas 20 seconds into the fight and was on the deck three times before the referee called a halt at the 2:45 mark.

Doheny

In the first defense of his IBF world 122-pound title, TJ Doheny was fed a softie in Yokohama schoolteacher Ryohei Takahashi. A massive favorite, Doheny (20-0, 15 KOs) was comfortably ahead on points when the referee intervened in round 11 to keep the Japanese import (16-4-1) from taking a worse beating. Doheny’s next match, according to Eddie Hearn, will be a unification fight against WBA counterpart Danny Roman.

Other Bouts

In a 10-round match contested at 140 pounds, Chris Algieri, briefly a title-holder in this weight division, scored his second win on the comeback trail with a unanimous decision over former sparring partner Daniel Gonzalez. The scores were 98-92, 97-93, and 96-94. Algieri (24-3) faded late and left the ring to a chorus of boos. Gonzalez slipped to 17-2-1.

Amanda Serrano made short work of her Austrian opponent, Eva Voraberger, taking her out in the opening round to gather in the vacant WBO world female super flyweight title. Serrano improved her ledger to 36-1-1 with her 27th knockout. She came in at 114 ½ pounds, having previously weighed as high as 130, and was seeking to become a title-holder in a seventh weight class.

Serrano knocked Voraberger (24-6) to her knees with a right-left combo and Voraberger, who was in severe pain, made no attempt rise. Forget those seven title belts; this young Brooklyn-based Puerto Rican can really fight.

In a welterweight match slated for six rounds, Julian Sosa, who has a large fan base in Brooklyn’s Mexican-American community, stopped Congolese import Deiumerci Nzau who retired on his stool after three frames. Sosa improves to 13-0-1 (5), Nzau falls to 11-7.

Heavyweight Nkosi Solomon evened his record at 1-1 and rebounded from a dismal performance in his pro debut with a 4-round unanimous decision over Rodriguez Cade (2-4). Solomon dropped his puffy opponent in the third round and won by scores of 40-35 on all three cards.

Staten Island’s Reshat Mati (3-0) needed only 66 seconds to turn back Ghana’s Benjamin Borteye (4-4). Mati came out smoking and scored a fast knockdown. Borteye beat the count but was on unsteady legs when the referee intervened. You will be hearing a lot more of the 20-year-old Mati, nicknamed the Albanian Bear, who was a teenage prodigy in multiple combat sports.

In the opening bout of the evening, a welterweight affair, Cornell Hines improved to 4-0 with a 4-round unanimous decision over Salt Lake City’s Farhad Fatulla (1-3).

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