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

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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.

Check out more boxing news on video at The Boxing Channel

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Johnny Famechon was a Hero in Australia Where Willie Pep Had a Bad Night

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Willie Pep was good at boxing. He wasn’t so good at math. Ah, but hold the phone; we are getting ahead of ourselves. This isn’t a story about Willie Pep, but about former world featherweight champion Johnny Famechon who passed away last Thursday, Aug. 4, in Melbourne, Australia, at age 77.

Famechon was five years old when his parents left his birthplace in Paris and settled in Melbourne. He came to the fore in an era when boxing was still a mainstream sport and home-grown champions were national idols. The locals turned out in droves for the parade in Johnny’s honor when he returned to Melbourne after taking the featherweight crown from the Cuban-born Spaniard Jose Legra in a big upset at London’s Prince Albert Hall.

HeraldSun

Famechon’s Welcome Home Parade

Famechon’s first title defense came against Japan’s Fighting Harada. They met in Sydney, Australia, on July 28, 1969.

At age 26, Harada was a battle-tested veteran. He previously held world titles at flyweight and bantamweight and would be remembered as the only man to defeat the great Brazilian boxer Eder Jofre, a feat he accomplished not once, but twice.

Only two boxers in history – Bob Fitzsimmons and Henry Armstrong – had won world titles in three of the eight classic weight divisions. Harada, who entered the International Boxing Hall of Fame in 1995, was bidding to become the third.

Team Harada insisted on a neutral referee. The British promoters chose Willie Pep. A legend in the sport, Pep had previously shared a ring with another Famechon, having out-pointed Johnny’s uncle Ray Famechon in a featherweight title defense at Madison Square Garden in 1950.

Some thought that Pep would favor Fighting Harada. American referees put a higher premium on aggression than did their foreign counterparts and Harada was a little buzzsaw who rarely took a backward step. But others thought that Pep’s selection favored Famechon, an elusive counterpuncher with whom the Connecticut “Will-‘o-Wisp” could identify; their styles were similar.

Pep had been the third man in the ring for four previous title fights, three in Jamaica and one in Brazil. But this fight would be different. He would be the sole arbiter. If the fight went the full 15 rounds, Willie Pep would be the judge and jury.

During the bout, Famechon scored one knockdown, sending Harada to the canvas in round five, but Harada scored three, knocking Famechon down in rounds two, 11, and 14. The last of the three knockdowns was the harshest, but Famechon made it to the final bell.

The fight ended in a clinch. Immediately upon separating the fighters, Pep raised both of their hands, a signal that the fight was a draw.

Fighting Harada’s handlers were outraged and demanded to see the scorecard. A policeman at ringside was empowered to give it a look-over (Australia had no boxing commission). What the policeman found was that there was indeed a discrepancy. However, it was the opposite of what Team Harada anticipated!

The fight was scored on the antiquated system whereby the winner of a round was awarded five points and the loser four points or less. In the case of an even round, both fighters got five points.

After 13 rounds, Fighting Harada had amassed 59 points on Pep’s card. He won the 14th round, giving him an aggregate total of 64 points. But when Pep added up the numbers “59” and “5” in the column where he kept the aggregate total, he came up with “65.”

Oops.

When Pep signaled that the fight was a draw, people stormed the ring from all sides. Newspaper reports said the belligerents were about evenly divided. Famechon, the Aussie, was the crowd favorite, but Fighting Harada was well-backed in the betting markets, a very big industry in Australia. Many were even angrier when Famechon was summoned back to the ring to have his hand raised.

The Famechon-Harada fight aired live on Japanese television. In Japan, there was a great outpouring of outrage. Pep had been instructed to score a round 5-4 if the round was narrow and 5-3 if there was a clear-cut winner. Despite the knockdowns, Pep scored every round 5-4 or 5-5. In the revised tally, he had Famechon winning 6-5-4 in rounds.

“Harada loses to referee” was the headline in Japan’s leading sports daily. Willie Pep made no friends in Australia either. There were shouts of “Yankee go home” as he left the ring.

Famechon and Harada met again five months later in Tokyo. One would assume that Fighting Harada proved superior and got a fair shake, winning the third title denied him in Sydney. But don’t assume.

Harada was well ahead after ten rounds but faded. On the deck in round 10, Famachon returned the favor three rounds later, knocking Harada down hard with a perfectly placed left hook. Harada was in dire straights when he came out for round 14 and Famechon put him away.

Harada never fought again and Famechon left the sport six months later after losing his crown to Vicente Saldivar. Johnny was only 25 years old, but had crammed 67 fights into a nine-year pro career and said enough is enough.

Famechon’s post-boxing life took a tragic turn in 1991 when he was hit by a car while out jogging on a Sydney highway. He spent several weeks in a coma and several years in a wheelchair but eventually recovered most of his motor skills and regained his speech to the point where he could serve as a boxing color commentator on television. In 2018, a larger-than- life statue of Famechon was unveiled at a public park in the Melbourne suburb of Frankston where he was a longtime resident.

For the record, Johnny Famechon finished his career with a record of 56-5-6 with 20 KOs. We here at The Sweet Science send our condolences to his loved ones.

Arne K. Lang’s latest book, titled “George Dixon, Terry McGovern and the Culture of Boxing in America, 1890-1910,” will shortly roll off the press. The book, published by McFarland, can be pre-ordered directly from the publisher (https://mcfarlandbooks.com/product/clashof-the-little-giants) or via Amazon.

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Fast Results from Fort Worth Where Vergil Ortiz Jr Won His 19th Straight by KO

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In a match pushed back from March 19, Vergil Ortiz Jr moved one step closer to a mega-fight with Terence “Bud” Crawford or Errol Spence Jr or Boots Ennis with a ninth-round stoppage of England’s feather-fisted Michael McKinson. The end came 20 seconds into round nine when McKinson appeared to injure his knee as he fell to the canvas, an apparent residue of the body punch that put him on the deck late in the previous stanza. To that point, Ortiz had seemingly won every round.

It was the 19th win inside the distance in as many opportunities for Ortiz who resides in nearby Grand Prairie and was making his first start with new trainer Manny Robles. McKinson was undefeated heading in, but had scored only two knockouts while building his record to 22-0.

Ortiz, ranked #1 at welterweight by the WBA and the WBO, pulled out of the March 19 bout after being diagnosed with rhabdomyolysis, a muscle disorder associated with over-training.

Ortiz’s promoter, Oscar De La Hoya, says that Ortiz will fight the winner of Errol Spence vs Terence Crawford next assuming that the fight gets made, and if doesn’t get made, Ortiz’s next fight will be with one or the other. The WBA, which stamped tonight’s fight an eliminator, may push to have Ortiz fight their secondary title-holder, Eimantas Stanionis.

Co-Feature

Houston’s Marlen Esparza (13-1, 1 KO) successfully defended her WBA/WBC world flyweight title with a unanimous decision over plucky 4’11 ½” Venezuelan southpaw Eva Guzman who had won 14 straight coming in, albeit against soft opposition. The judges had it 98-92 and 99-91 twice.

Guzman (19-2-1) was game, but just didn’t have the physical tools to overcome Esparza whose lone defeat came at the hands of talented Seneisa Estrada.

Other Fights of Note

In a 10-round match contested at the catchweight of 150 pounds, Blair “The Flair” Cobbs rebounded from his first defeat with a career-best performance, a wide decision over former WBO 140-pound world titlist Maurice Hooker. It was the second straight loss for Hooker who returned to the ring after a 17-month hiatus and came out flat. Cobbs put him on the canvas in the opening frame with a combination and decked him twice more with straight lefts in round two.

Things got somewhat dicey for Cobbs in round five when he suffered a bad gash on his forehead from an accidental head butt, but Hooker, who had stablemate Bud Crawford in his corner, hesitated to let his hands go and couldn’t reverse the tide. The judges had it 96-91 and 97-90 twice for the flamboyant Cobbs who improved to 16-1-1 (10). Hooker, a consensus 5/2 favorite, lost for the third time in his last five starts and slumped to 27-3-3.

In the opener to the main portion of the DAZN card, Uzbekistan’s Bektimir Melikuziev (10-1, 8 KOs), a super middleweight growing into a light heavyweight, dominated and stopped overmatched Sladan Janjanin. Melikuziev put Janjanin down with a body punch in the opening minute of the fight and scored two more knockdowns before the bout was halted at the 2:18 mark of round three.

This was Melikuziev’s third fight back after his shocking one-punch annihilation by Gabriel Rosado. Janjanin, a well-traveled Bosnian who fought three weeks ago in Massachusetts, declined to 32-12 and was stopped for the eighth time.

Also

Chicago welterweight Alex Martin (18-4, 6 KOs) overcame a first-round knockdown to win a unanimous decision over 38-year-old Philadelphia journeyman Henry Lundy. The judges had it an unexpectedly wide 98-91, 97-92, 97-92.

Martin was coming off a points loss to McKinson and this bout was his reward for taking that fight on short notice. Lundy (31-11-1) has lost five of his last seven.

Floyd “Austin Kid” Schofield, a lightweight who appears to have a big upside, advanced to 11-0 (9 KOs) at the expense of Mexican trial horse Rodrigo Guerrero whose corner wisely pulled him out after five one-sided rounds. It was the ninth straight loss for Guerrero (26-15).

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Conlan Wins His Belfast Homecoming; Breezes Past Lackadaisical Marriaga

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“The Return of the Mick” was the label attached to tonight’s show at the SSE Arena in Belfast, Northern Ireland. The reference was to local fan favorite Michael “Mick” Conlan who returned to his hometown in hopes of jump-starting his career after suffering his first pro loss in a brutal encounter with Leigh Wood.

In that bout, a strong “Fight of the Year contender, Conlan was narrowly ahead on all three cards heading into the 12th and final round when the roof fell in. Wood, who was making the first defense of his WBA world featherweight title on his home turf in Nottingham, knocked the favored Conlan unconscious and clear out of the ring.

This was the sort of fight that can shorten a man’s career. Hence the intrigue in Conlan’s homecoming fight tonight against Miguel Marriaga. On paper, the Colombian, a three-time world title challenger, was a stern test considering the circumstances.

To the contrary, Marriaga had no fire in his belly until the final round when he hit Conlan with a shot that buckled his knees. But, by then Conlan was so far ahead without overly exerting himself that there was virtually no chance of another meltdown.

While Conlan won lopsidedly, the scores – 99-89 and 99-88 twice – were somewhat misleading. True, “Mick” had Marriaga on the deck in rounds 7, 8, and 9, but the punches that put him there did not look particularly hard.

Conlan, 30, improved to 17-1 (8). Marriaga, 35, declined to 30-6.

After the fight, Conlan expressed the hope that Leigh Wood would give him a rematch.

Other Bouts of Note

In an entertaining 10-round welterweight scrap that could have gone either way, Belfast’s Tyrone McKenna (23-3-1, 6 KOs) rebounded from his defeat in Dubai to Regis Prograis (TKO by 6) with a hard-fought unanimous decision over 33-year-old Welshman Chris Jenkins (23-6-3). The judges favored the local fighter by scores of 97-94 and 96-95 twice.

Jenkins, a former British and Commonwealth title-holder, had the best of the early going, working the body effectively while frequently finding a home for his uppercut, but he could not sustain his advantage.

Thirty-four-year-old Belfast super middleweight Padraig McCrory who got a late start in boxing, scored the most important win of his career with a fifth-round stoppage of Marco Antonio Periban, a former world title challenger. McCrory had Periban on the deck three times – once in the second and twice in the fifth – before the bout was halted at the 2:14 mark of round five.

It was the fourth straight win inside the distance for McCrory who improved to 14-0 (8 KOs). Mexico’s Periban, who returned to the sport in April after missing all of 2020 and 2021, fell to 26-6-1.

Highly-touted welterweight Paddy Donovan improved to 9-0 (6) with an 8-round unanimous decision over Yorkshireman Tom Hall (10-3). The referee scored every round for Donovan, an Irish Traveler trained by Tyson Fury’s bosom buddy Andy Lee, the former world middleweight title-holder.

Photo credit: Mikey Williams / Top Rank via Getty Images

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