Sunday, Dec. 7, 2008 | 2 a.m.
- Special Section: Pacquiao-De La Hoya
- Pound-for-pound champ proves it (12-6-2008)
- Take Five: De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao (12-6-2008)
- Nothing quite like buildup to a fight (12-5-2008)
- A recession-proof fight? Promoter thinks so (12-4-2008)
- Weighty issues solved (12-3-2008)
- Boxers arrive in grand fashion (12-2-2008)
- Historic feat provides target for Pacquiao (12-2-2008)
- Trainer aims jabs at new, if familiar, foe (11-27-2008)
- Buildup aside, this one feels big (11-18-2008)
After a 16-year career that placed boxer Oscar De La Hoya at the forefront of the sport, the 10-time champ may have seen his final minutes in a ring through a badly swollen left eye Saturday night.
De La Hoya, who was taken straight to a local hospital for precautionary reasons after his eighth-round TKO at the hands of pound-for-pound champ Manny Pacquiao, didn’t make much of a case that he should step into the ring again as the faster Pacquiao defeated him convincingly in front of 15,001 highly-entertained fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.
The 35-year-old boxer admitted as much afterwards.
“Freddie, you’re right,” he told Freddie Roach, his former trainer and Pacquiao’s current trainer, after being stopped for just the second time in his career. “I just don’t have it anymore.”
It’s a hard thing for a sport to admit that its Golden Boy may be through. But while De La Hoya can obviously still generate money in the sport — he’s provided more than a half-billion dollars of revenue from his previous 18 pay-per-view matches — his sluggish performance Saturday night might have suggested he can no longer compete in it.
Boxing fans at the MGM Grand begged for signs from De La Hoya that he still had fight left in the tank, erupting at even the puniest of punches landed. But the fact was De La Hoya never once had control over a fight he was favored to win by a 2-to-1 margin.
De La Hoya, who landed only 83 punches compared to Pacquiao’s 224, won just one round on one judges scorecard. The other two judges awarded Pacquaio every round.
“I wish Oscar the best, he’s had a great career,” said Roach, who De La Hoya fired after his 2007 loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr. “But I’d like to see him retire because I think it’s over. I knew we hurt him at the end of the seventh and I told Manny, be careful, he’s going to try to knock you out in the first minute because that’s the only chance he has left. After that take it to him. It’s your job to knock him out, so do it. And he did.”
It was a somewhat foreign situation for the only boxer to have won world titles in six different weight classes. Even during his lackluster loss to Mayweather Jr., De La Hoya was never the fighter trying to survive the round, and it’s a feeling many doubt he’ll put himself in position to feel again.
When asked about retirement immediately after the fight De La Hoya responded, “Obviously, we'll see what happens. But (Saturday) wasn't a good night.
"I worked hard and trained really hard to get ready for this fight, but its a lot different story when you're training than when you are actually in the ring. I just felt flat, like I didn't have it."
Whether the 1992 Gold medalist still has anything left in him is a question answered another day, he said.
"My heart still wants to fight, but when you physically don't respond, you have to be smart," De La Hoya said.
Golden Boy Promotions teammate and boxer Bernard Hopkins couldn’t help but talk about his good friend’s career as if it were over.
“Oscar, as everyone here knows, has had a hell of a career,” said the 43-year-old Hopkins, who recently upset Kelly Pavlik in October. “The Golden Boy has had more to be happy about in his career than be disappointed for. Fighters know when to retire. I can’t be the one who says another man should. It has to be his choice.”
Legendary trainer Angelo Dundee who assisted De La Hoya’s trainer, Nacho Beristain, for this fight and has worked with Hall of Famers Muhammad Ali, George Foreman and Sugar Ray Leonard, said he was saddened to see an all too familiar scene.
“It happens to everyone,” Dundee said. “I thought Oscar had what it takes to beat Pacquiao, but you have to credit the other fighter, he's a great fighter.
"It was his night and you have to live with it. I don't think there was any harm done. I'm grateful to De La Hoya and what he did for boxing."
If De La Hoya does decide to hang up his gloves, he will certainly get such respect — even from fighters he’s never faced.
“I think he’s going to leave and I’m bummed about it,” said former light middleweight champion Ronald ‘Winky’ Wright. “I was hoping I would get to fight him before he ended his career so I could say I fought the best fighter of my era.”
When asked what it would feel like to be the last fighter to ever see De La Hoya in the ring, Pacquiao said it was an honor just to fight against a boxer he has always looked up to.
“It’s been my honor to fight Oscar,” Pacquiao said. “I told him tonight he’s my idol, he’s still my idol, and I will respect him whether he chooses to retire or continue fighting.”
As the cameras and tape recorders clicked off at the end of the post-fight press conference, Bob Arum, one of the sport’s premier promoters felt compelled to move forward and say one final thing to end the night.
“If Oscar does retire,” Arum said. “What a shining light he was for the sport. If he retires, God bless him and thanks for all he did for the sport of boxing.”