Multi-division world champion Oscar De La Hoya is living proof that boxers can shine even after a long layoff. Taking on Nicaraguan hothead Ricardo Mayorga on May 6, 2006 after a 20-month rest, De La Hoya executed his game plan, producing a perfect physical onslaught that tore Mayorga apart in a mental game of cat and mouse. Today, De La Hoya addressed the public about his future and whether he will retire or take one more fight to prove his status among the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world. In a sport where retirement often means comeback, about 120 reporters flocked to the phone to question De La Hoya about his decision and see where his heart and head truly lie.
“First of all, thank you very much to all the media,” Oscar began. “I just want to say I asked my PR team to put this conference call together to discuss my future as an active fighter. After endless hours of reflecting on my decisions, I started to realize more and more that I put myself under tremendous pressure – tremendous time pressure to make the deadline for the September 16 fight. I feel that retirement should be a final decision for a fighter. Too many times we see fighters retiring just to come back after a few years and mostly just for financial reasons. I always wanted to the do the right thing and obviously as a fighter and now as a promoter, I feel I have to do the right thing. So I didn’t want to fall into the trap of so many fighters that they retire and feel the urge to just come back after several months or several years. Because when I retire it’s going to be definite. When I announce my retirement, it’s going to be for sure. There’s going to be no ifs, ands or buts. Obviously today is not that day. I will continue to reflect on this decision. I think I deserve to reflect on that decision – September 16 was the final day and I just thought that after this great victory with Mayorga, after being away for 20 months, it was just too soon. It was too soon to make that decision.”
After this initial statement, the first reporter asked what his time frame was in making this ultimate decision. “I’m definitely not going to fight in September,” De La Hoya said. “I just think it’s too soon and I just felt too much pressure. Obviously I’m still training every day. I’m still running, doing weights. I’m still taking care of myself. The next time you see me I’ll probably be at 150. I don’t think I’ll be fighting this year. I’ve been known to take a year off between fights and I can do it again. So, I don’t know. I think the ideal date would be May, which I will be thinking about for my next day.”
When asked about injuries, he said, “I’ve had injuries throughout most of my career. My hands, elbows, shoulders, back… there are always injuries. Every fighter has injuries. I think I will not be making my decision because of injuries. It was tough training for Mayorga but as an athlete you have to dig deep down inside and I had one of the best performances of my life. I’m actually running every day and hitting the weights. I’m keeping in shape and I think that’s the best thing I can do in between fights. Obviously with Bernard Hopkins having a tremendous performance against Tarver, it showed a lot of people that age doesn’t matter. As long as you take care of yourself, as long as you stay in shape, as long as you train hard, you can win fights. With me, yeah, I can fight a few more years. I can dig deep down inside and forget the pain and just fight. But my next fight will be my last fight. When and if I decide to have my next fight, it will be Floyd Mayweather Jr. That’s the only name I can come up with that can satisfy me and motivate me to train for three months and prepare myself.”
When questioned about what factors went into this decision, De La Hoya responded candidly. “Yes, I’m 33 years of age and I still feel my body has some gas left in the tank to do a few more fights. But the fact that I did have a good performance against Mayorga, the fact that I did say I’m going to have two more fights and that’s it, I take all that into consideration. I take into consideration all the fighters that have retired and come back just to lose and be humbled in that ring and kind of paint their boxing career, so to speak. It happens over and over again and I just do not want to make that error. Yes, my body does feel that I can go on a bit more but if I do decide to retire I want to feel no pressure and make a final decision. I’m going to retire once and that’s it. These decisions you have to take your time, especially in boxing. I am a competitor. I do have that blood in me where I have to win and be successful but when I say I’m going to retire, I’m going to retire, win or lose. I’m such an example for a lot of fighters, a lot of people, and I don’t want to fall into that trap that 99% of fighters make. They have to retire on top. I’m not going to do that. I‘m not going to fall into that trap. And is it a trap. I don’t know who’s leading it, but I’m going to be smarter than that. I’m nobody’s stepping stone. Yes, I realize that Mayweather can beat me. The thing is too, I realize I can beat him. Him coming up to 154 is a whole different ballgame. Wearing 10 oz gloves, it’s a whole different game. That’s my territory.”
The next reporter asked about Floyd Sr. and how that has factored into De La Hoya’s decision about fighting Mayweather. “That’s obviously going to influence my decision. He mentioned, yes, he would train me to fight his son and obviously at first, I felt a big relief because if it’s not Floyd Sr. training me, I won’t fight. But blood is thicker than water and how uncomfortable would it be to have Floyd’s father training me? It would be very uncomfortable. I don’t think it would be right. But at the same time, it’s a sport in the ring. It’s nothing personal. It’s our job. If we do fight, I’m there to win. And I’ll use anything I can to win. And if I have to use his father to train me to win, then that’s the way it has to be. At this point I’m leaning on not retiring. That’s just the way I feel. Obviously being seen as an athlete and doing this for 27 years of my life, this is what I love. That’s probably one of the reasons why I wanted to promote – to be near boxing, to be around boxing. Yes, I do want to fight. This is the force that drives me. This is the force that keeps me alive.”
When asked if he has achieved all his goals in boxing, De La Hoya said that he has. “I feel satisfied. I really do. I guess the only thing that really drives me is Floyd Mayweather Jr. being the best pound for pound fighter. And beating him would make me the best pound for pound fighter. Many years ago I was on the top of that list for a slight moment. That’s what gets me going. That’s why Floyd would be the only one I want to fight.”
De La Hoya concluded by saying that having a fight in May as opposed to September would bring many advantages. “I’ve been known to take a long period of time off in between fights. In that time, I can keep myself in great shape. One of the advantages would be that I would rest my body. When I trained for 4 months against Mayorga, I gave it my all, I gave it everything I had. I dug deep down inside for 4 months. Sometimes the body at this stage, I feel I need that time off. It does me more good than bad. Right now, I’m weighing in at 150, 151. There’s more room for me to grow, to get stronger, to gain speed. It’s a big advantage.” And if he does decide to retire, De La Hoya stated, “it would be because I can’t punch the bag or because I sparred the first day, and my shoulder hurt or my hand can’t deliver the punch anymore. It’s the physical part of it. If I can’t do it anymore, how am I going to survive in the ring with the best fighter in the world? It’s a big disadvantage.”
One reporter asked how stressful this decision has been. “After my boat trip, I thought I would have come up with a decision already and when I realized the decision was tougher than I thought that’s when I said to myself, it’s too much. I can’t even enjoy my victory here. We’d have to announce the fight already,” he said. “At this stage in my career, I think I have the right to call my own shots. Every time I wake up in the morning, I find more hairs on my pillow than normal. It’s stressful. I’ve gone back and forth literally 30-40 times. The reasons just don’t stop. I keep coming up with different reasons why I should fight or why I shouldn’t. It’s a decision that I have to make by myself. I’ll make a decision by the year’s end. I just needed more time. If it’s a month, if it’s a few weeks, I just need more time. I want to be able to be around the house and not thinking about it. It’ll come to me.”
When faced with the question about the possibility of Mayweather losing before De La Hoya decides to fight, he brushed this possibility away. “I just feel Floyd Jr. is such a talented fighter that I don’t feel anybody could beat him right now. I just think he’s so talented that he can wipe anybody out at anytime. I don’t think I have any worries with that. He knows there’s a big payday out there, and obviously that’s a big drive for him.” It was then brought to his attention that Shane Mosley – one of De La Hoya’s partners – may be in negotiations to fight Floyd. “Obviously, Shane Mosley having 2 victories against me can also have a great shot at beating Floyd. It would derail my plan, but it doesn’t mean that I can’t still fight Floyd Jr. One loss will not punish his status. If he fights, Shane Mosley has a great shot.”
De La Hoya was then asked what he would miss most about the sport and what he would miss the least. After pausing a moment, he said, “Being inside that square circle and touching gloves right before the bell rings. Or facing your opponent and looking into his eyes and the fact that you’re going to fight in a few seconds and the fact that this is the closest you’re going to get without hitting each other before the fight. That’s what I’m going to miss. It sounds barbaric, but that’s what I’m going to miss. Even in the amateurs, you’re standing there, touching gloves and looking into each other’s eyes and then in another moment you’re bashing each other’s brains in.” He concluded by saying he would miss the weigh-in the least. “That was always dreadful,” he laughed. “The weigh-in is always something that any fighter doesn’t want to experience. You literally have to go through hell and back. It’s literally the first battle without throwing any punches before the actual fight. Making the weight and the waiting, it’s nerve wracking.”
To finish up, De La Hoya said, “Things in my life always happen for a reason. Those reasons I don’t know, but someone is watching out for me. Someone is guiding me and making the right decisions.” Let’s hope for the sport of boxing that his decision will lead him back into the ring in May with Floyd Mayweather Jr,, making a monumental fight that, if he won, would catapult Oscar De La Hoya to the top of the heap, not to mention every pound-for-pound list, where he can retire without pressure, and in peace.