By Fiona Manning
There was no question that the gold limousine pulling into the parking lot of the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas on Tuesday night belonged to boxing’s Golden Boy, Oscar de la Hoya.
The hundreds of fans who’d already heard the whispers were waiting to greet him as Oscar stepped out of the vehicle to shake hands, check in then head to the Top Rank Gym on Industrial Road to shake out in the final days before challenging the unbeaten WBO middleweight champion Felix Sturm.
Laughing, signing autographs and posing for photos, you might say it was a “grand arrival” for the man who aims to impress at the Grand Garden Arena on Saturday night.
De la Hoya looked relaxed and very confident fresh off his five-hour flight from Florida - he chose to train at Gus Curren’s House of Boxing Champions in Vero Beach instead of his own gym in Big Bear Lake, CA, for this world title challenge.
Mobbed by several hundred fans packed into the marble lobby, de la Hoya autographed whatever they gave him.
Undoubtedly those same fists will be flying Saturday night when he headlines the ‘Collision Course’ HBO-PPV show, which also features Bernard Hopkins vs Robert Allen and Juan Lazcano vs. Jose Luis Castillo world title fights.
“I’m totally prepared and I’m eager to fight on Saturday night,” he said. “I’m a middleweight now so I’m going into deep water as far as weight and strength are concerned.
Joining him in the ring will be longtime trainers, Joe Chavez and Floyd May-weather Sr., strength coach Rob Garcia and his best friend/manager/brother Joel de la Hoya.
“My goal, something I’ve thought about for a long time, is to win a world title in my sixth weight division which is what I want to do on Saturday.”
De la Hoya could be forgiven for looking beyond this fight to the next proposed bout he faces should he shoulder past the rugged Sturm.
Depending on the outcome of his bout and that of Bernard Hopkins (facing Allen for the third time), de la Hoya and Hopkins are slated to fight each other in an epic battle on September 18.
Nobody is expecting either de la Hoya or Hopkins to lose, so you could consider September 18 a pretty firm bet.
De la Hoya needs to be aware that Sturm will be highly motivated.
He’s angry at his one-time idol after getting snubbed at several press conferences.
Will the bright lights of Las Vegas dim his unproven talents?
How motivated will Oscar be? Sure, Hopkins is on the horizon, however Oscar, now carrying extra weight, needs to assert himself versus the younger Sturm, who can’t fight backing up and isn’t considered to be especially hard hitting not particularly light on his toes.
Ironically, Hopkins is the one man de la Hoya’s wife, pop singer Millie Corretjer does not want him to fight.
If Mrs.de la Hoya had her way however, the fighter who now lives with her in Puerto Rico would be long retired.
Instead, de la Hoya has become one of the most successful boxing promoters in the US with his Golden Boy Promotions banner.
He is also now scheduled to do a Fox-TV reality show called “The Next Great Champ” which is set to rival Sylvester Stallone’s “The Contender” reality-based show.
Not that success has come easily to de la Hoya who has never forgotten the hard times, his hard start or the gym where for him it all began at the age of 4.
He rescued the East L.A. where he trained for the 1992 Olympics, when he won the gold medal.
“When I found out the city was selling it, I said to myself, ‘You know what? I should buy it, tear it down and then build it back up again so kids can have a place to train.
“So we built it, and to this day the Oscar de la Hoya Gym has like more than 7,000 kids we’ve taken off the street, given them education and we’ve had like 50 national amateur (boxing) champions come out of there over the years and a couple that have gone on to Olympic games.
“We’ve given over a 100 scholarships to kids for school and we have college level tutors helping kids who are failing any subject. We started it to help kids turn their lives around and now the foundation, on the same property, is going to build the first high school in that district in Eastern Los Angeles in more than like 70 years, I wanna say, and it’ll be called the Oscar De La Hoya High School.
“Also, we’ve built a big cancer center in a hospital called the White Memorial Hospital in East L.A. for women. Aside from that, we give away thousands of turkeys every year, thousands of gifts to kids for Christmas and numerous other things like that.
“It’s not like when people donate money to the foundation, they’re giving money to some big corporation and you never know where it’s gonna go. We’re giving to people who need it.”
Oscar’s achievements are note-worthy in and out of the ring.
Understandably, it is talk of a Hopkins fight and not Felix Sturm who has everybody wanting to get close to Oscar.
“I’m not looking past Felix Sturm,” he said. “But we all know styles make fights and my style is a very unique style when it comes to facing Bernard Hopkins.
“He’s a unique fighter in his right, looking to get his 20th straight win as an undefeated champion.”
Both fighters say this will be their last fight this particular clash with destiny.
“I plan to use everything,” de la Hoya said. “The speed, the angles, working the body. I’m going to do it all. It’s going to be a tough fight for both of us.”
Yeah, but what about Millie? Is she afraid of Hopkins’ status as the undisputed middleweight champion of the world?
“Actually she doesn’t care about all that,” insists de la Hoya. “She said she doesn’t want me to fight him because he’s too ugly.”