NEW YORK // Oscar De La Hoya wants to fight at least a couple of more times after taking on Filipino legend Manny Pacquiao in December in Las Vegas, in what is sure to be the biggest fight of the year. "There's no doubt about it. My mind can still do it, my body can still do it," De La Hoya said yesterday. "I'm going to ride the wave for a little while." De La Hoya broke box office and pay-per-view records with his narrow loss to Floyd Mayweather Jr last year, and US boxing's most bankable star said that fight proved he could still compete at an elite level.
Perhaps stung by the disappointment, De La Hoya announced he would retire after this year and focus on his many business interests including his Golden Boy Promotions venture. But almost immediately he had reservations, especially when it seemed that every new champion from welterweight on up wanted the chance to step into the ring with the six-weight world champion. "Let's say I retired after the Mayweather fight. I would have come back. There's no doubt about it," De La Hoya said. "I'm definitely going to fight after this." Despite his bullish mood, De La Hoya is not overlooking Pacquiao, the man regarded by many as the best fighter in the sport today.
De La Hoya a 10-time champion at various weights will be coming down to 147 pounds for the first time since beating Arturo Gatti more than eight years ago. Accustomed to being the smaller fighter, for once it was De La Hoya (39-5, 30 KOs) who towered over his opponent when they stood face-to-face on a platform with the skyline of lower Manhattan in the background. Pacquiao (47-3-2, 35 KOs), considered the current pound-for-pound king, is only six months removed from fighting Juan Manuel Marquez at 130 pounds.
But the 5-foot-6 inch southpaw showed no problems in carrying his speed to lightweight when he knocked out David Diaz in June, and believes he will be even stronger at welterweight. "Some people are criticising Oscar for picking on a small guy like me. Some people say I'm picking this fight for the money," Pacquiao said. "I'm going to prove everyone wrong." Both fighters will walk away with considerable purse money, though. Tickets for the bout sold out in a matter of hours, guaranteeing the second-largest gate in boxing history.
The Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer said ticket revenue will be nearly US$17 million (Dh62.4m), second only to De La Hoya-Mayweather bout, and about 33,000 tickets are going to be offered for fans to see the fight on closed-circuit TV around Las Vegas. Then there is the pay-per-view money on top of that. De La Hoya-Mayweather smashed records with 2.4 million buys and US$134.4 million in revenue, helped along by the TV reality show that chronicled both fighters in their lead-up to the bout.
HBO is filming another four-episode series to boost the De La Hoya-Pacquiao showdown and there should be plenty of intriguing story lines. Pacquiao's longtime trainer is Freddie Roach, who also prepared De La Hoya for his bout against Mayweather. The Golden Boy said that intimate knowledge concerns him, and Roach confided that he saw something in the later rounds against Mayweather that Pacquiao can use to his advantage.
"I learnt a lot during that nine-week period and now I'm going to use it against him," Roach said. "Can he still pull the trigger? We'll see." Insider knowledge will not be limited to Pacquiao's corner. De La Hoya had hoped to lure Floyd Mayweather Sr back to his camp, but he had already committed to training Ricky Hatton for his fight against Paulie Malignaggi in Las Vegas in November. So De La Hoya turned to Nacho Beristain, who helped prepare Marquez for both of his bouts against Pacquiao. Along with his return to welterweight, De La Hoya plans to return to his old training grounds in Big Bear, California, where he prepared for many of the biggest fights of his career.
When asked about the circular nature of going back to where it all began, in the twilight of his career, De La Hoya smiled. "I have to prove to myself that I can still do this," he said. "Yes, I'm 35. Everyone says that's over the hill for boxing. But I'm still young, I didn't get beat up. So I still want to do this." *AP