Oscar De La Hoya accomplished a lot over his Hall of Fame boxing career. He won 10 world championships in six different weight classes. He earned more than $700 million in pay-per-view and started his own boxing promotional company — Golden Boy, his nickname after he won the gold medal representing the United States in the 1992 Olympics.
But his greatest gift to the fight game may be yet to come — exposing the fraud known as Conor McGregor the boxer.
“You know I’m competitive,” De La Hoya said. “I still have it in me. I’ve been secretly training, secretly training. I’m faster than ever and stronger than ever. I know I can take out Conor McGregor in two rounds. I’ll come back for that fight. Two rounds. Just one more [fight]. I’m calling him out. Two rounds, that’s all I need. That’s all I’m going to say. You heard it on Golden Boy Radio. Two rounds, that’s all I need.”
He’s right. Two rounds. That’s all it would take for a 44-year-old former champion who hasn’t fought competitively in nine years to expose McGregor.
God, I hope McGregor takes the challenge. I doubt he will, but I hope he does.
It could be Oscar De La Hoya’s finest moment.
In this era of fake news, perhaps the fakest narrative of them all in sports was that McGregor put on an impressive boxing performance in his much-ballyhooed fight against retired and undefeated former 15-time world champion Floyd Mayweather in August. It was a circus act, and Mayweather — given the reported income for his pockets of up to $300 million — went along with the act, playing the opponent for McGregor, the UFC champion making his boxing debut, until finally tiring of it and disposing of him in the 10th round.
Mayweather could have done the same thing in 90 seconds.
It was an act, and that’s fine. Boxing has had its share of frauds. It comes with the promoters, the managers, the hustlers in the business.
But what was troubling was how the mainstream media (I can’t believe I typed those words in a boxing column) were taken in.
Ben Baskin of Sports Illustrated — yes, the Sports Illustrated of boxing writers like William Nack and Richard Hoffer — wrote, “For the first few rounds, Conor McGregor, the UFC fighter, looked like a boxer. A competent boxer. Dare we say, even a good boxer. He looked like he might even do what he had been telling us he’d do for the last three months: beat Mayweather at his own sport, outbox one of the best boxers of all time.”
And then there was this from the New Yorker — yes, the New Yorker edited by David Remnick, who wrote the Muhammad Ali book, “King of the World” — whose writer, Kelefa Sanneh, wrote, “Mayweather, during the first three rounds of the fight, seemed less cunning than confused. He had never looked this way before, but plenty of other boxers have: it was the look of an aging boxer whose body has grown suddenly and puzzlingly uncoöperative. Mayweather is forty, and he built his record to 49–0 by relying on his quick reaction time. He loved to get dangerously close to his opponent and then shrug away from punches, deploying a technique that couldn’t really be copied by any boxer who lacked his reflexes, which was all of them. This approach allowed Mayweather to dominate without punching very much, or very hard. But during the first three rounds, McGregor was doing the one thing that most of us were sure he could not do: out-boxing Mayweather.”
Out-boxing Floyd Mayweather. It should have sounded as ridiculous to write those words then as it does now.
De La Hoya can show how ridiculous those words were.
I doubt that De La Hoya will go along with any orchestrated dance for 10 rounds before he would dispose of McGregor. He has always been insecure in his place in boxing history, and it is that insecurity that would likely drive De La Hoya to in this case be the champion who exposed the fraud. And, in a strange twist of fate, it would also be a victory of sorts over Mayweather.
It would be revenge for De La Hoya, who lost a close decision to Mayweather in May 2007 that many observers believe he should have won.
Many believe McGregor will return to mixed martial arts fighting — where he has established himself as the sport’s biggest star — and not pursue boxing any longer. But a De La Hoya payday would likely rival the reported $100 million McGregor earned for the Mayweather farce.
De La Hoya said he made the challenge, and it is up to McGregor to respond. “There is nothing signed yet, there is no date. I simply told him — I challenge you … and he has not answered yet, he has not responded and I will not chase him, because I don’t need anything,” De La Hoya said.
Actually, De La Hoya is one of the neediest fighters ever to step in the ring. But what he needs is validation. What he needs is approval. His final act was being knocked out in the eighth round by Manny Pacquiao in 2008.
He could be remembered instead for standing up for boxing — perhaps one last time — against mixed martial arts.
Two rounds. He’s right.
• Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.
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