Boxer Oscar De La Hoya, also known as "The Golden Boy," was born in Montebello, Los Angeles, California on February 4, 1973. De La Hoya won a gold medal at the 1992 Olympics at the age of 17, and went on to win 10 world titles in six different weight classes. De La Hoya was one of the most popular boxers in the history of the sport, generating hundreds of millions of dollars from his pay-per-view fights before his retirement in 2009.
In 1991 he won the U.S. Amateur Boxing National Championship in the 132-pound division and he was named Boxer of the Year by USA Boxing. During this time De La Hoya changed trainers because of Stankie's problems with alcohol. His next trainer was Robert Alcazar, an ex-boxer who had worked with Joel De La Hoya, Sr.
While he easily made the U.S. Olympic team, De La Hoya was not expected to make it past the first round of Olympic competition. His first opponent was Cuba's Julio Gonzalez, a 27-year-old four-time World Amateur Junior Lightweight champion. De La Hoya won the match in a 7-2 decision, which was considered the biggest boxing upset of the Olympics. His second round match against Korean champion Hong Sung Sik was close, with De La Hoya winning by only one point. De La Hoya also beat Adilson Silva, Dimitrov Tontchev, and finally defeated Marco Rudolph of Germany for the gold medal. De La Hoya was the sentimental favorite of the Games since the media had promoted his story about a son trying to fulfill his dying mother's wish. However, his victory took everyone by surprise. De La Hoya celebrated by carrying the American and Mexican flags around the ring. He told Los Angeles Magazine, "The American flag was for my country; the Mexican flag for my heritage." After this accomplishment De La Hoya was nicknamed the "Golden Boy" by the media and that name has stayed with him throughout his career.
The Olympics was the last event of De La Hoya's amateur career and he ended with an amateur record of 223 wins and 5 losses, with an impressive 153 knockouts. After the Olympics De La Hoya decided to turn professional. As he told Sports Illustrated, "I won the gold for my mom. Now the championship will be for me." On September 4, 1992 De La Hoya signed the richest deal in boxing history for over $1 million with New York agents Robert Mittleman and Steve Nelson. The deal included money for a house for his family in Montebello, quite a step up from the barrio in which he grew up.
De La Hoya's first professional fight was on November 23, 1992 against Lamar Williams. He knocked Williams out in the first round. His next opponent, Cliff Hicks, suffered the same fate in December 1992. In 1993 De La Hoya won nine more fights, mostly with knockouts. While young boxing professionals often fight less talented opponents in order to improve their record, De La Hoya fought some tough competitors early in his career, including Mexican champion Narcisco Valenzuela. Despite his professional and popular success, De La Hoya broke his contract with Mittleman and Nelson in December 1993 after only one year because he wanted more control over his career. Instead he chose to be advised by his father, his cousin Gerardo Salas, and Los Angeles advertising consultant Raynaldo Garza. At the same time De La Hoya signed a three-year deal with promoter Bob Arum, one of the biggest promoters in boxing.
In 1994 and 1995 De La Hoya continued his winning streak. On May 6, 1995 he captured the International Boxing Federation lightweight title against Rafael Ruelas. However, an earlier fight against John John Molina made De La Hoya question his strategy. Even though he won the bout, De La Hoya was disarmed by Molina's style and he felt he needed a more experienced trainer to better prepare him for his matches. In February 1995 De La Hoya replaced family friend Robert Alcazar as his trainer with Jesus "The Professor" Rivero. Rivero's philosophy was to develop the boxer as a whole person, both in and out of the ring. He encouraged De La Hoya to develop his mind by reading literature and listening to classical music.
Despite controversy outside of the ring, De La Hoya continued to win matches throughout 1997 and 1998. He also added another title to his collection, beating Pernell Whitaker for the World Boxing Council welterweight title on April 12, 1997. However, the Golden Boy's run came to an end in 1999. In a much anticipated match De La Hoya lost the WBC welterweight title to Felix Trinidad on September 18, 1999. Rather than the usual bloodbath, De La Hoya danced around Trinidad in a way that did not impress the judges. "I've proved that I can stand in with anybody, but this time I wanted to put on a boxing show," he told Sports Illustrated, "I think I have the boxing lesson of my life." In reality De La Hoya gave up his title. Sports Illustrated went on to write, "It was not a fight that Trinidad won; it was a fight that De La Hoya perversely handed over."
De La Hoya recovered from his loss by beating Derrell Coley with a knockout in February of 2000. However, in June of the same year he suffered another loss at the hands of welterweight Shane Mosley. Disappointed by two major losses in less than a year, De La Hoya decided to take a break from boxing to pursue his other passion--singing.
In 2002, De La Hoya founded Golden Boy Promotions, a combat sport promotional firm. He is the first American of Mexican descent to own a national boxing promotional firm, and one of the few boxers to take on promotional responsibilities while still active. In 2018, he began promoting MMA matches as well, beginning with a 2018 trilogy bout between long-time rivals Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz, with the inaugural Golden Boy MMA event scheduled for November 24, 2018.
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