At 165 pounds, Oscar De La Hoya looks like a guy who works in an office all day and doesn't get out much to exercise. You figure he enjoys a few beers every night after work.

But if you believe in promises made by aging champions, De La Hoya will be quicker, lighter and smarter on Sept. 18 when he faces Bernard Hopkins at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

“I promise I'll be in my best condition ever,” De La Hoya said recently from Puerto Rico, where he went to accept his WBO middleweight belt.

This is good news. The slow, chubby guy who showed up June 5 to fight Felix Sturm for Sturm's WBO title was an actual imposter, though if you ask them, everyone will deny it.

That guy, the one who somehow hypnotized the judges and survived a scare and a jackhammer jab by Sturm, wasn't the real Oscar De La Hoya. He was his overweight, over-confident, out-of-shape, foolish alter-ego.

That De La Hoya – the one we've never seen before – put 10 hard years on promoter Bob Arum, who had circled Sept. 18 on his calendar months ago, marking the day the world would stop and watch a simple prizefight. But it almost didn't happen.

That's because after a cautious showing by Hopkins in his win over Robert Allen, Oscar struggled against Sturm. And Arum watched his greatest promotion almost disappear because of 10 pounds of fat.

So to help keep the dream alive, De La Hoya and Hopkins put on a little press conference Tuesday at the Beverly Wiltshire in Beverly Hills. The two fighters got to pose in front of a huge banner reminding everyone this fight was for the undisputed world middleweight championship, though De La Hoya would be better off coming in as a junior-middle. At 160 or 165 pounds, he'll probably be in big trouble against Hopkins.

“This is the fight of my life, because if I relax even 10 seconds, he could end my life,” De La Hoya said at the press conference, ignoring the fact that Hopkins is not notorious for his punching power and won't be allowed to carry any heavy metal weapons into the ring with him. “This is a fight that if anything goes wrong, then it's good-bye for me.”

Hopefully, De La Hoya doesn't mean that in the six-feet-under sense. But the point is well taken.

“I don't want to get knocked out,” De La Hoya went on to say. “I don't want to be the laughing stock of the world. I love to fight and rise to the occasion.”

OK, so he might be a little over-dramatic. But that's what press conferences are for. And as for the title of “laughing stock of the world,” that's already been taken. It belongs to heavyweight Lance Whicker, formerly known as Goof.

“I want to prove to every person out there that I can do this,” De La Hoya said. “I'm glad I had a bad fight against Sturm. I'm glad I wasn't in shape.”

I'm glad the slow, chubby guy is expected to be a no-show.

” Everything happens for a reason in my life,” he went on. “I came into the ring against Sturm weighing close to 170. For Hopkins, I'll come in at about 155 or 156 to keep my speed.”

And hopefully, to keep his health.