Oscar De La Hoya is like the new kid in school who suddenly shows up at the big dance and steals your girl. You hope the SOB breaks an ankle doing the be-bop on the dance floor, but you can’t help but admire the guy for his good taste and his ability to get what he wants.
That’s De La Hoya, the guy voted both “most likely to succeed,” and “most likely to sit alone at the lunch table.”
For some reason, De La Hoya is the poster boy for mixed reviews. You think he’s either the greatest thing since they put a tap on cold beer, or you hope he gets knocked dizzy every time he slips on a pair of gloves. He’s either the Golden Boy or the Tin Man, depending on what side of the street you like to stand on.
But give him this: He’s always a few steps ahead of the pack, a few sharp moves past the spot you’re hoping to reach. He’s a smart fighter, but more important than that, he’s a smart man. And like him or not, he’s one of the greatest fighters of our time. Maybe that’s why you shouldn’t count him out just because he’s fighting another one of the greatest fighters of our time.
If everything goes according to plan, De La Hoya (36-3, 29 KOs) will move up in weight class and easily beat WBO middleweight champ Felix Sturm (20-0, 9 KOs) of Germany on June 5 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. On that same night and in that same casino in front of that same partying crowd, plans have also been worked out for undisputed middleweight champ Bernard Hopkins (43-2-1, 31 KOs) to pound top contender Robert Allen (36-4, 27 KOs) into a retirement celebration.
These wins by Hopkins and De La Hoya haven’t officially been recorded yet because things have to go in the right order. Proper protocol is required, though it’s just a formality. We don’t know for sure which round they’ll win in, so we have to at least wait for that result before we can fill in the rest of the blanks. After that, Hopkins and De La Hoya are expected to get together for a real barn-burner on Sept. 18, at the ever-popular MGM Grand in front of that same partying casino crowd.
Hopkins, who hasn’t lost a title fight since the beginning of time, is the favorite in this one. After all, he’s smart enough to win a title and then settle into that division, find himself a little niche and stay put.
He doesn’t tinker with weight classes. He’s comfortable where he’s at and it shows. He’s defended his title 17 times, never once moving up to heavyweight. Besides, he doesn’t need all those other belts. He’s comfortable with the three he has.
Hopkins has staked out the middleweight division and has made a career out of beating away intruders. He’s found a home and doesn’t plan to move.
De La Hoya, meanwhile, has been restless most of his career. He likes to explore different divisions, experiment with different champions. He’s toyed around with junior-lightweight, lightweight, junior-welterweight, welterweight and junior middleweight, winning titles at each stop.
Now he has itchy feet again and he likes the looks and appearance of the middleweight division and all its clamor.
The problem is, Hopkins isn’t looking to sell.