During the past week former six division champ Oscar De La Hoya has been making headlines. There have been rumors circulating about him returning to the ring to scratch the boxing itch he's developed since he last fought back in December of 2008. Let's hope that Oscar comes to his senses and decides to work on his golf game instead of getting back into the ring. Remember, he only sought to fight Manny Pacquiao because he thought he could take advantage of his size advantage and get the easy win.
The last time boxing fans saw Oscar in the ring he was taking a ceaseless pummeling from current WBO welterweight champ Manny Pacquiao 52-3-2 (38) before he decided it was best for him not to come out for the ninth round. Shortly after the Pacquiao bout, De La Hoya smartly retired at age 35. During the fight with Pacquiao, Oscar looked like an empty package and a fighter who was completely finished. Granted, Pacquiao had a lot to do with how bad De La Hoya looked that night. But in reality Oscar hadn't really looked like an upper-tier fighter since the night he took apart Fernando Vargas back in 2002.
The other reason Oscar has been in the news is because he and his company (Golden Boy Promotions) are a major player in the hopefully forthcoming negotiations between his client, Floyd Mayweather, and Manny Pacquaio. Recently, Oscar has been asked if he believes Pacquiao-Mayweather will ever be made. And to that Oscar has said that he does in fact think that Manny and Floyd will fight in the not too distant future and finally give boxing fans the one fight they really want.
Oscar continued, “They are the best fighters out there and I feel they both really want this fight to happen. When the time comes, people will enjoy a tremendous fight because styles make fights.”
Interestingly, while he was speaking about a possible Pacquiao-Mayweather bout, Oscar was asked if he had any regrets pertaining to his own successful boxing career. To which he said,
“I wouldn't change anything with my career or my life. Everything always happens for a reason. But if there was one fight that I could really change it would have to be the last three rounds when I boxed Felix Trinidad in 1999. For me, that was the biggest fight in non-heavyweight history at the time. And that fight was fairly easy for me but over the last three rounds I lost the fight. So if I could change anything from my career, it would have to be those last three rounds.”
One can only imagine how frustrating it must be for Oscar thinking back to those last three rounds against Felix Trinidad back on September 18, 1999 which technically cost him the fight between the two undefeated welterweights. More on that in a moment. Let's be clear on one thing, regardless of what you think of Oscar De La Hoya the fighter, he conclusively beat Felix Trinidad when they fought. Obviously, great fighters, and De La Hoya wasn't one, don't run out the clock in a big spot in the signature fight of their career at the time. That said, De La Hoya was in complete control of the fight and won at least seven of the first nine rounds versus Trinidad. He was pot-shotting Tito at will. In fact Oscar never boxed so well in his career and was making Trinidad look like a novice.
Back to the scoring: After nine rounds it's 7-2 De La Hoya. Trinidad won the last three rounds of the fight, I doubt anyone disputes that. So if you give Trinidad the last three rounds, it's Oscar's fight 7-5 in rounds or 115-113 on points. And what most fail to mention about those last three rounds is, Trinidad wasn't beating De La Hoya all over the ring. In fact there really wasn't any meaningful exchanges during them. Yes, Felix was fighting more aggressively, but it's not like he landed anything of consequence. The main reason he won those rounds is because he was at least trying to make the fight during a nine minute span where no serious fighting was transpiring. Again, De La Hoya beat Trinidad 115-113 any way you look at it.
The big question is; why did De La Hoya shut it down and decide to run out the clock after the ninth round? And there's only two possible reasons why Oscar chose to do it. One, he was so comfortable in how much he was in command, that he listened to trainer Gil Clancy and decided to not give Trinidad a chance to catch him with a lottery punch and steal the fight. Or, somewhere along the line down the stretch Trinidad hurt him, only Oscar hid it well, but thought to himself, “damn, he almost put me away there and I don't wanna give him that chance again, so I'm going to fight defensively and not engage with him since I have the fight won.”
To me, those are the only two plausible scenarios that were in play that night. The bottom line is Oscar De La Hoya clearly beat Felix Trinidad in their showdown. And the other undeniable truth is, great fighters finish strong and don't run out the clock. Oscar may have been a borderline outstanding fighter, and he did fight the best of his era when they were at or near their prime, but a great fighter he wasn't.
Frank Lotierzo can be contacted at GlovedFist@Gmail.com