By David A. Avila
From the minute Diego De La Hoya put on the boxing gloves he was walking around with a mythical bright red bull’s eye plastered on his back.
With a last name like that, you can’t hide in obscurity like junk mail.
Every so often the young cousin of promoter Oscar De La Hoya seems to perform in B mode with a workmanlike effort more suited for someone named Gonzalez, Garcia or Gomez. Not a De La Hoya. That’s an iconic boxing name.
But put a dangerous opponent with a solid record in front of Mexicali’s De La Hoya and he suddenly shines. And put a Puerto Rican and the stakes go way high.
Mexico’s De La Hoya (15-0, 9 KOs) needs to shine when he faces Puerto Rico’s Luis Del Valle (22-2, 16 KOs) in defense of the WBC Youth super bantamweight title on Saturday Sept. 17, at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. There’s more than just a title on the line and he knows it. It’s Mexican versus Puerto Rican.
“This is my third Puerto Rican,” said De La Hoya adding that he knocked out the first Boricua during his pro debut and should have connected on a second. “The second guy I couldn’t knock him out because I hurt him in the first round and he began running. So I couldn’t knock him out.”
De La Hoya possesses blazing speed on his punches and combinations much like his famous older cousin. Though he packs a punch it’s not on the KO barometer level that Oscar hit throughout his career. But it won’t be a pillow fight.
Most wonder which De La Hoya shows up: the guy who looked unbeatable in his pro debut or the one who won nearly every round in grabbing the WBC Youth title against Jesus Ruiz, but did not look like the blood relative of a former six division world champion.
“Yes, when I’m fighting lower (level) guys it’s not the same,” said De La Hoya who just turned 22 on Tuesday. “When I’m fighting guys in the upper echelon I want to be superior to them.”
Del Valle hails from Bayamon, Puerto Rico and has had 25 bouts in eight years as a pro. Only twice has he suffered a loss and the last came in 2014. Appearing on the televised portion of the Canelo-Smith card is a break for the Boricua who loves that he’s facing De La Hoya.
“De La Hoya is undefeated and people are discussing him as a future superstar. His team believes I’m the guy he’ll beat to get to the next level and that’s a major mistake,” said Del Valle, 29.
It’s the moment of truth for both Del Valle and De La Hoya.
“Come Saturday night, everybody will see that Orlandito Del Valle is a serious player in the 122 pound division,” said Del Valle.
Mexico’s De La Hoya feels a moment like this is why he fights professionally.
“It’s a guy in front of me with hunger and a lot of experience who fought for a world title and I’m motivated,” said De La Hoya. “Plus he’s Puerto Rican and that means a lot in this business. I’m ready for this great opportunity.”
The Del Valle and De La Hoya fight will open the HBO pay-per-view portion of the Golden Boy Promotions fight card.
Joel De La Hoya Jr. manages Diego and feels he was ready long ago for this kind of showdown.
“I knew from the start what he (Diego) could do,” said the brother of Oscar De La Hoya who worked his fight corner for each of his fights. “There’s no doubt in my mind he can do this.”
Photo credit: Tom Hogan