Why Oscar De La Hoya’s Comeback Is a Bad Idea

| July 27, 2021 7:43 am PDT

I would love to say that the recent news about Oscar De La Hoya’s comeback fight took me by surprise. 

It’s been known for some time that De La Hoya will fight Vitor Belfort on September 11. But the decision to turn what should have been an exhibition fight into a sanctioned boxing match is worrying.

As I said, it’s not surprising, given the state of boxing in 2021. But come on. Where does this tale end?

According to the promotion’s founder, Ryan Kavanaugh, the bout will be contested at 180-pounds under the Triller Fight Club banner.

Here are five reasons why De La Hoya’s boxing come back in 2021 is a bad idea.

De La Hoya Was Done 13 Years Ago

Let’s take a trip back to December 6, 2008, when the red-hot Manny Pacquiao literally retired Oscar De La Hoya.

Billed “The Dream Match,” it would be completely lazy on this writer’s part to label it as a nightmare for the American. But it did bring the former six-weight world champion back down to earth with a bang. 

Pacquiao was electric that night, throwing barrages of punches at De La Hoya, who was tipped by several esteemed pundits to win the fight. Man of the top boxing betting sites had “The Golden Boy” around the -200 price to win, making the Filipino’s RTD victory even more surprising. 

I remember watching this one as a big fan of both men, but if I said I was surprised by the result, I would be lying. I predicted a stoppage win for “Pac-Man,” and he delivered in style. 

That night, De La Hoya was drained. Having lost the WBC light-middleweight title to Floyd Mayweather, he somehow thought it a good idea to drop back down to welterweight for this bout.

With Mayweather announcing his retirement, the pound-for-pound superstar from the Phillippines was now the biggest name in the sport. But there was a reason for that — he was unstoppable.

So, what possessed a 35-year-old light-middleweight in the twilight years of his career to drop down to face such a monster? Money? Surprisingly, I wasn’t convinced then that was the case. And I stand by that all these years later. 

The Fight That Ended De La Hoya

De La Hoya came in at 145-pounds and looked completely perplexed against the lightning-fast Pacquiao. Despite making a curious decision to hire trainer Ignacio Beristain with Angelo Dundee (former trainer of Muhammad Ali and Sugar Ray Leonard) as an advisor, he got pretty much everything wrong.

Fundamentally, he was looking to pull greatness out of the hat. The only problem is that the hat no longer fits.

“At this stage, when you face someone like Pacquiao, it’s going to be a hard fight. I worked hard and trained really hard to get ready for this fight, but it’s a lot different story when you’re training than when you are actually in the ring. I just felt flat, like I didn’t have it.

My heart still wants to fight, but when you physically don’t respond, you have to be smart.”

Oscar De La Hoya, 2008

De La Hoya made the right decision in retiring after that fight. So, just what is he thinking in returning to the ring now?

The Golden Boy Is Risking His Health

De La Hoya returns to the ropes against former UFC light heavyweight champion Vitor Belfort on September 11.

Nope. This is not an exhibition. This is, believe it or not, a boxing match that will be sanctioned by the California State Athletic Commission, subject to De La Hoya and Belfort passing comprehensive medical testing.

Wut? 

To say De La Hoya’s comeback is a bad idea, at this point, is the understatement of the century. Oscar is 48, while Vitor — a 44-year old retired MMA fighter with a 1-0 pro record from a fight against the unknown Josemario Neves in 2006 — has nowhere near the same experience.

But try and bring logic into the equation when money is involved. I mean, we do know that people enjoy seeing former heroes come back in exhibition bouts. Fans seem to love celebrity boxing matches. But this is a fully-fledged boxing match between two guys that are old enough to be grandfathers.

Should both men pass their brain MRA and MRIs, EKG, cardiac testing, neurocognitive testing, and ophthalmologic exams, they will be going out there to hurt each other. 

If you don’t think De Lay Hoya’s return to boxing is a bad idea, I’m not sure we can be friends anymore.

De La Hoya’s Comeback Is Bad for Business

De La Hoya’s Golden Boy is one of the best-known and most profitable boxing promotions on the planet.

Coupled with his career earnings, De La Hoya has accumulated great wealth.

Just check out De La Hoya’s top-five highest-selling pay-per-view fights.

Fight PPV Sales Date
De La Hoya vs. Mayweather 2.4 Million May 5, 2007
De La Hoya vs. Trinidad 1.4 Million Sep 18, 1999
De La Hoya vs. Pacquiao 1.25 Million Dec 6, 2008
De La Hoya vs. Hopkins 1.0 Million Sep 18, 2004
De La Hoya vs. Mosley 2 950,000 Sep 13, 2003

He’s hardly strapped for cash, with an estimated $200 million to his name. But this is not about money; it’s about the man trying to prove something to himself that only he can articulate. 

You could play the devil’s advocate and point out that plenty of boxers have made comebacks—the incredible story of George Foreman being the best example. 

When the former heavyweight destroyer announced that he was making a return to the ring at 38, laughter ensued. It was seen as ridiculous for the overweight and unfit preacher to even think about entering the ropes with Mike Tyson bursting opponents left, right, and center. Not to mention the other heavyweights out there. 

Don’t Compare De La Hoya With Foreman

Of course, the Texan went on to make history as the oldest heavyweight champ of all time. It was a fairytale but a one-off. Also, Foreman did it for the money, initially. Oscar does not need the money.

But don’t let that distract you from the fact that Foreman was ten years younger than De La Hoya is now. 

The 1992 Olympic gold medalist doesn’t need the money. But he’s taking a risk with his brand here. If he gets badly beaten by an MMA fighter, not only is his legacy affected. The boxers fighting under the Golden Boy banner could also take a hit.

De La Hoya’s comeback is bad for business. Even if he is fighting under the Triller banner, he is Golden Boy Promotions. 

It Could Do More Harm Than Good

Part of me is hoping that De La Hoya vs. Belfort doesn’t make it to the ring. 

Not just because it could harm Oscar’s legacy or lead to someone getting badly hurt. In my opinion, it could actually lead to a scenario more dangerous than this one awaiting us on September 11.

Is Oscar De La Hoya delusional? It’s beginning to look as though something is not quite right about one of the greatest boxers of the late 20th to early 21st century. And that is sad.

But what if he wins? Will De La Hoya beat Belfort and look for a bigger name? If he does indeed win in style, could this be a catalyst for the iconic fighter growing even more delusional and putting himself at a greater risk of serious damage?

I listened to De La Hoya’s interview with Mike Tyson on the latter’s HotBoxin podcast recently and felt very concerned for the multiple-time world champion.

Look, it’s never been a secret that De La Hoya has battled depression and substance abuse. He opened up further about this while chatting with Tyson and former UFC double-champion Henry Cejudo. But while a loss could lead to a downward spiral, a win could be even worse for the Los Angeles native. 

De La Hoya’s comeback was a key feature of the discussion between the legends. But his insistence that he wants professional fights with Mayweather and Canelo Alvarez was worrying.

“I wanna do two of these fights. And then, guess what? I wanna do a real fight, a 12-round fight with either Floyd or Canelo.”Oscar De La Hoya

While a bout with Mayweather wouldn’t be a walk in the park, surely there is no way that Canelo would sign up with a fight with his old mentor. 

Then again, who knows? Oscar earned the wrath of Gennady Golovkin. I mean, the mild-mannered KO artist threatened to capitalize on the “opportunity to legally kill someone inside the ring” when responding to comments made by the 48-year-old last year. 

He’s not exactly flying under the radar here.

Boxing Doesn’t Need De La Hoya’s Comeback

Once a shining ambassador of the sport, the businessman is doing more harm than good in returning to the ring. 

While his decision to make a comeback is nobody’s business but his own, it could cause a lot of damage to the game. If something bad were to happen, the image of boxing would take yet another beating. These two are older men and have no business being sanctioned for a genuine bout. 

But that’s in the hands of the sanctioning and commissioning bodies, as well as the promoters looking to cash in on big names.

Is it selfish of De La Hoya and Belfort to push for a fight? Well, as prizefighters, you can hardly blame them for looking to cash in.

As discussed earlier, De La Hoya doesn’t exactly need the cash.

Belfort’s net worth is estimated at 5.5 million with some online publications. But what these guys consider ample money in the bank for the futures of their respective families might look different to us.

It’s unlikely that Oscar’s motivation is money. So, is it pride or the longing of the adrenalin rush of being inside those ropes? If it’s the latter, why has he waited so long?

De La Hoya considers that Pacquiao’s loss as a turning point in his career. Yet, 13 years later, wants back in? 

I just don’t get it.

Final Thoughts on De La Hoya’s Comeback Fight

To conclude, I guess De La Hoya’s comeback is a bad idea for everyone but him because there is so little for the majority of us to gain from it.

The sport loses, and fans lose more money. That’s before the dangers of this pair getting smacked around in their late forties is factored into the equation.

Yet, it must be pointed out that these are two grown men who have autonomy over their decisions. If they want to fight, and they are cleared to do so, who can stop them?

Let’s just hope this one doesn’t end up further hurting De La Hoya, Belfort, or the sport of boxing.

Adam Haynes

Adam is a sports writer and tipster with a strong background in MMA and boxing.

A self-confessed sports fanatic, when Adam is not watching and writing about rugby, soccer, Gaelic Games, and F1, he can often be found working on methods and strategies to beat the bookies.

For his troubles, Adam is a big fan of Leinster Rugby, Glasgow Celtic, and trusting the process.

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