Produced by De La Hoya’s Golden Boy Promotions, the super-bout, dubbed “The World Awaits,” sold out in three hours back in January, bringing in a projected record-breaking $19 million dollars at the gate. With legions of fight fans expected to watch on pay-per-view, De La Hoya stands to make at least $25 million for the bout, a far cry from his impoverished childhood in East Los Angeles.
Perhaps you’ve already heard the story. A young Mexican-American boy becomes a boxing prodigy in the barrio. On his mother’s death bed, he promises that he will capture Olympic gold, a promise he fulfills at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. The boxer turns pro, and with his matinee-idol looks and impressive ring record, goes on to become one of the most celebrated fighters of all time, and a garner a Grammy nomination to boot. Despite his accomplishments inside and outside the ring, De La Hoya has never been fully embraced as a Mexican, and to a certain extent, a Chicano icon, at least not by men.
Never was this more evident than on June 7, 1996, when De La Hoya faced Julio César Chávez, the greatest (and most beloved) Mexican fighter of them all. Going into the bout, it became evident that outside of L.A., the raza vote went to the aging Chávez. When De La Hoya dismantled him in four rounds, what should have been the passing of the torch turned into yet another grudge against the young champion. Many Mexicans viewed him as an American who defeated their hero and some Chicanos saw him simply as the guy who turned his back on the barrio once he achieved success.
But it’s not like Oscar hasn’t reached out. Aside from his various philanthropic endeavors, De La Hoya has dabbled in mariachi music and Spanish pop, married a Latina, and you’d be hard pressed to find a fight fan of the female persuasion who doesn’t root for the Golden Boy. In the skewed world of boxing, though, it’s been the losses, more frequent in recent years, against the likes of Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, and Bernard Hopkins, that have brought De La Hoya somewhat closer to the brown masses. In losing his aura of effortless invincibility, the Golden Boy became human, vulnerable, a figure more easily embraced.
De La Hoya now faces perhaps the toughest opponent in his career. “Pretty Boy” Floyd has never lost a fight and is considered the best pound-for-pound boxer in the world. As part of the hype machine promoting the upcoming match-up, HBO has been airing a four-part prelude to the bout titled De La Hoya-Mayweather 24/7. Through the series, fans get a behind-the-scenes look into the fighters’ training and personal lives, and in the outtakes available online, Oscar is shown knocking some golf balls around, celebrating a birthday with his family, and pumping gas, something any Chicano can relate to. Mayweather, on the other hand, is shown as generally acting a fool, facing off at a press conference with a chicken he dubs the Golden Boy, and talking plenty of smack.
Which brings us back to Cinco de Mayo. Over the years, De La Hoya has taken to fighting on or near the Mexican holiday and he has never lost a professional fight in May. Early Vegas odds list De La Hoya as a 2-1 underdog and HBO’s online poll suggests that 54% of the folks out there want him to succeed. Those are still good numbers for the Golden Boy, and although Mayweather’s chum, 50 Cent, will enter the ring to perform his new single, “Straight to the Bank,” De La Hoya will no doubt be the one breaking it.
The biggest surprise of the NBA playoffs thus far is the sweep of the former champion Miami Heat at the hands of the Chicago Bulls. This achievement will soon be eclipsed if the Don Nelson-led Golden State Warriors can capitalize on their series lead (3-1 at press time) to close out the heavily favored Dallas Mavericks. The Mavs look nothing like the team that won 67 games this season (including an astounding 52 of 57 games during one stretch), and could very easily bow out in the first round. All of this bodes well for the Spurs who have taken command of their series with the Denver Nuggets and could now be looking at the Phoenix Suns (and possibly the Detroit Pistons) as their most challenging obstacles to a fourth NBA crown.