He may have hung up the gloves for good over seven years ago, but Oscar De La Hoya remains one of the biggest names in boxing. One of the greatest boxers of his generation – and arguably one of the best of all time – the “Golden Boy” remains involved in the Sweet Science on a daily basis as the founder and manager of Golden Boy Promotions, which counts Montrealer David Lemieux among its talent pool. We caught up with the 43-year-old businessman and boxing Hall-of-Famer during a recent stop in town to discuss the city’s place in the boxing world, and his thoughts on the Montreal sports scene outside the ring.
For a few years now, Montreal has increasingly been referenced as one of the prime locations for boxing events. Do you agree with that, even though you never had the chance to fight here?
OSCAR DE LA HOYA: I do. There are great fans here in Montreal. We go way back to when Sugar Ray Leonard fought here during the 1976 Olympics. There’s a rich history and it’s an untapped market. Having a fighter like David Lemieux with Golden Boy Promotions and putting him in a position to be world champion, he’s the future of boxing here. We have big plans for him.
Even though you weren’t in the same weight class as him, do you think you would have had the upper hand on David in your prime?
ODLH: Let’s put it this way, it would have been a fun fight. (laughs) David is a tough guy and a strong puncher. I can’t say that I would have lost and I can’t say that I would have won, but it would have been a fun fight.
|David Lemieux's promoter since a year ago, Oscar already has big plans for his protégé. |
You’ve been in Montreal a few times over the years. How would you compare the atmosphere at the Bell Centre during a fight to some of the big name venues in Las Vegas?
ODLH: It’s different, because Las Vegas is the Mecca of boxing. When you stage a championship fight at the MGM Grand, there’s a certain atmosphere over there. It’s totally different in Vegas because you’re bringing the fights to the high rollers and you give tickets away. In Montreal, you’re bringing the fight to actual fans. That’s what I enjoy the most.
You were born and raised in L.A. Are you a Kings fan?
ODLH: I love hockey. I’ve been to many games at the Staples Center. I’m just a huge sports fan in general. Hockey is a sport similar to boxing, because you have to be in great shape to play it. And you have to be able to take a punch. (laughs) It’s a sport I respect, and obviously its legends are from here in Canada.
We’ve seen what you can do in a ring, but how would you fare on the ice with skates?
ODLH: Let’s put it this way, I would get knocked out in the first round. (laughs)
Your statue is one of seven showcased at Star Plaza near the Staples Center, amongst Hockey Hall-of-Famers Wayne Gretzky and Luc Robitaille. Have you ever hung out with Kings players?
ODLH: I’ve hung out with Wayne Gretzky and we’ve played golf together a few times. But when I’m home in L.A. and I’m not working, my time is dedicated to my family. I’m not the type of guy that likes to go out too often and spend time with other athletes. But now that you mention it, I love going to my statue and polishing it and making sure it’s not dirty. (laughs)
You’ve been retired for seven years now, but have you ever had the itch to get away from your desk and get back in the ring to teach the new generation of stars a lesson?
ODLH: Every single day. Two years ago, I really had the itch and I couldn’t take it anymore. I convinced myself that I was going to make a comeback. I woke up at four in the morning, ran something like six miles and I felt great. But the next day, I couldn’t get out of bed. I was sore. That’s when I realized that was it for me. Reality hit me. (laughs)
Are you surprised that Floyd Mayweather Jr. challenged you to a fight a few months ago? Do you think the revenues from a rematch between you two would surpass the ones from Mayweather/Pacquiao?
ODLH: We had a rematch clause after our first fight and he decided to retire. I wish I would have fought him again; it would have been a whole different story. It is what it is. I love boxing. I love the sport and the compete level. That’s who I was, fighting against the best. In today’s world, there’s social media, more cable operators and more pay-per-view revenues. I’ll tell you one thing; if we would fight today, we would easily break records.
Follow some of the biggest names on the boxing scene at goldenboypromotions.com. To follow De La Hoya in real-time, give him a follow on Twitter (@OscarDeLaHoya).
This article, written by Hugo Fontaine, was published in CANADIENS magazine Vol. 30 No. 3.