Middleweight Oscar De La Hoya is 39-6 over the course of his 16-year boxing career, but has lost four of his past seven decisions, the most recent of which was his December 6th embarrassment at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, who stands nearly four full inches shorter than the Golden Boy.
It came as no surprise, then, that De La Hoya announced his retirement from the ring this afternoon, although in contemporary boxing, nonsensical behavior is probably more common than smart business decisions.
De La Hoya's supporters will herald him as the modern face of pugilism, a handsome and affable leading man who kept the sport afloat while the heavyweight division turned into a nightmare used car auction. His detractors will decry his accomplishments as nothing more than straw men, paper victories over glass-jawed opponents embellished by De La Hoya's salesmanship. The truth, as always, lies somewhere in between.
De La Hoya has won ten championships in six different weight classes and has generated more money (in PPV sales, etc.) than anyone in the history of the sport. Those are the facts. Where the discussion enters the world of gray is the inspection of his opponents. Yes, he has fought Pacquiao, Mayweather, Hopkins, Mosley, and Trinidad--but he has dropped a decision to all of them. De La Hoya is 0-for-5 against those elite fighters.
He went 2-0 against Julio Cesar Chavez--but he won the first fight only because Chavez's corner was unable to close a wound suffered during training and the second one because he was three inches taller and eleven years younger than Chavez. He beat a great fighter, don't get me wrong, but let's not pretend as if Oscar pummeled Roy Jones for eight rounds until he quit.
I don't consider his victory over Ricardo Mayorga to be all that prestigious; Mayorga is the Ryan Howard of boxing, an overdecorated powerbeast who only shows up every once in a while to knock his opponent's head clean off of his shoulders. You should know that personality-wise, I'm a huge Mayorga fan--he makes fun of dead mothers and wives and children--I just don't think he's a great boxer.
He also beat one of Sal's favorites, Arturo Gatti, in five rounds in 2001; that fight preceded Gatti's borderline-fictitiously awesome trilogy of fights with Mickey Ward, so Thunder could not cry fatigue. There. There is one fight against an elite opponent which Oscar won soundly. With no title on the line. Is that a career?
I don't know. Obviously, I'm in the anti-Oscar camp; I think he's been a stellar self-promoter (the numbers don't lie) but a total wimp when it comes to honest pugilism. Perhaps Oscar will craft a new legacy for himself promoting, considering Golden Boy Promotions has become one of the most powerful firms in the sport.