- The Washington Times - Friday, September 12, 2003

Give Oscar De La Hoya credit for one thing — he became a great fighter despite his first name.

When you hear the name Oscar, you think sportswriter, as in Madison, or designer, as in de la Renta. You might think accountant, you might think mortician or any number of honorable professions that often seem to draw people with nerdy monikers. But when you think of the name Oscar, you don’t think boxer — at least not until De La Hoya came along.

There was the Argentinian tough guy, heavyweight Oscar Bonavena, back in the 1960s, but the only reason we know about him is because he was fighting Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier. Oscar De La Hoya, though, has become such a prominent fighter that he has reached Cher-like status — he need only be referred to by his first name.

We expect our fighters to have pugilist names — like Oscar’s opponent tonight in Las Vegas — Shane Mosley (38-2, one no contest, 35 knockouts). Now, Shane is hardly a name that strikes fear in anyone’s hearts, but his nickname — “Sugar” — gives Mosley ring cred and perhaps the advantage tonight. That and the fact he is still faster with his hands than Oscar, just as he was more than three years ago when Mosley beat Oscar (36-2, 29 knockouts) in their first meeting.

Back in June 2000, it seemed as if Mosley and Oscar were going to be part of a great legacy of welterweight and middleweight fights that also would include Felix Trinidad, David Reid and Fernando Vargas.

There was only one problem — the nucleus of that potentially great series of fights — Oscar, the “Golden Boy,” the box office draw — didn’t cooperate.

After Oscar lost a controversial decision to Trinidad in September 1999 — a fight he lost only because, after dominating Trinidad for eight rounds, Oscar took the final four rounds off and ran around the ring — he did not pursue an immediate rematch.

Nearly 20 years earlier, the fighter who Oscar is often compared to because of his Olympic gold medal and popular appeal — Sugar Ray Leonard — lost a close decision to Roberto Duran and made the rematch his top priority. Six months later, Leonard avenged his loss by embarrassing Duran into quitting — the “no mas” fight.

Oscar did not have nearly the same commitment to greatness. Unlike Leonard, Oscar fell victim to a greedy promoter who may have made money for Oscar but at the cost of his legacy. Bob Arum could not suffer the shame of having to take far less money and a far lesser role in the promotion of a rematch with Trinidad — because it would have added a insult to injury since it would come at the hands of his rival promoter, Don King.

Arum did his best to embarrass King and make him and his fighter play second fiddle in the first fight, so he could not live with the fact that he would be in that role in a rematch. King said time after time when discussion of another Trinidad fight came up that they just should switch the names on the contract, with Trinidad getting Oscar’s money and terms and Oscar getting Trinidad’s money and terms.

Both fighters went in different directions, and the fight disappeared. Trinidad-De La Hoya won’t happen because Trinidad, after taking a beating from Bernard Hopkins in September 2001, retired and has refused numerous overtures from Oscar to return for a rematch.

Promoters managed to make tonight’s De Lay Hoya-Mosley rematch before one of them was gone but just barely. Oscar has fought four times since losing to Mosley more than three years ago, all the time flirting with a singing career.

After beating Oscar, Mosley fought three fights against no-name opponents before he found a fighter he couldn’t beat. He lost to Vernon Forrest in January 2002, and, unlike Oscar, Mosley sought an immediate rematch, which he also lost in a decision.

Most observers believe that if Mosley fought Forrest — who lost two fights this past year to Ricardo Mayorga — seven times in a week, Mosley would be 0-7. Their matchup was the typical styles-make-fights situation. Mosley enters tonight’s rematch with Oscar coming off two losses.

You would think all of this would make tonight’s fight less attractive, but apparently boxing fans — desperate for any kind of big fight in the wasteland of boxing in 2003 — are not put off by two damaged goods fighters meeting in a rematch. They are hoping it will be as good as the first fight. The MGM Grand arena sold out its 16,724 seats, and the predictions for pay-per-view are approaching 1 million buys — a remarkable amount for a non-heavyweight fight.

Because they waited so long to meet, there is little chance the loser will have much of a future. If Mosley loses, evening their battles at one each, who would want to see another fight featuring a boxer who lost his last three bouts?

And if Oscar loses, at least he can go back to his singing career — perhaps a more proper way for a man named Oscar to make a living.

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