- The Washington Times - Friday, September 17, 2004

LAS VEGAS. — If the career of middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins was shaped by the time he served in jail nearly 20 years ago, the career of his opponent tomorrow night at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, Oscar De La Hoya, has been shaped by time served as well — the time he has served trying to please his demanding father.

It is a a sentence that may not end until Oscar walks away from boxing.

A former fighter himself, Joel De La Hoya Sr., the second of three generations of fighting De La Hoyas, was a cold, demanding taskmaster who pushed his son hard at an early age and remained a strong influence in his son’s life despite a love-hate relationship that has sometimes resulted in the two not speaking to each other.

“I would never want to raise a child like he raised us,” Oscar once said of his father. “My dad was never a friend to us.”

Yet there was Joel De La Hoya Sr., supporting his son by begrudgingly agreeing to speak to reporters yesterday as part of the promotion. “Oscar is 100 percent ready for this fight,” he said.

The person in charge of getting Oscar ready for this fight has been Floyd Mayweather Sr., the sixth trainer of Oscar’s 12-year professional career.

“My position with Oscar is to strategize the fight, get a good game plan for Oscar to come out and execute it,” said Mayweather, whose is estranged from his son, junior welterweight Floyd Mayweather Jr. “Oscar has faster hands, faster feet, and he is a more scientific fighter. Oscar is a winner, and so I am, and we will not lose against Bernard Hopkins.”

Jesus Rivero was a winner. So were Gil Clancy, and Emanuel Steward. They are three of Oscar’s previous trainers. Every trainer who has come before Mayweather has ultimately has a clash of wills with the father. Steward is regarded as one of the greatest trainers of all time, but Dad didn’t have the same opinion, and he was fired, even though the son liked Steward perhaps more than any other trainer he had before.

“Emanuel gave me the confidence that he was teaching me, but he kept it fun,” Oscar is quoted in the book, “Golden Boy,” after Steward was fired. “If it had been solely up to me, yes, of course, he would still be here.”

But it wasn’t solely up to him, even though by then he was 25 years old and had established himself as one of the premier box office attractions in boxing. He still needed his father’s approval. “I hate arguing with my father,” he said at the time. “I don’t want anything between us.”

Bob Arum, Oscar’s promoter, said Mayweather has not had the problems other trainers have encountered.

“When Floyd went in, he told everyone he was the boss and that things would be done his way,” Arum said. “He didn’t let that kind of stuff happen.”

There may be other influences in Oscar’s life now. He is 31, married and a successful businessman out of the ring as well, with a flourishing boxing promotion company and several other ventures, including the Fox boxing reality TV show, “The Next Great Champ.” But the father remains.

He was asked what kind of influence he has now on Oscar in the ring.

“I am not the boss,” he said. “But I talk to Floyd.”

It matters little what the father says now. His work, for better or worse, has been done. He has molded his son into a successful but troubled fighter, facing the toughest opponent of his career, one who could give Oscar a severe beating.

Hopkins knows the role of the father, and put him on the spot during the prefight press conference Wednesday, when he called Oscar a “dead man walking” and declared that “his father will stop this fight.”

When asked yesterday if he would indeed stop the fight if his son was taking a terrible beating, the father simply said, “We will have to see what happens.”

If it comes to that, maybe then the father, who put boxing gloves on his son when the boy was 6, will be the one who finally takes them off and says to his son, “You have done enough.”

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