History

On This Day: Oscar De La Hoya made his pro debut

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On November 23, 1992 the 'Golden Boy' Oscar De La Hoya began his Hall of Fame career, writes James Slater

ON this day in 1992 in Inglewood, California, Oscar De La Hoya, aged 19, made his professional debut. Boxing at 133-pounds, the 1992 Olympic gold medalist faced Lamar Williams, who was 5-1-1 as a pro, and “The Golden Boy” got the job done inside a round, the win coming in less than two-minutes. A great career awaited De La Hoya.

De La Hoya won Olympic gold in Barcelona 1992 USA Today Sports

Today deservedly enshrined in The Hall of Fame, De La Hoya, who claimed world titles in an amazing six different weight classes, met and defeated every type of opponent imaginable – be it a slugger, a clever boxer, a counter-puncher, or a rough and tough hard man. De La Hoya may not have always won, but the man from East L.A always gave his all.

With some great nights to look back on, the successful promoter who is now comfortably retired from the ring has plenty of options when it comes to listing his very best wins.

Oscar’s five greatest wins

5: w rsf 2 Rafael Ruelas, 6th May, 1995.

Arguably De La Hoya’s first really big fight, the 22-year-old “Golden Boy” put on a sensational showing. Defending his WBO lightweight strap and challenging for Ruelas’ IBF version, Oscar made a partial unification of the lightweight crowns look almost easy. Loaded with power, speed and accuracy, De La Hoya utterly destroyed his rival. Knocking Ruelas down twice in the 2nd round, with a superb left hook the first time, De La Hoya got the job done seconds later as Richard Steele dived in and saved a defenceless Ruelas at 1 minute and 43-seconds of the round. More than a few people had predicted a Ruelas win going into this fight.

4: w rtd 6 Genaro Hernandez, 9th September, 1995.

Also at lightweight, this fight had its share of bad blood going in. Hernandez, then unbeaten, was the former WBA super-featherweight champion and he was not sold on De La Hoya’s proclaimed greatness. Oscar set out to punish his rival and prove he was very much for real. A reasonably competitive fight early on, Oscar then caught Hernandez with a savage uppercut that shattered “Chicanito’s” nose – forcing him to retire on his stool after the sixth round had been completed. Only one other man would ever manage to stop Hernandez; Floyd Mayweather Junior.

3: w pts 12 Pernell Whitaker, 12th April, 1997.

Making his debut as a welterweight, De La Hoya went up against one of the trickiest master boxers in modern day history. “Sweet Pea” may have been 33 years of age and slightly past his best, but he was still pretty much seen as an unbeaten fighter in the eyes of many (his points loss to Jose Luis Ramirez and his draw with Julio Cesar Chavez being hugely criticised). Possessing some amazing defensive moves, the clever southpaw succeeded in giving De La Hoya fits at times. Still, no-one ever looked good against Whitaker and Oscar did manage to get the job done via a surprisingly wide unanimous decision. “The Golden Boy” was unhappy with his performance but he had arguably beaten the best fighter he would ever meet. Indeed, had he looked better than he did in out-pointing Whitaker this result would be at #1 in this list. In short, though he struggled in April of 1997, De La Hoya beat a man many have in the top-30 or 40 pound-for-pound of all-time.

2: w rsf 11 Fernando Vargas, 14th September, 2002.

This fight was a real grudge match. Taking a severe dislike to De La Hoya, Vargas was determined to punish him in the ring. Just why “El Feroz” despised Oscar so badly is unclear, but the hate was real, and not just a product of hype to sell tickets. Having only his second bout as a light-middleweight, De La Hoya met Vargas in a fight that would decide his WBC version and Vargas’ WBA version, of the 154-pound titles. A superb battle raged and both men had their share of success. Oscar’s greater power and accuracy saw him all but end the fight in the 10th round, however, as a clean left hook to the head badly hurt Vargas. Still hurt in the 11th, the man from Oxnard was sent crashing to the mat by another wicked left. “El Feroz” beat the count but was stopped by Joe Cortez a few seconds later. De La Hoya had won the fight dubbed “Bad Blood” in sensational style.

1: w pts 12 Ike Quartey, 13th February, 1999.

In facing the unbeaten former WBA welterweight king from Accra, Ghana, De La Hoya took on a very big-at-the-weight and immensely strong man in “Bazooka.” Defending his WBC title, Oscar was in with a very dangerous opponent. After a tentative start, both men began unloading. Oscar broke through first, knocking Quartey down with a sharp left to the head in round six, but Ike rose and paid De La Hoya back in kind, flooring him later in the round.

Oscar De La Hoya
Down goes Quartey Action Images/Reuters

Oscar was more hurt than was Quartey and he knew it. Sensing that the fight was close, Oscar attempted to close the show in the 12th and final round. He almost did it. Scoring a second knockdown, De La Hoya then unloaded everything he had as Quartey was stuck on the ropes, determined to get the stoppage win. “Bazooka” hung tough, though, and made it to the final bell. Winner via a hard-fought split decision, De La Hoya had beaten a very good, very tough and very dangerous rival.

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