I'm sorry. I know Oscar de la Hoya has a lot of fans. And while I respect him as a fighter and as a businessman, as the years roll on and he keeps talking, I'm having trouble counting myself as one of them anymore.
What is it about Oscar that has so bugged me over the years? It's his fakeness. His fake smile. His fake words. His absolute need to be accepted by everyone that feeds said strange behavior.
If you know anything about Oscar's personal life, you know he's not the "Golden Boy" that his image-makers strived to paint him as over the years. And while dragging his name in the mud over exes, children and other personal things isn't at all my style, I'm aware that that's the guy he is out of the spotlight. He owns up to much of it, and is a man about it these days. Hey, we all make mistakes.
There is something about Oscar that has never stopped haunting him. You can see it in his eyes when he speaks. You can hear it in his words if you listen closely enough. Any professional fighter is a brave human being. It takes balls to get in that ring. Hell, it takes balls to train to get in that ring.
But he's always been scared. Scared that he won't be loved by everyone. He's never gotten over the fact that the Mexican fanbase has never fully embraced him. He still strives for that. He tried to win their love and respect by fighting Julio Cesar Chavez, and all that did was make it worse for a great number of Mexican fight fans. To them, Chavez was a "real" Mexican fighter, born and bred in their country, and never moving from it.
Oscar, though, was nearly a gringo. A pretty boy that drove the teenage girls wild. An American of Mexican heritage -- but not quite a Mexican.
This has eaten at him for a long, long time. Listen to him talk about it. Even now, he claims that part of the reason he's fighting Manny Pacquiao is to avenge Mexican fighters like Juan Manuel Marquez, Marco Antonio Barrera and Erik Morales (among others) who have been conquered by the Filipino superstar.
The 46-year old Chavez, twice thrashed by the younger, stronger de la Hoya, doesn't think he'll ever get their respect.
"(Oscar) believes that the Mexicans are going to want this (fight with Pacquiao). To the contrary, they will (root for) Pacquiao," he said recently. He also offered to put up $5 million if Oscar would fight his son, believing that Oscar would be knocked out. I think that's a story for another day (and a crazy one, plus I have my doubts that Julio has $5 million), but it speaks to something.
Not only do the Mexican fight fans still largely either dislike Oscar or at best have lukewarm feelings about him, but Chavez to this day refuses to give Oscar any credit.
The fight is a fraud, he says. We've heard that before. And I believe that all personal feelings about the fight aside, if Oscar is doing this to get Mexican fans to cheer him on, he's barking up the wrong tree.
He's 35 years old. If they haven't taken to him yet, they're not going to. And potentially beating a man that has never been anything but respectful of the Mexican fighters with whom he's done battle isn't going to be what does the trick.
I've talked before about Oscar's need to declare every fight "personal," and some of you have said, "Well, that sells fights." Indeed it does, but let's go past business logic and really think about it, because I understand that it sells fights. It's the way he delivers his lines -- and that's what they are. They're lines. They're scripted little promos not unlike that which you'd find in professional wrestling, except delivered by someone who can't act.
He'll put on his mean mug. He'll punch a bag. "You wanna make this personal?" Punch again. "OK..." Continue with mean mug. Make sure there's some sweat above the brow.
He's corny. And he's hard to believe in.
Maybe that's why so many people have never liked Oscar, and now I'm not just talking about the Mexican fight fans. He has long received various degrees of backlash in the boxing community. Some of it is unavoidable. Hey, he's a good-looking guy. Girls are going to like him. This, for some reason, angers the less self-assured in the fan population. Some of it, though, might just be that he really is hard to believe in as a fighter.
Barrera, Chavez, Morales, the Marquez boys, Vazquez, Pacquiao, Gatti, Ward, even B-Hop. Those are guys that never really "sold" a fight. Sure, Bernard would talk his jive and get a little stupid, but that just seemed like it was him. You ever heard Bernard sound scripted? You cared about their fights because you cared about them. They were real people. They were genuine.
Oscar de la Hoya has never had that. He came into professional boxing an Olympic hero in America, all fanfare and glitz and glamour. And man, could he fight. His left hook was lethal. He had speed, he had ring awareness that went way beyond his years, he had power, he had a solid defense, he had a good chin. He was tough, boy, whether he looked like it or not. And he could knock your f'n block off, to boot.
But he's always seemed scared. Not of any fighter, but of what might happen if he fails or even if he succeeds the wrong way. What would people think? Would they like him? Would they cheer him?
Even when he's at his most innocent, he can come off as a phony. Example?
Oscar recently said, "As a promoter, we are going to open doors to young Mexicans who strive to be world champions, like Juan Manuel Marquez."
Marquez is 35, Oscar. It's enough to make you wonder if he even knows that.
I kind of hate that I genuinely just don't like Oscar. Why shouldn't I? He's done so much for boxing. He carried it for years, right on his back. Golden Boy Promotions has done some great things for the sport, too, even though they're lacking in key areas (developing young fighters, for one thing). I want to like him.
I guess I just have to bite the bullet and raise my hand along with the detractors. I believe he's a Hall of Famer. I believe he's done wonders for the world of boxing. But that's about as far as I go.