A whole host of old, retired fighters talked about making in-ring comebacks in the boxing world during the COVID-19 shutdown of the sport, which was dumb, because it’s dumb, and kinda nice for someone who has a boxing web site to run, because the statements sparked a lot of conversation and drove a bit of traffic in an otherwise miserable time.
Most of them — including the biggest story of them all, Mike Tyson — have seemingly piped down about it now that boxing is running again, even in a sort of “shadow of itself” form. But Oscar De La Hoya, who at 47 years of age started talking comeback about three weeks ago, is still on about it:
Now granted De La Hoya made this Tweet in the evening on a Friday and a lot of people Tweet a lot of goofy stuff at night on the weekends, but still, he’s still talking about it, and appears to think 154 pounds is a good division to return in.
De La Hoya last fought in Dec. 2008, when he was slaughtered by Manny Pacquiao until being forced to quit after eight brutally one-sided rounds. He had tried to fight as a welterweight again in that one, and was just taken apart by a naturally smaller but much faster, sharper, and more prime athlete and fighter.
At 154 pounds in his career, De La Hoya went 5-2, jumping to that weight class for the first time in 2001. He beat Javier Castillejo that year, then Fernando Vargas and Yori Boy Campas in 2002, before losing to Shane Mosley in 2003 and making a rather ill-fated move to middleweight in 2004. He came back down in 2006 to beat Ricardo Mayorga, lost to Floyd Mayweather in 2007, and beat Steve Forbes in a 150-pound catchweight tune-up in 2008 before being thrashed by Manny, having previously had the intention to rematch Mayweather at 147, but Mayweather “retired” again instead.
11-plus years out of the sport is a long time, and De La Hoya was getting a little sluggish and having some problems pulling the trigger even before fighting Manny, when he looked drained and fairly helpless. It might be tempting to think Oscar could come back and fight some of the 154-pound contenders or titlists right now and do well — after all, nobody in the division is particularly elite elite, and Golden Boy’s Patrick Teixeira has the WBO belt, and it might not be hard to talk the sanctioning body into giving Oscar an immediate title shot, even.
And it would be a big story and a big event, no question. But the rust, the age, the dulling of the reflexes and timing, the natural reactions being withered — this isn’t a video game, the 2003 version of De La Hoya won’t enter a ring in 2020 or 2021. And right now, given that Oscar is repeatedly lecturing about how fighters have to be realistic about their purses — which he’s not necessarily wrong about, mind you — how would it look to the Golden Boy stable if Oscar got some huge payday while they’re being asked to settle for fractions of their normal purses?
And what does it look like if Golden Boy is so generally unable to keep star fighters on their roster, or truly make them stars, or keep them happy even if they become stars, that they need De La Hoya at 47 to come back in order to promote a genuine big event without Canelo Alvarez, who reportedly doesn’t even speak to the company except through his lawyer?
Desperate times and desperate measures and all that, but the aesthetics of it all aren’t great, and what if he just goes out there and gets smashed up by a Teixeira or someone? It wouldn’t even do much for them, they beat up an old man.
My gut feeling is still that he won’t actually go through with it, with coming back for a real fight. But if he’s going to keep talking about it, so will we, and there’s a lot about it that stinks. That’s just the reality of the situation.