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Oscar De La Hoya comeback: Who can the Golden Boy fight at 47?

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Oscar De La Hoya says he’s going to fight again after 12 years on the sidelines. Who could he face?

Chuck Liddell v Tito Ortiz 3 - Undercard Press Conference Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

At age 47 and with nearly 12 years having passed since his last fight — which was a brutally one-sided rout at the hands of Manny Pacquiao, for the record — Oscar De La Hoya has announced sincere intentions to return to the ring.

And this won’t be a Mike Tyson-Roy Jones Jr thing if it happens. No exhibition. De La Hoya intends to fight for real, fully sanctioned by a commission — real, live boxing.

Oscar says he wants to face any top fighters at 154 or 160. Whether that’s realistic or not remains to be seen, but frankly it probably isn’t particularly realistic, at least not for a first fight back.

It’s also no guarantee this happens. De La Hoya (39-6, 30 KO) says he still needs to see how he really feels physically in the coming weeks, and he’d also have to pass a physical and get licensed, which doesn’t seem all that hard with boxing commissions if you’re just some putz, but they’d probably be extra careful with a 47-year-old global sports star whose event is going to attract a lot of eyeballs.

That said, how about some Sunday morning chatter about whom De La Hoya could potentially face if he does indeed return to the ring?

Canelo Alvarez

Gennady Golovkin v Canelo Alvarez - Fighter Arrivals Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images

Back in late June when Oscar first started talking about this seriously, he said up front he would not fight Canelo Alvarez, and I believe him, but we kind of can’t put this thing on the internet hoping for page views if we don’t at least chuck Canelo’s name in here.

And really, there’s more to it than just Canelo (53-1-2, 36 KO) being Golden Boy’s crown jewel, badly needing a fight, and and the company getting a little desperate for something that DAZN will accept. Canelo and Oscar by many accounts do not get along these days and haven’t for some time. Canelo, in fact, reportedly doesn’t even speak to anyone at the company except through his lawyer. You could probably sell a legit grudge match AND a goofy attraction!

But it’s not going to happen. De La Hoya may have legitimate ambition here but I think he knows better than to get decimated by Canelo, and it also wouldn’t really help Canelo any to beat up a 47-year-old retiree. It would be a bad play long-term.

And to address this quickly: Gennadiy Golovkin is not on this list because GGG will likely fight Canelo sometime in 2021. I can’t see Oscar sacrificing himself to Golovkin just to make that fight slightly bigger than it already would be.

Sergio Martinez

Sergio Maravilla Martinez In Madrid Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Sergio Martinez just made his own return to the ring, fighting again at age 45 after not fighting since 2014. Martinez has credited thermal baths for helping to fix a previously injured knee, leaving him pain-free, and he beat a journeyman-type fighter on Friday in Spain.

There’s no saying Martinez (52-3-2, 29 KO) will fight again just yet, but he said in June when he was planning his comeback that he felt he had a few fights left.

The fight would make sense in terms of them being the same age and sort of at the same stage. De La Hoya has been out of the game much longer, but they’re at least contemporaries age-wise, even if Martinez was a late bloomer who didn’t hit his peak until Oscar was out of the game.

This isn’t what De La Hoya wants, according to De La Hoya; again, he wants to face a top boxer. But that might not be doable, and Martinez would present a potentially intriguing option where really nobody can look bad at the end, other than both of them if they’re just old and the fight sucks, but it could be like when you put two mid-tier fighters together and they can have a great fight at that level.

Conor McGregor

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Again, you kind of can’t do this “hope for clicks!” story without at least mentioning McGregor, the 32-year-old UFC fighter who is, for the moment, officially retired (again). McGregor famously fought Floyd Mayweather in a boxing match in 2017, and depending on how much you like to believe in magic, you could argue he held his own for a few rounds against an unbeaten legend.

McGregor and De La Hoya had some words earlier this year, when Oscar said he’d knock McGregor out in two rounds. McGregor said he’d accept that challenge. That means this fight has already been floated out there as a possibility.

McGregor is complicated, though, because he does technically still have a UFC contract, and any boxing venture he does would probably have to work with or around that. And we know that De La Hoya and UFC boss Dana White don’t get along, to put it nicely. I’m sure Dana wouldn’t mind promoting someone to beat up an old De La Hoya, but what if an old De La Hoya smokes McGregor, who isn’t a professional boxer? McGregor looks bad, UFC looks bad, White looks bad. Floyd Mayweather was one thing. This would be another. If and/or when McGregor fights again in UFC, they’ll want to make a ton of money, and getting embarrassed by a 47-year-old De La Hoya in boxing wouldn’t help.

Miguel Cotto

Diego De La Hoya v Jose Salgado Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

The 39-year-old Cotto hasn’t fought since Dec. 2017, when he was upset by Sadam Ali, and rightfully decided that was probably a sign to hang things up. His last really major fight came in Nov. 2015, when he was beaten by the aforementioned Canelo Alvarez.

Cotto (41-6, 33 KO) and De La Hoya overlapped in their careers in terms of time in the sport, but they never fought. Cotto was a Top Rank fighter for the majority of his prime, and back then Top Rank and Golden Boy had a hard time doing any business together for a few years, before finally starting to put on co-promoted fights again in 2007, one of which was Cotto-Shane Mosley. Cotto was also a welterweight until 2010, and by that time De La Hoya was out of the sport, and he hadn’t fought at welterweight from 2001-2008 until that ill-fated last attempt.

Oscar vs Cotto could draw some eyes. It’s been a while since we’ve had a high-level Mexico vs Puerto Rico fight, in terms of it being an attraction. And while Cotto has made no indications that he wishes to fight again, everyone’s getting the itch these days, and there’s probably money in it to make him at least consider it. Again, not exactly what De La Hoya says he wants, but there also just aren’t a lot of real names available to him at 154-160.

Amir Khan

Amir Khan Media Access Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Of course Amir Khan threw his hat into the ring as quickly as possible. The 33-year-old Khan isn’t so much hated these days as he is no longer taken seriously. But Khan (34-5, 21 KO) does still attract attention. His 2019 fight with Terence Crawford didn’t sell well on pay-per-view, but I can say that there was definitely massive online interest in the fight; people wanted to know what happened, but they did not want to pay money to see it. And the fact that it became such a comical fiasco became an even bigger story after.

Khan has the sort of defective punch resistance that it could give the fight some intrigue, even though he’s so much faster than De La Hoya figures to be anymore that it might get a little ugly with Khan just picking him apart. Khan also tends to fight a little dumb, which could also give De La Hoya a chance to land a hook or something. I don’t know how much you can sell it, but I know people would want to know about it. And Khan, unlike Cotto or Martinez, is an active fighter. Before you say he’s not currently a “top” fighter, please remember that Oscar De La Hoya is a promoter, and promoters have very liberal definitions of “top fighter.”

Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan

Boxing from Castlebar Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images

Gary “Spike” O’Sullivan.

Golden Boy have worked with him, he’s a nice guy who gets along with everyone when he’s not talking shit at them, he’s active at age 36, and he would jump at this chance for sure.

O’Sullivan (30-4, 21 KO) has never been afraid of taking a fight. What happens when the opponents are good is another story, but he’s a competent, capable pro fighter, and another thing is, say he loses — OK, then you didn’t damage someone you might still hope to do something with, as you might with somebody like Jason Quigley, for example, or Chris Pearson.

Spike might be exactly the type of fighter who makes the most sense here and ticks De La Hoya’s wish list boxes the best.