Originally created 02/08/02

De La Hoya hopes it's three-and-out before retirement



LOS ANGELES -- Five-time world champion Oscar De La Hoya has a simple plan - three fights and out the door.

Now that he has everything he's ever wanted, it's nearly time to focus on life outside of boxing.

De La Hoya's personal single-elimination competition begins May 4 in Las Vegas when he defends his WBC super welterweight title against Fernando Vargas, a man he admits he truly dislikes and believes is bad for the sport he loves.

"I'm not going to go back on my word," De La Hoya said Thursday from his home in Puerto Rico, referring to a longtime plan to retire from boxing when he turns 30. "I can have three big fights this year and call it quits, that's actually the plan.

"Boxing has been really good to me. Why stay in the sport any longer, where I could really get hurt? I ask myself, 'If you had a kid, would you want that kid to box? Would you want a loved one to fight?' The majority of people would say, 'Of course not.' It doesn't make sense."

What does make sense to De La Hoya, who celebrated his 29th birthday Monday, is the life he's leading now. He married singer Millie Corretjer four months ago, and is most pleased living in her native Puerto Rico.

"I met her in Texas, she was doing a concert, I was down there on business," De La Hoya recalled. "My life has totally changed. I look back at all the mistakes I made, at all the lawsuits I've had. I'm a better person now, I definitely got lucky. I'm moving forward.

"I guess everything happens for a reason. Sometimes I ask myself, 'Why did I do this, or why did I do that?' If you don't learn from your mistakes, that's a big problem. If you do, you're doing something right."

De La Hoya, 34-2 with 27 knockouts, said he also hopes to fight Felix Trinidad and Shane Mosley - the two fighters who've beaten him - before he retires.

"That's very personal for me, I want to avenge my two losses," De La Hoya said. "And then I'm out the door and never looking back. Everyone wanted me to win the world titles, make everyone rich. Now, finally, I'm making myself happy. That's what I wanted, that's what I always wanted.

"A lot of fighters stay in the sport too long, and what ends up happening is they lose everything. That's something I don't want to do. I don't want to end up with less brain cells than I have now."

But first things first, and first is Vargas.

What if he loses?

"My retirement plan comes earlier," De La Hoya replied. "Oh yeah, of course, there's no doubt about it. That's the easy way out, losing and just retiring. Of course, I don't want that. that's a lot of pressure there."

De La Hoya realizes Vargas will be a tough opponent, but said he looks forward to the fighting him for one reason if no other.

"I really want to beat this guy," De La Hoya said. "I've never had an animosity toward anybody. This guy, I really do, I really have some animosity towards him because he represents the bad side of boxing."

De La Hoya pointed out that Vargas is managed by Shelly Finkel, who also manages Mike Tyson.

"They're bad people for the sport," De La Hoya said. "Take the press conference we had in Los Angeles. We had a staredown, this guy ends up wanting to start something and there's a big brawl. I'm caught in the middle of that, and that's a shame, that's not who I am. It's a bad rap for boxing."

Regarding Tyson, De La Hoya said: "Very negative for the sport. The general public is watching the bad things that happen to boxing, that's all they hear. Tyson did this, Tyson did that, Fernando Vargas pushed Oscar at a press conference. That creates a negative vibe for the sport.

"I get so passionate about it, it ticks me off. Here you have a lot of athletes who want to do good for the sport, and not only athletes, commissioners, too."

And that being the case, De La Hoya said he was most pleased the Nevada State Athletic Commission turned down Tyson's application for a license last month.

"You have so many people who try to do good for the sport, and then you have people like Vargas and Tyson," De La Hoya said. "They're on the same team, Vargas and Tyson, they're the same kind of guy in terms of boxing.

"Vargas is another Tyson."

The fight against Vargas, 22-1 with 20 knockouts, will be the first for De La Hoya since he beat Javier Castillejo in Las Vegas last June, and his first since he reconciled with promoter Bob Arum.