Originally created 09/13/03

De La Hoya risks titles, possible retirement



LAS VEGAS -- Oscar De La Hoya was sitting in his 29th-floor suite overlooking the Las Vegas Strip, cuddling his Yorkshire terrier on his lap.

"Kind of a wussy dog," someone said.

"Just like her owner," De La Hoya replied, laughing.

There was a time when some boxing fans might have agreed, particularly after De La Hoya danced around the last three rounds to give away a fight to Felix Trinidad four years ago.

To many, he was perceived as a pretty boy, someone more concerned with keeping his facial features intact than in punishing opponents.

Not any more. When De La Hoya fights a rematch Saturday night with Shane Mosley he'll enter the ring with a nastiness that never was part of the Golden Boy formula before.

It came out in a savage knockout of Fernando Vargas last year, possibly the biggest win of his career. Now De La Hoya vows Saturday's fight will be quite different from his loss to Mosley at 147 pounds three years ago.

"If he thinks he's going to face the same fighter, he's got another thing coming," De La Hoya said. "I'm very, very motivated for this fight."

De La Hoya, 30, risks his WBC and WBA 154-pound titles in a fight that quickly sold out the MGM Grand hotel arena and shapes up as the biggest bout of the year. But there's a lot more at stake for De La Hoya than gaudy plastic belts.

If he wins, he'll settle a score that still irritates him, bank $20 million or so, and look for bigger and better things, possibly against middleweight champion Bernard Hopkins.

If he loses, though, De La Hoya says his remarkable career will be over.

"I've trained so hard for this fight, like never before," De La Hoya said. "If I lost the way I am now, what's the motivation? Why am I in the sport? Yes, I will retire if I lose."

Oddsmakers don't figure that will happen, making De La Hoya a 2-1 pick. The scheduled 12-round bout, offered on pay-per-view at $50 a household, is expected to begin about 11:30 p.m. EDT.

Both fighters weighed in Friday at the class limit of 154 pounds.

"This is going to be a very competitive fight," De La Hoya said. "I'm expecting the toughest fight of my career."

That's exactly what Mosley gave him the first time, using his speed to frustrate De La Hoya and then outslugging him in the late rounds to win a split decision.

Mosley sees much the same thing happening again, while conceding that De La Hoya is bigger and throws punches with more intent these days.

"I can read his power shots, and I know when he's going to throw his right hand," Mosley said. "His whole thing is for me to come to him so he can throw his combinations like he did with Vargas and (Yory Boy) Campas. I'm not a flat-footed fighter, and I'm not going to do that."

A lot has changed since Mosley upset De La Hoya. Mosley lost two fights to Vernon Forrest and was unconvincing in his 154-pound debut in February against Raul Marquez, a fight ruled a no-contest after two rounds because Marquez was bleeding badly from head butts.

De La Hoya, meanwhile, came back to win the 154-pound title, then stopped Vargas a year ago in a thrilling slugfest.

"That kind of elevated me to another level," De La Hoya said.

De La Hoya (36-2, 29 knockouts) says he also devised a way to negate Mosley's speed.

"I know now how to neutralize speed, which I didn't in the first bout," he said. "The way you do it is knowing how to throw your punches at the right time. He keeps on saying he's faster than me and I can't handle it, but you'll see that I can this time."

There's little doubt who the star attraction is. De La Hoya is guaranteed $17 million to Mosley's $4.5 million, and the fight could bring the total revenues from his fights to the half billion dollar mark.

"I've made a lot of people rich, including myself," De La Hoya said.

Unlike many fighters, De La Hoya has kept much of that money. He has an astute financial adviser, a fledgling boxing promotion company and is finally happy at home with his marriage two years ago to Puerto Rican singer Millie Corretjer.

He doesn't need to fight anymore, but fighting is what he does.

"I love the big stage. I love the attention," De La Hoya said. "It's part of who I am."

Mosley (38-2, 35 knockouts) also seems comfortable with the attention, though he would like a little more. He threatened not to sign for the fight because he was getting less than for the first fight, prompting De La Hoya to agree to give Mosley $500,000 if Mosley wins.

"It doesn't bother me to see Oscar making the money. It bothers me that I don't make the money I should make," said Mosley, who turned 32 last week. "I deserve more. It's a respect thing."

If the fight didn't have enough story lines to go around, a couple of subplots surfaced in the weeks leading up to the bout. One involved De La Hoya reinjuring his already fragile left hand while training, an injury he said has healed and won't affect his performance.

The other is a complaint by Mosley's camp that De La Hoya's protective cup protects too much, riding high on his hips and taking away Mosley's chance to land body shots. Nevada boxing officials say they will leave it to referee Joe Cortez to decide if the cup is legal at fight time.

"Their nerves are kicking in," De La Hoya said. "It's such a big fight, such a big event. You look for any little thing to pick on. My cup doesn't protect me any more or any less than any others."