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Q&A: Oscar De La Hoya still loves Las Vegas, wants more megafights

Updated October 6, 2023 - 6:29 pm

Six-division boxing champion Oscar De La Hoya seemed more outwardly excited Friday afternoon than some of the fighters he’s promoting Saturday at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, clenching his fists and grinning with delight while they stepped on the scale to check their weight.

Still fit at 50, the Golden Boy Promotions founder, chairman and CEO is expecting a firefight Saturday, when former champions Gilberto Ramirez (44-1, 30 knockouts) and Joe Smith Jr. (28-4, 22 KOs) make their cruiserweight debuts after losses in their last fights as light heavyweights.

“It’s do or die,” De La Hoya said of the matchup, which doubles as a WBA title eliminator. “Literally do or die for both guys, and they know it.”

After weigh-ins, De La Hoya spoke with the Review-Journal about Golden Boy’s return to Las Vegas, working with other promoters and what he envisions for his company moving forward.

Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.

RJ: You’ve obviously had a lot of great memories in Las Vegas. Is there one or two that jump out?

De La Hoya: Every single fight. (But) the best experience I had here was right after the Olympic Games. Everybody is calling me. Don King. Bob Arum. So I get a call — my father was taking calls at the time — and my father tells me there’s this gentleman who says he’s building a hotel in in Las Vegas, Kirk. So long story short, Kirk Kerkorian is flying me over Las Vegas. You can imagine there’s no hotel. There’s nothing there. He goes, “Son, you see that X in the desert there? That’s where I’m building the MGM, and you’re going to fight there.” And sure enough, I fought (12) times there. That was the best experience.

RJ: Seeing you today, still seems like you’re as enthusiastic about promoting here as you were about fighting, yeah?

DLH: I get really excited because this is literally where dreams come true for kids. For fighters. This is where it started for me. For the young kids I’m promoting now, this is where it can start for them.

RJ: You issued a call on social media recently for promoters and networks to work together. You were part of an event this year — Gervonta Davis vs. Ryan Garcia — in which that happened. What are the challenges that come with that? And the benefits?

DLH: It’s all ego. That’s all it is. It’s all ego. When you make big fights happen, everybody wins. The sport wins. The promoters win. The fighters win. Especially the fighters, because they make a lion’s share of the pie. But boxing wins, and I’ve always said there’s nothing like it when big-time boxing happens. When fighters who are the best face each other, there’s nothing like it. The atmosphere. The energy. There’s nothing like it. So calling all promoters, man. All promoters. I’m leaving my ego at the door. Let’s just make these big fights happen.

RJ: You met with Top Rank chairman Bob Arum while you were here this week. How’d that go?

DLH: He gets it. He’s a veteran. It was great. We’re potentially working on something super for February.

RJ: Super Bowl weekend?

DLH: Oh yeah, so we’ll see what’s going to happen. But he wants to do it, and I want to do it. It’s just a matter of crossing the t’s and dotting the i’s.

RJ: You just announced a fight for Ryan (Garcia) as well in December against a tough puncher in Oscar Duarte. What are the next steps for the young superstar as he continues his career?

DLH: After a knockout loss to Tank Davis, which he shouldn’t be ashamed of it. He was in the game. He was trying. Got caught with a body shot. We all have. I have with Bernard Hopkins. But coming back with Oscar Duarte, who’s a knockout artist, 11-fight knockout streak, it’s incredible. He’s a hard puncher and a dangerous fight. If he gets past that, Ryan, then we move on to a super fight. And those are my talks with Bob.

RJ: How do you roll momentum into 2024?

DLH: I’m telling all my fighters now, “I’m matching you tough,” because 2024 is the year. I have fighters who are ready for world titles. I have fighters who are in contention. I have the young coming up, so we’re all covered in that area. But it’s time to shine, man. It’s time to shine. And I want to bring big-time boxing back to Las Vegas. My focus is to bring these types of fights to the Cosmo, MGM, Mandalay Bay. And then the big-time boxing at T-Mobile and Allegiant Stadium.

RJ: The stadium, yeah? You want to break that in?

DLH: Oh yeah. We want to break in the Sphere, and Allegiant Stadium.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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