De La Hoya proves he's real thing Flashes skills and smarts in destruction of Chavez

June 09, 1996|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- In the week leading up to his super-lightweight title fight with champion Julio Cesar Chavez of Mexico, Oscar De La Hoya served as a willing interpreter for both the Latin and American media in attendance.

But there was no need for an interpreter to explain what De La Hoya did to Chavez in the outdoor ring at Caesars Palace on Friday night. In a word: mayhem.

The 23-year-old boxing prodigy from the east Los Angeles barrio reduced the legendary Chavez to the role of a foil before the mismatch was stopped at 2: 37 of the fourth round.

By that time, Chavez, a month shy of 34, resembled a gored bull, his face bathed in blood from a cut eye and a bleeding nose. Ring physician Flip Homansky ordered referee Joe Cortez to end it.

Less than 90 seconds into the match, blood was spouting from Chavez's eyebrow, the result of two sharp jabs by the challenger, who expertly used his height and reach advantage.

A five-time world champion who had lost only once in his previous 99 fights, Chavez was incapable of changing the momentum. He could neither box nor slug with the resourceful De La Hoya, who has claimed titles in three weight classes -- 130, 135 and 140 -- in only 22 professional bouts.

De La Hoya proved to the sellout crowd of 15,283 he was the complete package, boasting speed, power and accuracy and a killer's instinct to finish the job.

He also gained the begrudging respect of the thousands of Mexican supporters who had crossed the border and wagered as much as $250,000 on their hero from the town of Culiacan.

Only Chavez refused to acknowledge he had been whipped.

He previously blamed pre-fight injuries for his charitable draw with Pernell Whitaker in 1993 and his title loss the following year to Frankie Randall.

Now seeking a rematch with De La Hoya, Chavez said a sparring partner had "nicked" his left eye in training five days before the fight. Guaranteed $9 million, he said he did not want to ruin Bob Arum's promotion.

"He promised there would be no excuses if he lost," said De La Hoya. "He is my idol and a great warrior. But for him to demean me is disappointing. If I didn't beat him, why am I wearing the championship belt? I think I deserve some credit. He'd never been stopped before."

Renowned trainer Angelo Dundee predicted De La Hoya would lose because he suddenly had enlisted an entourage complete with dual trainers, a strength coach and a nutritionist. "He's got too many distractions," Dundee said.

But, if anything, the additions have only helped polish De La Hoya's talents. He was quick to credit "my new team," specifically Jesus Rivero, the 63-year-old trainer he affectionately calls "The Professor."

"It's like the 'Karate Kid,' " said De La Hoya. "He's the teacher and I'm the student. Every time he talks, I learn something new about boxing. Most of all, I learned I still had a long way to go to being a great fighter."

In preparing for this fight, Rivero had his student watch films of boxing masters such as Willie Pep, Ray Robinson and Jose Napoles.

"He would point out little tricks these fighters did that made them so good, and I'd try to incorporate them into my style," said De La Hoya. "There is no friction with [co-trainer] Robert Alcazar. We needed Rivero to take me to the next level. I want to be remembered like a Willie Pep, a great boxer who made winning look easy."

De La Hoya consistently out-jabbed Chavez and landed 44 of his 83 power punches, the last a short left hook that sent the champion's nose gushing.

De La Hoya, who has acting ambitions, promises to keep fighting for at least several more years. He pocketed $8.9 million for Friday's brief encounter.

Next in line will likely be a 140-pound title defense in September against unbeaten Miguel Gonzalez, the former lightweight king. By the spring of 1997, he will embark on a more ambitious plan, challenging welterweight champion Whitaker, the match being negotiated.

Pub Date: 6/09/96

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