'Macho' De La Hoya may be a big hit south of border Victory over Chavez shows brawling ability

September 20, 1998|By Alan Goldstein | Alan Goldstein,SUN STAFF

LAS VEGAS -- The "Golden Boy" turned "Macho Man," an Oscar De La Hoya left the Thomas & Mack Arena late Friday night with the most satisfying victory of his meteoric ring career.

Derided by some Mexican fans for preferring stylish boxing over brawling, the World Boxing Council welterweight champion proved he could slug with the best by forcing Julio Cesar Chavez to quit on his stool after eight electrifying rounds.

Watching their once-invincible fighter spitting blood from a deep cut inside his mouth, Chavez's cornermen tossed in the towel. Chavez insisted he did not choose to surrender, but it seemed apparent the three-time former champion decided he had fought long and hard enough.

After failing to get an admission of defeat in their first title bout two years ago, De La Hoya had vowed to give Chavez no room for alibi in the return match.

As things developed, Chavez, a 7-1 underdog and considered at 36 on the far side of the hill, proved much more stubborn than non-partisans anticipated.

De La Hoya was winning on all three judges' cards, two by a 78-75 margin and the third by 79-73, but Chavez, in excellent fighting shape, was competitive in every round. In fact, early in the eighth round, an arm-weary De La Hoya seemed in danger of letting the fight slip away.

In the post-fight news conference, Chavez finally admitted De La Hoya's superiority.

"I told Oscar before the fight that if he won, I would give him my respect," he said. "Now he has it. What was said between us in the past is forgotten. We shook hands like good friends. He's a great fighter."

De La Hoya was far less gracious.

Noting Chavez's sit-down surrender, he said, "That's the worst thing that can happen to a fighter. Winners never quit, and quitters never win. I've got more satisfaction from seeing him quit than if I'd knocked him out."

De La Hoya, from the east Los Angeles barrio, had been considered too much of an Anglophile for Latin boxing tastes.

But by successfully matching Chavez's aggressive style, he may finally have won backing from both sides of the border.

And that just might have been his intention as he ignored the advice of his brother, Roberto, and veteran trainer Gil Clancy to ,, simply use his superior boxing skills.

"I got caught up in all the excitement," he said. "I wanted to put on a show, so I fought his fight. I know I could have stayed on my toes and outboxed him, but I knew the fans wanted to see a good fight."

Even though De La Hoya put the Chavez question to rest, his critics still say that he and promoter Bob Arum have made an art of avoiding the biggest challenges in the welterweight division.

Aside from a controversial victory over Pernell Whitaker last year, he has had few hard fights.

But De La Hoya says that will change dramatically.

"There was a time when I wasn't really involved in picking my opponents," he said. "But now I'm totally involved. I told Bob Arum I want to fight all the tough guys and prove I'm a great champion."

Pub Date: 9/20/98

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