On paper this fight was potentially the toughest of De La Hoya's career. Gonzales was not a soft touch. He was a tough, undefeated, former IBF lightweight titlist with a sterling record of 41-0 31 KO's. He was also young, strong & highly motivated. Having never tasted defeat he still didn't know how to lose & that can never be underestimated. Having a Mexican fighter for an opponent is knowing you've got a tough sum' bitch in front of you - when was the last time you saw a Mexican fighter that wasn't ready to rumble?
Of course, all of the above is also applicable to De La Hoya. What was so intriguing about this fight was that Gonzales was not only one of the best fighters that Oscar has faced, he was also by far the largest & strongest.
The potential downside to all this hyperbole is that Miguel Angel's comp has not been on par with Oscar's. The last fight that the Ol' Spit Bucket saw Gonzales in action was against Lamar Murphy. Miguel Angel was blessed with one of the worst decisions of the 90's after a pathetic display against the unfortunate Murphy. Gonzales' excuse of weakness at 135 is sorta specious to the Bucket ... Does rising 5 lb.s to jr. welter really make that much of a difference? It seems to me that a guy as big as Gonzales would be more efficient at welter ...
The fight was actually better than I expected given Gonzales' past performances. Oscar came roaring outta the gate, "Bee-u-tiful!", as Lou Duva would bellow. Snapping one of the most powerful jabs the Bucket has ever witnessed., De La Hoya turned the first round into a clinic on the art of jabbing. These weren't range finders, they were power jabs that stopped Miguel Angel dead in his tracks, jolting his head backwards on several occasions. You usually don't see that kind of effect from jabs until the latter rounds.
The lethargy evident in Miguel Angel's performance lulled Oscar into potentially dangerous overconfidence in the 2nd round. With both hands at waist level De La Hoya continued to confuse & taunt his opponent. Midway thru the round Gonzales, a notoriously slow starter, started to come to life & offer Oscar a modicum of potential menace.
By the 4th round it was a fight & while De La Hoya won 9 out of 12 rounds on the Bucket's scorecard, Many of them were hard earned indeed. Gonzales' size & power kept the fight interesting & made the match rank with the John-John Molina fight as the toughest of Oscar's career.
During the 7th round Oscar's energy flagged & Miguel Angel was able to put the pedal to the metal & put some significant hurt on De La Hoya. This is not to suggest that Oscar was ever in any real danger of going down, but rather that Gonzales while never taking over the fight, put some serious leather on the Golden Boy on quite a few occasions. Oscar showed heart & grit in grinding out a convincing unanimous decision over a tough opponent who came to fight as was evidenced by the nasty, practically closed left eye that De La Hoya proudly sported almost as a badge of honor after the fight. As a matter of fact that was the first blemish that has ever marred Oscar's "pretty boy" good looks & was the diploma he had earned to finally open the door to the school of hard knocks ...
So what does all this mean in the big picture? Gonzales goes back to the drawing board, but the Ol' Spit Bucket will not be surprised when Miguel Angel annexes a piece of jr. welterweight championship pie down the road a piece ... Oscar's horizon's are limitless: His fight with Whitaker is signed, sealed & delivered & the Bucket can't imagine De La Hoya not being able to overcome the now faded Sweet Pea. From that point on the Golden Boy's future is truly the yellow brick (24k) road ... There are at least a half a dozen potential matches that could not only make Oscar incredibly wealthy & be a stepping stone to real mass market appeal, but will also make meaningful boxing history.
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