|. . . THE CBZ JOURNAL||
Table of Contents
By Jason Keidel
To sing, or not to sing, that is the question.
This is not a choice crippling most of us the way it is Oscar De La Hoya. The boxer-turned-singer is now once again fighting. De La Hoya is scheduled to fight Arturo Gatti in Las Vegas on March 24th. This signals the end of De La Hoya's hiatus from boxing since his loss to Shane Mosley last year.
During his vacation from the ring, Oscar turned to singing as a means of "branching out," ostensibly because he was tired of boxing. When you've made as much money as he has over the last five years, you can afford to dabble in side careers. In the old days, fighters actually had to fight to earn a living. De La Hoya is set for life, and has been for quite some time. He's now a fat cat living the high life. It has shown in is fighting, as well. During losses to Felix Trinidad and Mosley, he's played it safe, like someone who doesn't want to get too dirty. Perhaps Trinidad and Mosley are simply better than him. But there was something about those two fights that left many of us wanting.
De La Hoya is the quintessential self-promoter. He typifies the mass-marketing frenzy that has engulfed the modern athlete. Pay a visit to his website, and you'll see scrolling ensembles of footage of Oscar, either as an Olympian or professional. You can find pages and pages promoting his records, his company (Golden Boy Management), and his fights. He also has a charitable foundation, but you get the pessimistic feeling he started it to add to his appeal.
While he certainly has the right to do anything he wants, everything De La Hoya does seems to be contrived and disingenuous. Even that smile he puts on whenever in public seems to have been practiced ten thousand times. Have you ever heard him swear? He tries so hard to be marketable, he begins to resemble a mannequin inside a store window, perfectly modeling this year's newest and hottest fashion. While it's somewhat refreshing to see a boxer who's interested in things besides prison and rap music, De La Hoya goes overboard.
The problem with all of this is it conflicts with his so-called desire to be the best fighter in the world. Boxing is not a part-time hobby you can pick up and drop at any time. De La Hoya is always in good shape when he fights, and he always comes to brawl (save for the last three rounds against Trinidad). But he's clearly distracted, if not disinterested. Maybe too much was expected of him. After all, he's movie star handsome, he's articulate, and he stays out of trouble. Perhaps those qualities, plus his adept marketing, led people to expect more out of him in the ring than is reasonable.
Oscar De La Hoya has been criticized by people from his old neighborhood for being a sellout, for not staying where his roots are. They charge that he spends too much time in the suburbs, living the lifestyle of the rich and famous. De La Hoya should actually be commended for his hard work and dedication to get where he is today. Almost everyone born and raised in poverty dreams of making a better life for himself. It's part of the American dream. Oscar should be praised, not criticized, for making it.
But in most sports - and particularly in boxing - we want our champions to be real. Boxing reveals more of the athlete to us than in other sports. There are no uniforms, no teammates, and no place to hide. Their actions in the ring cannot be obscured. We've seen character and characters in the ring, but boxing's saving grace is that it's real, so real. Maybe Oscar De La Hoya will understand that someday. Or maybe he'll sing a song about it.