Ten-time boxing world champion Oscar de la Hoya announced his retirement from the sport on Tuesday.
The 36-year-old Mexican-American’s last bout was back in December, when Filipino Manny Pacquiao stopped him in the eighth round.
De la Hoya looked a shadow of the boxer that had accrued 10 world titles in six different weight classes since he first announced his great talent by winning an Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.
“After reflecting a lot and speaking with my family and friends I came to the conclusion that I would bring to a halt my career as a boxer,” he said. “After the Pacquiao bout I realized that I no longer had either the reflexes nor the power to compete at this level, hence I took this decision.”
De la Hoya — known as “The Golden Boy” — had pretty much indicated just after he had been battered into submission by the much smaller Pacquiao that he was contemplating retirement.
“My heart still wants to fight, that’s for sure, but when your physical doesn’t respond, what can you do?” he said.
De la Hoya — who started his own boxing promotion company, Golden Boy Promotions, while he was still active in the ring — retires with a record of 39 victories 6 defeats with 30 knockouts.
He announced his decision at an outdoor plaza across the street from the Staples Center arena, where a statue of him stands.
Hundreds of fans turned out to hear the hugely popular East Los Angeles-born boxer bid farewell to the ring.
His fight against Floyd Mayweather in Las Vegas in May 2007, which Mayweather won by split decision, grossed US$120 million to become the richest fight in boxing history — surpassing the US$112 million from a 2002 showdown between Mike Tyson and Lennox Lewis. An expected rematch in September last year was scotched when Mayweather announced his retirement in June.
But De la Hoya’s loss to Pacquiao was his fourth in his last seven fights, and it has been years since he beat any really imposing opponent.
“This is the love of my life, boxing is my passion, boxing is what I was born to do,” he said. “When I can’t do it anymore, when I can’t compete at the highest level, it’s not fair. It’s not fair to me, it’s not fair to the fans, it’s not fair to nobody.”
De la Hoya said it had been an agonizing decision.
“Now I understand why athletes have such a tough time retiring from something that you feel so passionate about, from your sport that you’re always thinking you can try one more time,” he said.
De la Hoya kept his emotions on a tight rein, but his voice broke when he thanked his father, Joel, who sat on stage alongside De la Hoya’s wife, Millie.
“I remember the times when he would take me to the gym and never gave up on me,” De la Hoya said. “We’ve lived some tough moments inside the ring, we’ve been through everything, but my father was always there for me. Thank you for pushing me as hard as you can.”