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Dropping the gloves: De La Hoya done fighting

By Beth Harris
Associated Press / April 15, 2009
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LOS ANGELES - Oscar De La Hoya stopped battling himself yesterday, deciding after much internal turmoil to retire and end a career in which he won 10 world titles in six divisions and became boxing's most popular fighter.

He made his announcement at an outdoor plaza across the street from Staples Center, where a 7-foot bronze statue of the 36-year-old Golden Boy stands.

"I've come to the conclusion that it's over," the East Los Angeles native said before hundreds of fans, including comedian George Lopez and Oscar-nominated actor and former fighter Mickey Rourke. "It's over inside the ring for me."

De La Hoya retired four months after he was thoroughly beaten by Manny Pacquiao, his fourth loss in his last seven fights.

He has not defeated a formidable opponent since Fernando Vargas in 2002. Age and diminished skills led to losses in recent years to Felix Trinidad, Shane Mosley, Bernard Hopkins, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.

He won his last title in May 2006, beating Ricardo Mayorga in six rounds for the WBC 154-pound belt. He finished with a record of 39-6 and 30 knockouts.

"This is the love of my life, boxing is my passion, boxing is what I was born to do," De La Hoya 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 transcended his sport, generating crossover appeal among Latinos and whites. He was especially popular among women, who filled his news conferences and fights while screaming their approval of the boxer blessed with a magnetic smile and movie-star looks.

Unlike many fighters, De La Hoya walks away with his mind and his face intact. But he wavered often in making a final decision, and he credited his wife Millie Corretjer and business partner Richard Schaefer in helping him "realize what life is all about."

"Even this morning, I said, 'Are you sure?' and he said, 'Yes, I am ready,' " said Corretjer, a Puerto Rican singer. "I knew after that fight in December, but it took him four more months to make his decision."

De La Hoya said he didn't want to let down his fans or himself.

"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 began boxing at age 5, following in the path of his grandfather and father. He won an Olympic gold medal at the 1992 Barcelona Games, delivering on a promise to his late mother, Cecilia, who died of breast cancer two years earlier. It was the performance that launched his pro career after he was 223-5 with 163 knockouts during his amateur days.

"Many of us remember watching him during the Olympics, feeling the pride and seeing one of our sons accomplish everything he did," Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa said. "This wasn't a young man that was born with a silver spoon. He struggled and fought for everything he had. This entire city is proud of what you've done."