De La Hoya Starts Career Earning $25,000 Per Round


Oscar De La Hoya turns pro tonight.

From age 6 to 19, he boxed for ribbons, trophies and an Olympic gold medal.

Tonight, in a six-round bout at the Forum, he hopes to launch a pro career that will carry him to multimillion-dollar purses in a few years.

De La Hoya’s opponent tonight is Lamar Williams of Erie, Pa. He’s described as a tough, stand-up boxer with a 6-2 record who has never been knocked down.


De La Hoya’s purse tonight--for his first pro fight, mind you--is about $150,000, the exact amount being keyed to ticket sales.

Perspective: Joe Louis got $59 for his pro debut, in 1934. Louis didn’t make $50,000 until he was 20-0. And when he won the heavyweight championship, in 1937, his purse was $103,000.

A more recent comparison, one De La Hoya would do well to emulate, is that of Sugar Ray Leonard. One of five U.S. gold medalists at Montreal in 1976, Leonard got $40,000 for his pro debut later that year.

Leonard went on to amass a fortune, more than $100 million in gross earnings from boxing--easily the richest career in history.

There is no guarantee, of course, that De La Hoya will have anything like that kind of career. Some elements do seem to be in place, however.

He’s a tall (5 feet 10), lean (132-133 pounds) lightweight with a powerful left hook and uppercut and a busy, strong left jab. De La Hoya boxes right-handed, but is a converted left-hander.

In the Olympic Games last summer, he was the only American boxing gold medalist.

He’s a documented hard-hitter who in training has to pull his punches to keep sparring partners.

He’s terrific with a microphone at press conferences, has movie star looks and works very hard in training.

There aren’t any visible negatives, which explains why he will become the richest rookie boxer in history.

Through his gold medal ceremony in Barcelona, De La Hoya was believed to be a lock to sign with the Shelly Finkel/Dan Duva group.

Finkel signed most of the gold medalists from the 1984 Olympics. Evander Holyfield, Pernell Whitaker and Meldrick Taylor went on to world championships, with Duva promoting their fights.

Finkel, based in New York, began squiring De La Hoya in 1990, when he first saw him at the Seattle Goodwill Games. Finkel sponsored De La Hoya’s last two years in amateur boxing.

He also promised De La Hoya a $200,000 purse for his first pro fight if he won a gold medal.

But a month after the Olympics, De La Hoya and his father, Joel, stunned the boxing community by signing with the relatively unknown team of Steve Nelson, a New York mortgage banker, and Bob Mittleman, onetime manager of heavyweight Bonecrusher Smith.

Nelson and Mittleman offered the De La Hoyas a package that ran up and over $1 million--far more than Finkel was offering. Included in the deal was a new house in Montebello, cars and roughly $500,000 in cash.

Since signing, the De La Hoyas signed a multiple-fight deal with Las Vegas promoter Bob Arum, who will use De La Hoya on a pay-per-view show in Phoenix Dec. 12 and on an ESPN show in Mexicali Jan. 3.

The master plan is that the Garfield High graduate will be ready for a world championship match within 18 months to two years. Or earlier.

The regulars at Brooklyn Gym in Boyle Heights, where De La Hoya has worked out the past two years, can tell you he already has out-boxed at least one world champion--Genaro Hernandez of Los Angeles.

Last May, when De La Hoya was training for the U.S. Olympic trials and Hernandez was beginning training for a defense in Japan of his WBA junior-lightweight championship, they sparred six rounds one afternoon.

De La Hoya won every round, witnesses agreed.

De La Hoya is trained by Robert Alcazar of El Monte, who coached him when he was a Pee Wee boxer, a decade ago.

Alcazar promises spectators will see far more firepower out of De La Hoya than in his amateur years.

“In the amateurs, the idea was to throw as many punches as possible,” Alcazar said. “In the pros, he can settle down on his heels and really unload. You know those stainless steel swivels that hold the speed bags to the overhead platform? Oscar’s broken those twice.

“The hardest thing about training him now is keeping sparring partners around.”

Alcazar said he had to de-program De La Hoya’s amateur instincts.

“I had to get him thinking in terms of ‘no wasted punches,’ ” Alcazar said.

“From now on, we want him doing damage with every punch, not trying to make some judge happy. I want him at a slower, steady pace and with his weight over his feet at all times.”

De La Hoya talked about one memorable punch from the Olympic Games, the short left hook that knocked down German Marco Rudolph in the lightweight gold medal bout.

De La Hoya went on to win a decision over Rudolph.

“That really wasn’t much of a punch,” De La Hoya said recently. “It was just a punch to be throwing a punch. In the pros, when I throw that punch, it’ll have a lot more force on it.

“In the pros, my jab will be the key. I’ll cut ‘em up with the jab, then take ‘em out with either hand.”

At his Big Bear Lake training camp, De La Hoya recently sat quietly on the ring apron while Alcazar taped his hands.

“There’s another thing I’m going to like about the pros,” De La Hoya said.

“It’s the gloves. In the amateurs, I had to wear 10-ounce gloves. But now, with eight-ounce gloves, my fists feel like loaded guns.”