Robert Alcazar knows there are hundreds who believe that they, not Alcazar, should be training Oscar De La Hoya.
How does he know? As he works with De La Hoya for his fight next Friday against Giorgio Campanella at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Alcazar hears their voices, reads their comments, fights off their attempts to cut into the De La Hoya action.
If De La Hoya has a bad day, Alcazar is blamed. If De La Hoya takes eight rounds instead of two to brush aside a journeyman, Alcazar hears about it. If De La Hoya hasn’t trampled the whole junior-lightweight and lightweight divisions at 21, Alcazar gets the heat.
Alcazar, a former boxer who joined De La Hoya after he worked at the same factory as De La Hoya’s father and had never trained a major fighter before, is not experienced enough to work with someone so talented, the would-be-trainers argue.
They point to his quiet style in the gym as proof that Alcazar was fine working with De La Hoya on the way to the 1992 Olympic Games, but is overmatched at the championship level.
They note De La Hoya’s occasionally awkward performance in knocking out Jimmi Bredahl in 10 rounds last March for the World Boxing Organization title and say Alcazar will guide De La Hoya into mediocrity, that he is no Emanuel Steward or Lou Duva or Eddie Futch.
Alcazar, proud of his pupil and of his work with him, acknowledges being frustrated by the constant criticism.
“Yeah, they’re going to point at me and they’re going to blame me,” Alcazar says. “But that’s my challenge, I know.
“People say he should have somebody with more experience. Well, I ask myself right now, where were they all before when we really needed some help? Where were they? Why didn’t they show up?
“Now that the cake is on the table, everybody wants a piece. That’s the truth.
“I don’t have the kind of experience like those types claim to have, but how many of them have won a gold medal together and then won a world title together? I don’t see them winning these titles. We worked for it, only him and myself.”
De La Hoya, for his part, says he enjoys working with Alcazar, who has been his main trainer since De La Hoya was about 15. And the 21-year-old fighter stood up for Alcazar when former managers Steve Nelson and Bob Mittleman added Carlos Ortiz to his corner against Alcazar’s wishes.
But De La Hoya adds that he probably will bring in someone with broader experience to assist Alcazar.
“He’s a good trainer,” De La Hoya says. “He suits my style and he adds on to my style. He doesn’t take away anything.
“When people say I have to bring in somebody else, it’s no problem. I probably will in the future. But it has to be somebody suitable for my style. Robert has no problem bringing somebody in and helping us out, somebody more experienced, maybe like an Alexis Arguello, somebody who has my style.”
Although the addition--and then firing--of Ortiz was instigated by Alcazar, and although it led to the subsequent firing of Nelson and Mittleman, Alcazar says he would welcome someone like Arguello in the future.
‘It doesn’t bother me at all,” Alcazar says. “What bothers me is when I know it’s not the right person. There are very few professionals out there. The majority, especially the ones who have a name already, those people want money. They don’t care about the fighter.
“They are just snakes in there to make money, to lie to the fighters. They have the ability to talk, to convince the fighter. That’s all it’s about.”
After the Bredahl bout, some in boxing criticized Alcazar’s game plan and questioned why De La Hoya hadn’t cut off Bredahl’s running with body shots.
Alcazar concedes some of those points. In preparation for the more aggressive Campanella, De La Hoya has been working to the body, Alcazar says, and for the first time has been using the heavy bag to sharpen his hooks to the ribs.
The trainer adds that De La Hoya has had only 12 bouts, is undefeated and hasn’t damaged his future a bit. And a huge future in the lightweight, junior-welterweight, welterweight and perhaps even middleweight divisions is still planned.
“I think they make a mistake--they try to compare him with the great ones already,” Alcazar says. “He’s what, 14 months a professional? Give us two or three years and we might see exactly where we’re going . . . and exactly what type of professional fighter we’re going to be.
"(Muhammad) Ali wasn’t perfect. (Mike) Tyson took hits. But we’re going to continue. The main thing, we want to see him progress between fights. We just need time.”
For now, Alcazar finds contentment in the quieter work he does with featherweight Robert Garcia and junior-lightweight Pepe Reilly, a 1992 Olympic teammate of De La Hoya’s who turned to Alcazar after a loss early in his professional career.
"(Having them) means a lot to me because I have the opportunity to prove myself,” Alcazar said. “I don’t have to prove anything to myself. These two new fighters, to have them working with me, I can have the opportunity to have two more world champions. And I’m going to prove that pretty soon.”
The day and a half that Ortiz worked with De La Hoya were clearly the most tension-filled moments of the Alcazar-De La Hoya relationship, with the clear possibility that Alcazar could be forced out.
But the experience, and the ensuing tumult when De La Hoya fired his managers, apparently convinced De La Hoya that Alcazar should continue to be his most trusted boxing adviser in a close group that also includes De La Hoya’s father, Joe, and his brother, Joe Jr.
Alcazar describes himself now as “more than a trainer, more than a manager, more than a father,” to De La Hoya, but only on fight issues. “We are professionals,” he says. “We work, we go home, and we do not party together. We respect each other.”
During the Ortiz experiment, at least tacitly approved by De La Hoya, Alcazar was temporarily on the outside.
“When Ortiz came in, I told him, ‘Oscar, look at this trainer’s face, that’s the kind of face you’re going to have in no longer than one year,’ ” Alcazar says, adding that Ortiz, known as a brawler in his fighting days, had a face thick with old wounds. “And the first day he worked under Ortiz’s orders, Oscar got the biggest beating of his life in the gym.
“After the workout, I asked Oscar, again, ‘Look at (Ortiz’s) face.’ And I said to Oscar, ‘Look at your face. You’re bleeding all over your face.’
“You know what he did? He picked up his gloves and threw them away and walked out of the gym. He picked up the phone and he decided to fire the trainer and the managers.
“I never should have let (Ortiz) walk into the gym to work with Oscar. Out of respect to our managers at that time, I decided to let him show us what he can do for us.
“That’s history now. There’s no more Carlos Ortiz, but who knows? There are a lot of snakes around who will try to make the money. Nobody knows what’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Monday--Arthur Johnson vs. Alberto Jimenez, flyweights; Montell Griffin vs. David Vedder, light-heavyweights; Forum, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday--Ben Lopez vs. Hector Monjardin, junior-lightweights; Irvine Marriott, 7:30 p.m.