This Fight Has Gotten Personal : Boxing: De La Hoya and Hernandez will get to turn verbal blows into real ones tonight in Las Vegas.


Years of challenges, caustic accusations and increasingly personal gibes come to a head tonight when two edgy fighters finally enter the Caesars Palace ring.

Oscar De La Hoya and Genaro Hernandez, undefeated Los Angeles-born boxers, do not normally indulge in public exchanges. But they apparently bring out the worst in each other and have long been exchanging verbal low blows and body shots.

“What did I ever do to him, anyway? Steal his girlfriend?” asked Hernandez, in response to De La Hoya’s recent admission that he hates Hernandez, the veteran junior-lightweight champion whose World Boxing Assn. title was stripped from him for taking this bout.


“To me, it’s his personal thing. I don’t care. If Oscar doesn’t like me, fine. He always was a little snob in the amateurs, anyway.”

From the day De La Hoya commanded the spotlight three years ago, as a gold-medal winning teen-ager, Latino boxing fans have pointed toward Hernandez (32-0-1, 16 knockouts), seven years older and craftier, as the fighter who might frustrate De La Hoya’s rise.

Tonight at about 8, as the desert air finally begins to cool, they will be fighting for De La Hoya’s World Boxing Organization lightweight title. But the real prizes--aside from De La Hoya’s $1-million guarantee and Hernandez’s $500,000--are credibility in the community and the possibility of future fortunes.

“This guy’s saying he never got respect and he got jealous because I came back from the Olympic games and received all the attention,” De La Hoya (18-0, 16 KOs) said. “It doesn’t really matter. I beat this guy and I move on. That’s it.

“I’ve never really felt this way about any opponent I’ve faced. With [Rafael] Ruelas, it wasn’t really too personal. This fighter here, even if we weren’t fighting, it’d be something personal.”

De La Hoya knocked out the charging Ruelas in the second round May 6.

The 5-foot-11 Hernandez is slightly taller than De La Hoya and fighting in the lightweight division for the first time. He is expected to stay away from De La Hoya’s sudden power punches by using his long left jab and by using the ring ropes to find angles to De La Hoya’s body and chin.


But those behind De La Hoya, who sparred with Hernandez before his Olympic run in 1992, says that Hernandez’s experience is no match for De La Hoya’s speed and power.

“[Hernandez] might try a different game plan, but when he finds out he doesn’t have the talent to execute that game plan, he’ll have to do the same thing he knows, to lay on the ropes,” said De La Hoya’s lead trainer, Robert Alcazar. “As soon as he lays on the ropes, he’s going to get his butt knocked out.”

Here today, gone Genaro?

“He’s just an ordinary fighter,” De La Hoya said. “This guy’s no dummy. He’s going to try to box me and use his left jab. But the training that I’ve been doing is going to be too much for him to handle. I know that for a fact.”

Hernandez, however, suspects that De La Hoya’s obvious anger toward him will draw the 22-year-old millionaire into careless mistakes. In his 11-year career, Hernandez has never been knocked down, despite having fought several times with broken hands.

Several fights ago, before he moved up to the lightweight division, De La Hoya suffered two first-round knockdowns--which he quickly turned into knockout victories--against lackluster opponents who landed quick shots to his chin.

“He’s going to try to hurt me, and one thing’s for sure, he’s going to lose his head coming after me,” Hernandez said. “And I hope he does.


“I have the advantage of being able to fight both inside and outside. I have a lot more body movement than Ruelas does. I respect Rafael, but they just had a wrong plan. They went toward Oscar and Oscar just caught him.

“I think I have better defense than Rafael does. Oscar’s saying he has four different styles of fighting, and I only have one. Well, he’s going to have to choose one of those and he’s going to have to try to hit me.

“He’s quick, he’s strong because he’s young, but is he smart enough for me?”

Still, Hernandez concedes that the odds are not with him. Most of the opponents he has beaten do not rival John John Molina and Ruelas, victims of De La Hoya, and Hernandez’s last fight was an eight-round technical knockout of Jorge Paez last March. De La Hoya took Paez apart in a little more than a round last year. Hernandez is a 4-1 betting underdog.

And, with De La Hoya’s promoter, Bob Arum, already planning a major fight with Julio Cesar Chavez next year, Hernandez knows that winning a decision will be difficult.

“I’m going to go in there like I always do, with good condition to go 12 rounds, and if I don’t get the decision and people see that I won, that’s all that counts for me,” Hernandez said. “It doesn’t matter if they raise my hand, as long as people know who the real winner was.”

Boxing Notes

Genaro Hernandez weighed in at 133 pounds Friday evening, and Oscar De La Hoya weighed in at the lightweight limit of 135. . . . The referee for tonight’s fight is Richard Steele, who also worked Oscar De La Hoya’s victory over Rafael Ruelas. . . . Other bouts on the pay-per-view card include a light-heavyweight matchup between James Toney (47-2-2, 32 knockouts) and Ernest Mateen (23-4-1, 9 KOs), which will follow the main event; and former featherweight champion Kevin Kelly (42-1-1, 30 KOs) against Clarence (Bones) Adams (31-3-2, 16 KOs).