LGBT boxing fans (myself included) will miss the charismatic presence of boxing great Oscar De La Hoya, who announced his retirement from the ring on Tuesday. At age 36, the Golden Boy had to confess, "I don't have it any more." His most recent fight left him on the receiving end of a resounding TKO, preceded by losses in three out of six bouts. "Every athlete likes to think that he has one more inside him," he told the press. "It's time for me to let go."
De La Hoya's distinguished career started at age 6, and ranged from an Olympic gold medal (Barcelona, 1992) to 10 world championships in six divisions, from featherweight to middleweight and welterweight. Not to mention rock-star popularity, and the biggest earnings in the history of boxing. He also launched his own boxing-promotion firm, Golden Boy Promotions. In a sport that often made headlines for its seamy side, and for trash-talking and criminal behaviour by a few leading figures, De La Hoya stood out for his dignity and class. He did charity work on the side, and was always there to support other Latino boxers.
Last but not least, the good-looking pugilist always expressed open appreciation for his LGBT fans. In 2007 there was a short but splashy scandal about some photographs that supposedly showed De La Hoya in crossdress; the pics were later declared to be photoshop fakes.
In an ESPN interview the other day, boxing historian Bert Sugar credited De La Hoya's conduct of his career for giving the middle division its ongoing vitality, compared to what he politely termed the "disrepair" and growing lack of public interest in the heavyweight division. Golden Boy Promotions will continue its work with other, younger fighters, and Sugar also predicts that De La Hoya will eclipse the once-legendary-but-now-discredited Don King as leading boxing promoter.