For the better part of 17 years, Oscar De La Hoya fought virtually anyone, anywhere without hesitation, appearing at every iconic boxing venue in Las Vegas and Atlantic City as well as arenas such as Staples Center, the Alamodome and Madison Square Garden.
Although the 10-time world title holder over six weight classes never headlined in the District, De La Hoya has a deep appreciation for the city’s long and distinguished tradition of champions, including, among others, Sugar Ray Leonard, Riddick Bowe and Mark “Too Sharp” Johnson.
He’s also plenty familiar with current International Boxing Federation light welterweight champion Lamont Peterson, who lives and trains in the nation’s capital and has fought under Golden Boy Promotions, which De La Hoya founded in 2002. De La Hoya recently assumed control of the company’s day-to-day operations and in an interview Thursday at The Washington Post expressed optimism about bringing another high-profile card to the city.
“I’m really excited to the possibilities of coming back,” he said. “We’ve had some great shows here with Bernard Hopkins and with Peterson, with Amir Khan. We’re looking forward to staging a big-time boxing event at the Verizon Center. Who knows, maybe Peterson-Amir Khan or Danny Garcia. I think those are the types of fights the public, the D.C. fight fan, wants to see.”
The first and only fight to have taken place at Verizon Center — then MCI Center — was in 2005, when Mike Tyson lost to Kevin McBride after not answering the bell for the seventh round. In 1993, RFK Stadium hosted one of District’s most memorable cards with Bowe beating Jesse Ferguson to retain the World Boxing Association heavyweight championship of the world.
The most recent fight of note in the area featured Hopkins dispatching Beibut Shumenov via a 12-round split decision in April at the D.C. Armory. At 49, Hopkins is the oldest fighter to win a major world title. His career has included beating De La Hoya in 2004 to unify four belts at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Peterson, meanwhile, has fought extensively in the District, most notably in 2011 when he scored an upset of Khan to capture the WBA and IBF titles at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Peterson has fought at the D.C. Armory twice since then, winning both times, and his latest victory over Edgar Santana in August in Brooklyn has generated conversation about a unification bout against Garcia, who owns the WBA and World Boxing Council belts.
“In order to be the best, you have to fight the best,” De La Hoya said. “So slowly but surely, I’m not trying to convince, but I’m trying to instill in the fighter’s mentality that if you fight the best fights possible, then yes, the money will come. So don’t worry about the business. Worry about the legacy and the actual fight itself.”
De La Hoya (39-6, 30 knockouts) did exactly that during his days in the ring, facing the likes of Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Shane Mosley and in 1992 winning an Olympic gold medal in Barcelona. De La Hoya’s career ended in December 2008 against Pacquiao, who inflicted so much punishment that De La Hoya’s corner stopped the fight after the eighth round.
By the time he retired, De La Hoya, 41, had accounted for nearly $700 million in pay-per-view revenue. His fight against Mayweather in May 2007 generated $130 million, which at the time was the most lucrative amount in boxing history.
“My memories, whether they are wins or losses, they’re all great memories because I was able to fight the very best,” De La Hoya said. “I was able to fight Felix Trinidad. I was able to fight Sugar Shane Mosley twice and Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, and the list goes on and on, and with Pernell Whitaker, so I feel proud that I was able to garner the courage to try to make history and try to be the best.”