Oscar De La Hoya hasn't fought for more than a year and, even then, he fought badly. It's possible our last memory of him in the ring, which he owned for more than a decade as the highest grossing non-heavyweight of his time, will be a fighter ingloriously on his knees, paralyzed from a shot to the liver from Bernard Hopkins.
No fighter wants that on his tombstone. Yet De La Hoya, beginning with that humiliating scene, has embarked on an afterlife that might mark him as the larger champion outside of boxing than he ever was in it. And that's saying something. No matter how he finished -- and he vaguely insists he's still got two more fights in him -- there is no discounting his career, during which he won titles in five weight classes (this after a gold medal in the 1992 Olympics), dominated the pay-per-view market (his earnings have been estimated at $38 million) and just generally kept boxing alive in the post-Mike Tyson years. It turns out, that career could be mere ringwalk to his biggest fights yet.
This past year De La Hoya has not only ramped up his boxing promotion company, Golden Boy, but has also dipped his toe into a number of business ventures meant to capitalize on the growing buying power of the Hispanic market, 44 million strong, each of whom can recognize Oscar's smiling mug. Golden Boy, by the way, is ambitious enough, taking advantage of an increasingly Latino sport. After two tough years (during which he finally wised up and hired Hopkins, rather than reschedule him) the enterprise is finally making a profit with a lineup of 50 shows a year on a number of different networks, producing revenues of more than $50 million.
It's the other ventures that are eye-opening, both in scope and variety. Along with Richard Schaeffer, the CEO of his companies, De La Hoya is making forays into banking, print media, food and beverage industry, and real estate. The idea is to capture some of that $500 billion worth of Hispanic buying power, which happens to be growing at three times the rate of non-Hispanic.
De La Hoya recently began a partnership with a Los Angeles developer to plow back $100 million into housing and commercial properties in Latino neighborhoods. This is doing Magic Johnson, who has helped develop black neighborhoods in Los Angeles, one better. "This is my money," says De La Hoya, who is backing many of his projects with his own money (De La Hoya's estimated worth is $150 million).
If any of these work -- and success favors a Hispanic role model who has spent his career cultivating name recognition with a nice left hook -- it's likely we'll have reason to remember De La Hoya for reasons other than his failure to move up and challenge for a middleweight title. It might be easier to picture him, arms akimbo, astride the mighty Hispanic marketplace, than on his knees ever again.
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