The most gratifying score we saw from last weekend's college basketball action was this one: Iowa 101, Long Island University 69. Seventy-two hours earlier, on the night before Thanksgiving, the LIU Turkeys, er, Blackbirds, had defeated Medgar Evers College, a Division III school in Brooklyn, by the absurd score of 179-62, the largest margin of victory in NCAA history. There was no letup during the game from the Blackbirds, who pressed throughout and kept their leading scorer, guard Charles Jones, on the court for 30 of the 40 minutes. Nor were there any apologies.
On Saturday, LIU learned that, as T.S. Eliot wrote, "humility is endless." The Blackbirds also learned how effective their nonstop pressure style is against a Top 20 team. "We couldn't play our pressure defense because every time we got close, [the referees] would blow the whistle," Jones complained after the blowout in Iowa City. A frustrated Jones, who had scored a school-record 53 points against Medgar Evers, had 21 points against No. 14-ranked Iowa. Pipe down and take your lumps, Charles.
We'd like to report a nice bounce-back win for Medgar Evers, but, alas, the Cougars were routed 102-57 by the College of Staten Island last Saturday. The fact that Medgar Evers lost to a Division III team by 45 points makes LIU's 117-point victory all the more hollow.
Twenty-four-year-old WBC welterweight champion Oscar De La Hoya, known as the Golden Boy, could just as easily be called the Golden Goose. He's boxing's biggest draw outside the heavyweight division, and his every move is analyzed for its impact on the sport's balance of power. Thus, when De La Hoya's camp announced on Nov. 13 that trainer Emanuel Steward had been fired and that Robert Alcazar would take Steward's place—even as De La Hoya prepared to defend his title against Wilfredo Rivera on Saturday in Atlantic City—the rumor mill went to work.
The juiciest theory was that De La Hoya's promoter, Bob Arum, had ordered the dismissal because he suspected Steward of trying to recruit De La Hoya for rival promoter Don King. Steward, the hottest trainer in boxing these days and one respected throughout his career for his independence and integrity, angrily denied any dealings with King. "I've never stolen a fighter in my life," he says. "I've always told Oscar that he's blessed to be with Bob Arum, and to have Bob question my integrity truly hurts."
Publicly, Arum downplayed any concerns about King or about De La Hoya's loyalty and insisted that Steward, who also trains WBC heavyweight champ Lennox Lewis, had been let go because he'd been spreading himself too thin. Steward, who had worked with De La Hoya for only two fights, took issue with that assessment as well, pointing out that he recently moved his gym—and Lewis's training camp—to Big Bear, Calif., so he could be with De La Hoya full time.
It turns out that the firing had more to do with internal intrigue than with external meddling. Steward suspected that his ouster was engineered by Oscar's father, Joel, a former boxer who has maintained a strong influence over his son's career. Oscar, speaking to the press from his training camp last week, confirmed that notion. While calling Steward "a good friend," "a great person" and "a great trainer," he said that he had gone along with the firing only to keep peace in his family. "My father thought [Steward] wasn't showing me much," said Oscar. "I didn't want to argue with my father."
He will have to at some point. Under Steward, De La Hoya had recaptured the confidence and the offensive skills that had deserted him under his previous handler, Jesus Rivero. Whether Alcazar, who has worked with De La Hoya since the fighter's amateur days, can keep him at his best remains to be seen—as does the question of whether De La Hoya can seize control of his own destiny. After all, even golden boys have to grow up.