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Boxing
Richard Hoffer
September 28, 1998
No Mercy Oscar De La Hoya took unseemly joy in humiliating Julio C�sar Ch�vez
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September 28, 1998

Boxing

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No Mercy
Oscar De La Hoya took unseemly joy in humiliating Julio C�sar Ch�vez

If Oscar De La Hoya fights too long, as nearly every boxer does, he may regret his celebration over last Friday night's WBC welterweight title bout. Perhaps then, when the blood is pouring from his mouth and some kid is jumping up and down in another corner, he'll understand just how closely he's been partnered with humiliation all these years, protected from disgrace by little more than his youth.

But, being just 25 and the undefeated 147-pound champion, De La Hoya cannot imagine what it's like to quit—or to have to quit—in your old age. He can't imagine when such shame might become acceptable, as it surely did for Julio C�sar Ch�vez during their rematch last week. De La Hoya is, at the moment, too young and too gifted to entertain the image of a final indignity, even as he routinely forces it upon people who were once, like him, young and gifted.

It was not a pretty picture, seeing a six-time champion quit on his stool, though who could really blame him? Ch�vez, whose rugged career inspired an entire nation of Mexican loyalists, fought a hard and surprisingly competitive fight, but he could not fend off De La Hoya's growing greatness. It was more of a battle than their first meeting two years ago in which De La Hoya sliced him to bits, and the action was unforgettable at times, especially in the eighth round, when the two men swung until they could no longer support their arms. But it was still a battle the 36-year-old Ch�vez could not possibly win.

So who could blame him after the eighth round, inside a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center at UNLV, for shaking his head no. The blood, from a ghastly cut lip, poured out as he sat on his stool, and the idea of swallowing any more of it for even another round could not have appealed to Ch�vez. So, after 106 fights in arenas and bullrings and casinos, after 18 years in the most unforgiving game in sports, Ch�vez finally quit.

De La Hoya, in the ignorance of his inexperience, chastised him. "That's a no-no," De La Hoya said afterward. "Quitting. That's the worst that can happen to any fighter." Yet he exulted in Ch�vez's surrender, saying he was "even more satisfied [ Ch�vez] quit in his comer, believe me," than he would have been in gaining a knockout.

De La Hoya, who steamed these last two years that Ch�vez had sought refuge in excuses for his loss in their first meeting, vowed to punish him with a KO. Perhaps it would have come in a subsequent round, as De La Hoya's uppercuts chipped away at his opponent, but Ch�vez didn't look to be going down soon.

So to have Ch�vez meet him in the middle of the ring afterward and tell him, however pleasantly, that "you beat me, I don't want no more," was not just the next best thing, it was the best. De La Hoya had not only demolished a legend, he had tarnished his legacy as well.

Ch�vez had a different characterization for the night's events, saying that his corner had quit, not him, and that he had proved to his doubters that there was still life left for a rough rogue such as himself. He even announced plans to drop back to the 140-pound class and fight a farewell fight.

But no amount of spin can erase the sight of him in his comer, shaking his head, and De La Hoya jumping up and down at the man's failure to rejoin the battle. Maybe De La Hoya, who moves on with his career on Nov. 21 in a much anticipated fight with Ike Quartey (a peer, for once), will be different and leave boxing at the height of his powers. He would be lucky to do so if he's this oblivious to the lesson he unwittingly teaches others—that it always ends badly.

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